THE BasicArt of shooting | MyWindsorNow.com

THE BasicArt of shooting

Tommy Wood
twood@greeleytribune.com

In 1931, John Miller Cooper, a basketball player at the University of Missouri, did something no one had done before.

He caught a pass and, as he described to the New York Times, "My feet left the hardcourt surface, and it felt good. It was free and natural, and I knew I had discovered something."

That was how he took the first known jump shot in the history of basketball. After Cooper shot it, his perplexed coach parked him on the bench and scolded him not to do it again. But Cooper wasn't discouraged, and a year later he led the Big Six Conference in scoring and earned the nickname "Jump Shot Cooper."

The jump shot permeated every level of basketball in the decades after Cooper changed everything. The NBA adopted the 3-pointer in 1979, and college basketball followed suit in 1986. That first year, NBA teams attempted only 2.8 deep shots per game. This season, teams are shooting an average of 26.6 3s per game, which is a record — in fact, teams have broken the record for 3-point attempts every season since 2011.

On Dec. 17 last year, the Houston Rockets set records for 3s made and attempted in a game when they shot 24-of-61 in a 122-100 win over the New Orleans Pelicans. The jump shot is only becoming more prevalent in basketball.

With that in mind, Windsor Now! talked to several high school coaches about shooting. In this article, they explain how they teach basketball's most fundamental skill.

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The Basics

Jamie Wood (Frontier Academy boys coach): "You're really hoping, by the time you get them, that they already know how to shoot…we start out with breaking down the mechanics. Starting near the basket with one hand, wide base, and break down the mechanical process of what a good shot looks like."

Troy Graefe (Greeley Central boys coach): "It's a simple process. The key is to stress those simple fundamentals. Our philosophy is, we try to do as much of that instruction in the off season as possible. The season is just too short to change something that drastically."

Krisha Sibel (Frontier Academy girls coach): "A huge part of shooting comes from your stance. If you can develop that from a young age, you can develop the rest, as far as the follow-through… you wanna emphasize the breakdown of each position, but you gotta get them all shooting everywhere and from every position. I still have my post players out there doing dribbling drills, shooting 15-footers."

Mike Neu (Union Colony boys coach): "Shooting form, to me, at least affects how good a kid can be. Sure, there are exceptions where kids can have weird shooting forms and really shoot well, but in most circumstances I believe that shooting form really does help with how good you are as a shooter."

Brett Cloepfil (Greeley West boys coach): "We've really went away from trying to correct form. For us, there are two physical keys that we work on, and that's balance and follow-through. The form aspect, of everything in between, I've always just seen that as natural instinct and ability. At this level, it's really hard to try to correct that, because kids are physically maturing. Sometimes they're just not strong enough to shoot it perfectly, perfect form."

Wood: "Every shooter develops a little bit of their own style. Every shot's a bit different, but the mechanics — feet wide, elbow in, follow-through — you have to have."

Neu: "The most primary part to having good shooting form is your base. When you catch that ball, you have to be in your athletic stances, knees bent, ready to shoot, and that's where it starts. Your hips have to be square to the basket. When you shoot, your legs are doing most of the work for the power. That will get the ball to the rim. When it comes to accuracy, that has a lot to do with your upper body…you've gotta have as little motion in your jump shot as possible."

Sibel: "Especially with girls, we don't necessarily develop all our strength right away. Same with young boys. You want them to start in small. I honestly like using the shorter rim just to help them get their shot. Some of our sixth graders, they're really small, and they can't necessarily get the ball to a 10-foot rim."

Wood: "One of the things we stress in my program is 'ball in the air, feet in the air' to get shots off quicker. Not that stepping into a shot is wrong, but that step-through sometimes takes enough time to where a defender can close out on you if you're playing against better athletes … what we teach is that, as the ball is coming to you, your feet are starting to square up to the basket as you're catching the ball. (NBA players) are prepping for their shot before the ball reaches them. It's a hard thing to learn, but for kids who do it gives them that much more of a chance of getting their shot off."

Graefe: "I've always been more comfortable with the one-two step. I used to be militant about it. Then I went to a couple camps and heard some things, and I decided to let our players use whatever was more comfortable for them, but that just made us bad at both of them. So we've gone back to the one-two step now. It seems to be more natural to me. It seems to allow a kid a little bit more rhythm and a little bit more fluidity in his catch and release."

Mind games

Cloepfil: "The two mental parts that go into it are shot selection and confidence. If you really wanna break that down, the confidence just comes from repetition."

Neu: "I've always been preaching swag. Have some swag. Really have confidence in whatever you're doing. If you're on the court, have confidence. Go home and before bed, visualize what you're gonna do right the next game. Visualize the shots going in. Visualize getting good rebounds, doing all the correct things. Visualize it. Dream about it…there is a correlation."

Wood: "The worst thing you can do is get angry and get in your own head. The one that I see the hardest, where kids get into their own head, is the free throw. You're talking about the only true stat in basketball. It's the only shot that's the same shot every time you shoot it — 15 feet and no one in front of you. Kids will psych themselves out. It should be automatic. They think about, 'I hope I don't miss this free throw.' I tell my kids to shoot with an attitude, like 'Man, I can't believe the other team fouled me and put me at the line. That was the dumbest thing they could do.'"

Neu: "During practice, good form. During games, don't even think about your form. Just shoot the ball."

WHY is no Greeley Team shooting better than 67 percent from the free-throw line?

Wood: "I wish I knew the answer, because then my team would be (shooting well from the line)."

Jennifer Gudahl (Greeley West girls coach): "When I was young, I wanted in be in control at the end with the game on the line, but I also worked really hard to make myself in that position. I used to shoot 100 free-throws a night, and if I didn't make 80 I'd start over. The kids today, I don't think they've had that moment of clarity yet. They try to get by on the talent they have. It takes time."

Neu: "The term 'free-throw' is very deceptive. It's supposed to be free points, but the truth of the matter is free throws are a massive mental game. If you're not mentally focused, if you're really worried about making that free throw and you don't just shoot it in rhythm, you're not gonna shoot well. I don't care if the kid wants to spin the ball on his finger, twirl it behind his back, throw it up in the air or something, as long as he does it every single time he steps up to shoot a free throw so he can create that muscle memory."

Grafe: "The people who really devote themselves to it, they're gonna be successful. It's easy for kids to go out and hit some shots from the top of they key and think they're really great 3-point shooters, but it takes more repetition than that."

Cloepfil: "The deficiencies at the free-throw line just come from the kids not shooting enough of them. I've never thought we could really shoot enough in practice to really make a great free-throw shooter. We get about two hours (to practice). You can imagine in that time, between offensive and defensive drills and situations, I think everybody works on free throws in practice but it's never gonna be enough."

Sibel: "Kids don't spend enough time in the gym anymore. We're pulling them so far, in so many directions, they don't have time to develop skills. We take the skill development out because we're trying to stretch them too thin. I look at kids' schedules, and we're asking them to go work, and school. I don't think we teach time management as well as we used to. We stretch them thin, but we're also asking them to specialize."

Neu: "It never feels like you have enough time to really work on kids' shooting. You can bring them in at lunch period to go to the gym and shoot, but there's 100 kids there. And then when it comes to practice… it kinda takes a backseat because there's so little time to put in everything else you need."

Wood: "I was a multi-sport athlete. I played baseball and basketball, and…I wish I knew the answer to why kids don't shoot enough. Part of it is kids wanna play. You open up the gym, they wanna play, they don't wanna work on their shot…I don't know how much kids shoot in their driveway these days, but I don't think it's as often. I don't know why any kid couldn't do both (football and basketball)."

Gudahl: "I was a three-sport collegiate athlete…I don't think that it is (a good excuse). You should be playing a fall sport. You should be playing a spring sport. You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make him drink. They have to want to do it."

Cloepfil: "We try to motivate them by explaining how successful they can be. Ultimately, it's a self-motivation thing if they want to put in the extra time."

Graefe: "I think it's always been the case. It's not unique to today's high school basketball players. If you go back 50 years, there were kids who shot the ball a lot, and they became great. The rest, those who didn't, we don't remember them."

The Art of Shooting

This is Part 1 of the Trib’s series on shooting. Look for Part 2 later this week, where coaches talk about how shooting figures into their offensive philosophy, how they compensate when they don’t have good shooting, the prevalence of advanced stats and much more.

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