Bloomington, Ind. – Joey Shaw's approach to defense is a whole lot different these days than it was during his high school career.
Back when Shaw was starring at Glendale, Arizona's Deer Valley H.S., Shaw was well known for his proficiency on the offensive end, averaging 17.8 points as a senior and developing a reputation as one of the best long-range shooters on the West Coast. But even Shaw admits his defensive play wasn't exactly up to par.
"I didn't play any ‘D' in high school," Shaw says. "I guarded the worst guy and played offense."
That defensive assignment wasn't necessarily one that came from his prep coach, John Fellens. Shaw's ‘desire' on the defensive end revolved around trying to figure out who would be the easiest foe for him to handle.
"I'd just go find (the worst guy on the other team) and tell everyone I had him," joked Shaw.
That approach obviously wasn't going to cut it with new Hoosier head coach Kelvin Sampson, and the Hoosiers' 6-6, 193-pound wing has made some dramatic improvements on that end of the floor thanks to the decision to heed some advice his head coach.
"Coach has always been on me about effort," Shaw said. "I think that was a lot of what I was missing. I think that's really helped me with my game."
That was apparent in the closing minutes of the Hoosiers' 59-54 loss to Kentucky, when Shaw swiped the ball from Wildcat point guard Ramel Bradley on an in-bounds pass and then converted the lay-up to pull the Hoosiers within three. While Shaw's play didn't lead to an Indiana victory in Lexington, it was a symbol of the renewed interest – and impact – Shaw came make on that end of the floor.
"I like (defense) now," Shaw said. "Just playing as hard as you can until you come out."
But Shaw is an equally important piece to the Hoosiers' offensive puzzle as well. He's averaging 6.4 points/game in just 15.4 minutes per outing, and he's been the team's best at getting to the free-throw line. Shaw has made 21 of his 29 free throw attempts, ranking him second on the team in trips to the charity stripe to D.J. White (30).
That ability to get to the free-throw line is something Sampson has emphasized in recent weeks, suggesting Shaw could see his playing time increase beginning Sunday when IU hosts Southern Illinois at 8 p.m. Indiana's foes have attempted 33 more free throws than IU this season, and in the three games IU has lost (Butler, Duke, Kentucky) its opponents have attempted 75 free throws compared to Indiana's 39, and each attempted at least 10 more free throws than Sampson's squad.
While perimeter players Rod Wilmont and A.J. Ratliff have generally relied on the 3-point shot to contribute offensively, Shaw's ability to attack the basket gives IU a different dimension when he is on the floor. Shaw actually has more free throw attempts (29) than field goal attempts (27), and the only player on the IU roster who comes close to that sort of ratio is fellow reserve Mike White, who's attempted 18 shots from the field and 17 free throws.
"It comes naturally," Shaw said. "If I see an opening, I'll take it. I'm quicker than most defenders that are guarding me, so I can get by the first guy."
As good as Shaw has been at getting to the free-throw line, it's not necessarily something he did a tremendous amount in high school. While he's wiry frame and ability to handle the ball made him a capable penetrator, he generally preferred to spend his time on the perimeter.
"I really shot a lot in high school," Shaw said. "I guess I got faster."
Chalk that up as another change – for the better – from Shaw's high school days.
New Approach Paying Off for Shaw
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