Gym Rats – making a sharp-shooter

Brad Gilbert -

Since inception, basketball has evolved perhaps more than any other sport. For the most part, the evolution of change in hoops has been for the betterment of the game. For instance, a rounded backboard just doesn’t look right at all. So, we are thankful that squared glass came in the game. The inventor of the break away rim was a genius, and we are thankful for that. Thinking of the rim always reminds me of hearing youngsters accuse Wilt Chamberlain of dunking like a “weirdo.” They would base his “no dunking style” as a basis of why he wasn’t a great player. I try to assure them that he was a victim of a no break away rim. There was no hanging then.

We thank Michael for lengthening the shorts and putting some color and style on our feet. Dribbling has dramatically changed too. If you doubt that, look up Bob Cousey dribbling a ball and compare that to Kenny Anderson or Jason Williams or Jamaal Crawford or take your pick in the modern era. Ball handling has morphed into an array of acrobatic stunts intended to dazzle the eyes and distract defenders.

The three point line came in the game in 1988 at the local high school level. College and pros were slightly before that. It completely overhauled the game. I believe on the whole it is a great addition to the game. It is exciting to know your team has a chance to come back quickly if you have a long bomber.

There is a problem in the game of basketball that has grown from a hard to notice by-product of some of the changes to nothing short of an epidemic. The problem is the shooters are disappearing. This is a sad statement to make. The mid range game (anywhere inside the three point line that isn’t a dunk) is dying out. Sure, you can turn on any NBA game and see players “filling it up” all night long as they fade away with skilled blockers bearing down on them with a hand in their face. That’s why they get paid to do it. They are professional shooters.

I noticed this problem a few years ago, but after the games I saw this week, I can’t hold my typing tongue anymore. I have seen four games this week. The shooting was horrendous. I am talking about bad misses from all over the floor. It did not matter from where or what angle. If you can’t hit the bucket, every night will be a long night.

The issue is one that I don’t think anyone could see developing when the changes in the rim were made or when the three point line was added. The break away rim made for more dramatic dunks and highlights. The dunks put the attention back on the individual instead of the team. If you could dunk at an early age, you were revered. The alley-oop is by far the most exciting play in the game. It can lift 15,000 fans to their feet in an instant, demoralize an opponent and invite “Big Mo” over to your side. However, it’s worth two points – you can’t dunk every possession.

Those that can’t dunk moved back behind the arc to practice. If you doubt that, start counting the layups that are missed. Watch the players in the pre-game and halftime shoot-arounds. See how many go to the three point line compared to how many go to the free throw line. If you can hit 40% from the three-point line for a number of years, you can go to the Hall of Fame as the greatest shooter from three ever. That is four out of 10 shots made. The trickle down effect of fun-dunking and bomb-shots is that kids can’t get the ball in the hoop from anywhere else. They can show you dribble juggling and humiliate a defender on their way to a charging call at the rim, or to jack a three, but they can’t hit free throws when no one is guarding them and the clock is stopped.

I watched a Tri-County game the other night. One team ran an out-of-bounds play where three girls screened for the fourth who received the long pass at the top of the key. I watched this girls shoot three air balls on three of these plays in one quarter. If a coach runs this play to this girl, he is doing so because he thinks she is the best long shooter he has. She wasn’t even close. Another winning girls team this week had a combined four for 16 on free throws.

I went from attending Mangum to Olustee in the mid 80s. I was in 5th grade. My first ever class B game featured Rhonda Adams in the girls game, then the boys came out and David Maupin hit every shot he took, or it seemed like he did. I saw three games he played in that year. I swear he could’ve kicked the ball and made the shot. Seriously, he was the best shooter I ever saw in high school. Rhonda Adams was the best female shooter I ever saw in high school. She held the ball low as she leaned forward. She had her left pivot foot set and teetered between a quick release from very deep (the three-point line was drawn for high schools that year but didn’t count as three for one year) and a pump fake/drive. I kept books for the team that year. My dad was her coach. I watched Rhonda score 57 on the best team (Gould) in the league that year. She didn’t get 57 every game but she did fill it up every night. her accuracy was astounding.

I asked some notable locals in the game of basketball to weigh in on this topic. I short noticed them, and of course they could talk about this all day. We are all seeing the same thing. I asked them to talk about techniques they feel are important in shooting a basketball. Also, I wanted a list of some shooters past and/or present that they admired. If possible mention bad shooting habits they are seeing.

Altus Lady Bulldogs head Coach Stacie Terbush – We teach the proper way to hold the ball is with the index finger of the shooting hand under the air hole. The player should leave a space between the ball and the palm of the hand. The non-shooting hand should be placed on the side of the ball. Then, we teach B.E.E.F. which is Balanced feet, Elbow in under the ball, Eye on the target, Follow through.

We start practice every day with shots laying on our back shooting the ball into the air. This will isolate the follow through. Players will have to focus on good backspin rotation if they don’t want to have to get up and chase the ball. Then, we proceed with 10,10,10s. Ten shots with shooting the hand only on the ball at three different distances from the goal.

I credit Coach Janice Hardwick for teaching me all I know about shooting. She was one of the best shooters of all time. I, also admire Candace Parker, Stacie Dales and Michael Jordan. Some present shooters I like are Sue Bird, Diana Taurasi, Tamika Catchings.

Hollis Lady Tigers head Coach Staci Wilson (All-State 1987) – I have always spent a lot of time teaching shooting. From foot work to follow through, I try to cover it all. Most habits I notice are bad. The ball doesn’t come off the fingertips, improper alignment, not enough arch. I think because the ball doesn’t come all the way off fingertips shooters don’t have good control. I spend a lot of time teaching proper form. I teach the jump shot where the shooter hangs before the release. I drill the 15 foot shot consistently. Maybe partly because in high school I didn’t have a three-point line. Janice Hardwick taught me all I know about shooting. I worked hard and practiced enough to be good at it. I teach my kids now the same things she taught me. Unfortunately, most kids don’t spend the time to become great shooters.

Coach Todd Vargas (Coached 2 All-Staters) -I think great shooting can be summed up into three things; Talent, Technique, and Time.

First, some people just have the natural talent (eye hand coordination) to be great shooters. They seem to come out of the womb ready to shoot. These kids have a chance to be pure shooters. Second, technique does play a huge role. I teach “BEEF” shooting…balance, eyes, elbows, follow through. Balance- First is footwork, most kids don’t catch the ball with their feet square to the goal; therefore, they shoot with feet away from the goal which alters the body and balance. Kids feet should be shoulder width apart with their shooting foot slightly in front of the other foot. The knees should be over the toes and the shoulders over the knees. I tell the kids that you should be able to put a pole through all three points. Great shooters have great Balance. Eyes- Eyes to the target which is right over the front of the rim. Also, when shooting, the eyes must look through the window formed between the arms as one shoots. Elbow- most kids shoot with the arm collapsed like in a V-shape, the proper technique is for their to be an L formation from the shooting hand to the shoulder. when kids collapse and make the V-shape they tend to shoot inconsistent in distance. The shooting elbow must also be in the “socket”. This position puts the shooting elbow over the shooting knee. Then hands are important also. The shooting hand should be on the ball with fingers spread out holding the ball and the heel of the hand off. A lot of kids will shoot with the hand palming the basketball, this keeps them from having a soft touch and controlling distance. The opposite hand is a guide hand, some kids will use the thumb of that hand and it causes a bad rotation on the ball and causes a bad ball flight. Follow through: The ball should roll off the index finger last with the hand “covering a cookie jar” the elbow will extend. The opposite hands fingers will be pointing up on the release. This technique is obviously not completely extensive.

Lastly, Time: The biggest problem today with kids is that they just don’t shoot enough! I coach shooting and we shoot in practice, but kids have to shoot a lot and there is not enough time in a practice to shoot. Great shooters shoot hundreds of shots a day! I had an all stater that is playing at OBU and in the summer she would MAKE 250 threes a day. To be a great shooter you must shoot, shoot, and shoot! It takes time and most kids don’t shoot enough.

As far as the mid range shooting, kids don’t work on it. Before the three-point line the 15-footer was the money shot, now every kid just wants to shoot a three. You are good at what you practice you know. I am a “Pistol” Pete Maravich fan and believe he was one of the greatest shooters ever.

Scott Snyder (All-State 1986) – Kids playing video games is a big reason for the poor shooting. Instead of spending extra time in the gym working on their fundamentals of shot – balance, eyes, elbow, and follow through, this generation has their eyes on a screen. My definition of “gymrat” is not just making 10 shots from all perimeter spots but hitting nothing but net from all spots then you get to go home. That’s what I did. Also, quality shooting is diminishing because the allure of the three-point line and that dramatic shot. It develops many bad shooting habits in younger ages. Confidence is key in shooting. I admired Greg Cross, Ronna Cross, Rick Bull, Larry Bird and Ray Allen.

Brad Gilbert

Reach Brad Gilbert@482-1221 ext. 2076


Reach Brad Gilbert@482-1221 ext. 2076


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