Henley: Great shooting skill now a rarity

Henley: Great shooting skill now a rarity

Notre Dame basketball coach Brad Harris was a classic shooter as a player at Lee University.

February 13th, 2011 by Gene Henley in Sports

Kent Smith

Kent Smith

Most coaches are willing to accept a bad shot in a basketball game -- as long as it's by a good shooter.

There just aren't many around in area high schools, although one couldn't tell sometimes by the shots that are taken and the people who are taking them.

In an area where football has top priority for many high school athletes, other sports will suffer, particularly in fine-development skills such as shooting a basketball.

"I think that to most kids around here, basketball is a hobby," Bradley Central coach Kent Smith said. "They clock in when they get to practice and clock out when it's over. I asked my kids the other day, 'How many of you stay and work on your game?' Out of 15, three players raised their hands.

"Those kids who are constantly in the gym nowadays working on their shot are few and far between."

Smith said workout warriors such as 2000 Mr. Basketball Josh Hare, former Belmont standout Justin Hare and Terrence Oglesby, who played two seasons at Clemson and now plays professionally in Spain, seemed to live in gyms.

After a bad shooting night, Oglesby was known to go back in the gym and shoot.

Coaches agree that most players nowadays don't put in the work in the offseason to be perceived as "good shooters."

"We encourage our guys to shoot quality game shots," said Glen Hicks, who coaches the high-scoring Dade County Wolverines. "I'd rather have a kid come in and shoot 50 shots at game speed as opposed to 500 while fiddling around."

Said Notre Dame coach Brad Harris: "I don't see as many kids putting the time in to become good shooters. If you can hit the 3, it's definitely a sign you can shoot, but the best shooters shoot around 40 percent."

Harris, who hit 10 3s in one game and more than 100 as a senior at Lee University, runs shooting academies in the offseason. He noted that while playing in college and overseas, he would make 100 shots inside the 3-point line on game days, to "be confident in my stroke."

That number swelled to 300-500 on off days.

"That's where you have to be to be good," Harris said. "The big difference is that shooting is a skill. You have to work on it to be good. I tell my guys to analyze their misses. You can only miss four ways -- long, short, left or right, and if you miss six straight times to the left, there's a reason behind that.

"You have to be able to fix that; that's how you get better percentages."

This past week, Boston Celtics guard Ray Allen broke the NBA record for 3-pointers made in a career, surpassing former Indiana Pacers great Reggie Miller. There is no questioning their prowess as shooters, but the No. 3 player on the list is veteran point guard Jason Kidd, who early in his career received the nickname "Ason" because, as critics said, he had no "J."

So the question remains, is there a difference between a great 3-point shooter and a great shooter?

"Not necessarily," said Hicks, whose Wolverines average 11 3s per game. "It's kind of like swinging a bat in baseball: If you swing enough, you're going to hit a few. Most coaches, though, won't let you shoot a lot of 3s if they don't think you're a good shooter."

Added Chattanooga Christian coach Jim Arnold: "In the end, I'd rather have a kid with pure mechanics, because they're going to be more consistent over the long haul. These kids might have big numbers, but they're not fundamentally correct.

"You've got a lot that have unorthodox-looking shots, but at the end of the night, they've hit five or six 3s because they've reproduced those mechanics enough to get in rhythm."

Is there a lot of credence that comes from being able to hit the 3?

"I'll say it's definitely changed the game," Smith said. "When you're able to stretch the defense with a 3-point shooter, it opens up the inside. If you can't, teams will pack it in against you.

"It's a weapon to have, but it won't be unless you work at it."

Contact Gene Henley at ghenley@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6311. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/gh3sports.