The Free Throw Edition

The Bootleg's "Expert Analyst - Guards," former lights-out shooting guard "roscoemaynard" (1984-89) offers up to the Stanford Hoops faithful a review and commentary of the Cardinal's guards following their loss versus the Washington Huskies last Saturday night. Find out what makes a good FT shooter and what some of the guys can do to become better players from the charity stripe.

Well, the People's Democratic Republic of Rain came through town last week and we saw the effects of coaching changes all over Maples.  Ya'll can talk about whether Romar is really a good coach or not, but the continuity the Fuskies have and the number of athletes sitting on their bench won them the game on Saturday.  Contrast that with Ken Bone at Wazzou, who doesn't have enough veteran kitties, nor enough athletes on the bench to make up for defensive lapses in intensity down the stretch.  Or for that matter, Coach Dawkins, who sits in that same leaky redwood boat.

So, let us stare this one in the mirror and pop it.  Free throws.  Free throws can be plugged into a mathematical formula of tangents, vectors, launch codes, algorithms, biorythms, quarks, and quirks.  The numerator then needs to be multiplied by the coefficient of the butt coil and a beta to find the missing enzyme.  I did all this calculating for you, discussed the results with experts at the Physics Tank (ignoring the fact they tore it down years ago) and with the ghost of Pete Newell, and Walla Walla, what do you know, we suck at free throw shooting for a lot of different reasons. 

Let's get the really bad free throw shooters out of the way first – Drew Shiller sucks at free throw shooting because he doesn't shoot enough free throws.  He almost hit rim on the last of his three free throws against the Puppies, obviously unhappy with the back right inside of the rim location which created an unpleasant side spin on the ball as it came through the bottom of the net.  What Drew does well though, for a guy that doesn't take a lot of free throws, is get the ball, get his feet set, take one dribble, inhale, and exhale as he strokes it.  No wasted motion, no wasted time, no thinking.  Just focus and go, trust the mechanics!

Jeremy Green, he sucks just because.  But, he is very similar to Drew in that he is efficient on the line.  He will get better, north of 85% next year because he is going to mature and take a lot more free throws.  His misses tend to be long, straight off the back axle, which is acceptable because they are straight.  He and Drew both want to be fouled though, they want to go to the line and get some free ones.  Attitude helps too.

Of course Jeremy and Drew can flat shoot and their strokes are technically sound, to say the least.  Jarrett Mann on the other hand is an interesting story.  It looks to me like he is messing with his mechanics, or maybe the coaches are during the season.   I see little adjustments in the hand positioning on the ball, and his right elbow.  He is also not consistent enough in his foot positioning, sometimes adjusting his left foot outward, inward, a bit farther toward parallel with the right heel.  This stuff has to get nailed down at some point, but the coaches obviously feel like Jarrett can do this and the results wouldn't be significantly different if he were doing it the "old way."  But, what has me concerned the most is that his misses are often not straight.  He is right side of the rim a lot, and too often not even on the inside of the right side.  He is also short, long and left too.  The ball seems to come off his fingers inconsistently at the release point, his arc changes dramatically at times because of this.  Lack of attention or nerves or both.  Some would say that a lack of experience is a factor for Jarrett.  That is getting over the nerves.  But, I don't see Jarrett as particularly nervy in any other aspect of his play.  If anything, he is too placid when he plays.  And sometimes he shoots a very nice ball, with good arc and rotation.  So what is it that causes him to go 0-6 at home this weekend?  At this point, a complete lack of confidence, call it doubt, compounded by a lack of focus on one thing – one key thought before each free throw.    

There are a lot of coaches and gurus that talk about where you aim, the front ringlet, the inside of the front rim, the inside of the back axle.  A lot of them will talk about getting a rhythm and flex to the knees that won't change with fatigue.  But the best thought on all of this was one I heard from my old high school coach, who got it from Pete Newell at a clinic during the Crimean War, and it is a thought that I have heard echoed over and over again by good free throw shooters - concentrate on shooting straight.  Shoot straight and you might get a bounce, shoot not straight and you almost never will. 

There is a certain coach at University of Portland now, a teammate of mine, who was horrendous at the line when he matriculated.  He had mechanical issues and he wanted to make them too bad.  It just killed him to miss free throws and hurt the team.  You didn't want to go near him when he missed because he might kill you.  I know this because he almost killed me for commenting on his lousy free throw.  He shot hundreds of free throws a week (most of the time) and the one key that he focused on the most was knowing where the ball was going off his hand.  Shoot straight and the ball will go in or slam off the rim and come back to you so you don't have to chase it.  You might bank one in. We used to have the Reveno rule.  If you catch your own missed free throw without moving, it doesn't count and you get it over.  The kicker to this rule was there were several times in games I remember Rev getting his own rebound off a huge brick because the ball was heading right back to him and warp speed and all he had to do was step to it angry and huge and snatch it and crush some puny humans and drop in the jump hook.

So, fun with Coach Reveno is now over.  The moral of the story, Jarrett needs to simplify things for the rest of the season and just concentrate on shooting straight – damn the rest of it to hell.  My guess is he is already being told this.  From what I have seen, Coach Dawkins knows shooting and Coach Davey is Coach Davey and Coach Tention coached under Lute, a great practitioner of the art.  Easier said, however, than done. 

Landry was just flat tired.  He played the whole weekend tired. Landry's misses against the Huskies were fatigue related.  Every miss was short, all seven of them.  Two misses he had an abbreviated follow through with the fingers, which indicates nerves or serious fatigue.  I'll go with serious fatigue for Landry.  The rest were short because his shoulders were not staying vertical enough, they were tipping slightly backwards.  This emanates from a tired butt coil, with the imbalance starting low and manifesting itself in the shoulders at the release.

A couple of other quick comments.  Absolutely great game by Drew Shiller on Thursday against the cougs.  We devolved the game into a scatter and go with about 10 minutes left and Drew just thrived in the helter skelter.  He was everywhere making full throttle plays and decisions, getting the ball up the court to scorers and forcing the tempo on both ends.  He was aided significantly in his efforts by great defensive intensity from Jeremy Green and Emmanuel Ignibosa.  I loved the way Green hunkered down on D and the glass.  How about Green and Shiller getting 11 rebounds between them?  But I really loved the way Iggy got out on Reggie Moore relentlessly, which caused Moore to overdribble and the cougs offense to get horribly out of rhythm.  Mann jumped out early on Moore in the second half, but his concentration to this task waned and in came Iggy.

Against the Fuskies, we simply ran out of gas after again charging back midway through the second half with great defensive intensity and a willingness to push tempo by everyone.  I preferred Mann's defensive effort in this game, but it was aided, no question, by Dawkins using Iggy and Dildy liberally when the effort started to slip.  I also thought that the Fuskies played too clean a game for us to overcome – five turnovers by the Fuskies means they get too many productive possessions.  We actually held them down shooting wise with a pretty solid defensive effort, but we didn't force turnovers or they just didn't make them, which I think was the case, and we just missed too many shots from everywhere inside the walls. 

Final Final:  Last game in the Pit Thursday-I have a feeling we get it.  In fact, call me kooky, but I feel a bad weekend for the Nutria and the Plovers coming up.  We get off the schneid in a big way by the Willamette.  I am going to miss the Pit.  I grew up there in the third balcony on the rail staring straight down on the floor.  I loved Ron Lee, Greg Ballard, Stu Jackson, Ernie Kent and Mark Drummond – the Kamikaze Kids.  But that was then and I don't care now.  I bleed Cardinal.  Even better, tear down that ugly ass flee trap Gill Coliseum.

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