AMES, Iowa — Fred Hoiberg has his go-to points when it comes to success of any shooter. He’ll point out the fundamentals and balance, and often refers to confidence and swagger. Then there’s the short-term memory.
Moving on from the big shots is one thing. Forgetting the less memorable ones is often easier said than done. Just ask sharpshooter Matt Thomas.
“It’s tough for me, because as a basketball player, I’ve always had a conscience just trying to make the right play,” Thomas said. “Sometime, as a shooter especially, you can’t think out there. If you have a little open shot you have to let it go. I’m trying to adapt that mentality, but it’s been a tough process.”
Sometimes, Thomas showed Saturday, you can’t listen to the noise, either.
Thomas did in fact listen to his teammates yelling to shoot a 3-pointer in transition during the waning seconds of the first half in Iowa State’s 20-point win against West Virginia. The sophomore connected even as his coach yelled to hold the ball.
“Everybody was yelling, ‘Shoot, shoot, shoot,’” coach Fred Hoiberg said. “Except for me, because we had last shot. I’m glad he pulled it, I’m obviously glad he made it. Those are ones that lead to confidence building.”
While Thomas’ 3-point percentage is down (27.5 percent on 19-of-69) this season, his importance to the team, Hoiberg said, has not dropped. Whether Thomas makes his 3s or misses them, teams are still paying attention.
“Matt plays an important role on this team because he’s a guy that can loosen up the defense,” Hoiberg said. “Even when he’s not making shots, they aren’t leaving Matt Thomas because of his reputation as a shooter.”
The key for getting Thomas back on track beyond the arc is partly confidence. Thomas did shoot 33.6 percent beyond the arc last season and has proven to be a capable long-range threat.
The other avenue could be rhythm. Thomas averaged 21.2 minutes per game last season and has seen that number dip to 15.5 per game this season. He received 12 minutes Saturday, including extended minutes in the first half, and scored six points.
“I think I was out there for a 6-8 minute stretch and I felt like I got into a rhythm,” Thomas said. “That’s all it is really with me, is feeling comfortable out there and getting into a rhythm. I was able to do that against West Virginia.”
Now, it’s all about forgetting and looking ahead.
“I’ve felt good for a while now,” Thomas said. “It’s just a matter of time.”