If Isaiah Briscoe wavers in his belief that he’ll become a much better shooter, a former Kentucky player can serve as inspiration. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist recently went through a similar experience.
The broad outline is the same: Shooting mechanics need a fix. Poor shooting becomes a public issue. Shooting confidence dips. Playing style growing up interrupted the normal development as a shooter.
All seems to apply to Briscoe at Kentucky going into this season and to Kidd-Gilchrist in his fledgling NBA seasons with the Charlotte Hornets.
Mark Price, a former sharpshooting guard for Georgia Tech and then in the NBA, worked with Kidd-Gilchrist in Charlotte. In a telephone conversation last week, Price described his role with Kidd-Gilchrist as “coach-slash-shooting coach-slash psychologist in some ways.”
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The public’s interest in Kidd-Gilchrist’s shooting made Price feel like a psychologist.
“That kind of hangs over them every time they shoot it,” Price said. “They feel like people are staring them down or don’t believe they can shoot it. I think it can become a mental barrier. …
“I think he was kind of in that place. It was such a talked-about thing: his shot, the way it looked, things like that that it had really become mental for him.”
At UK’s Media Day on Thursday, Briscoe acknowledged that his shooting last season (13.5 percent from three-point range, 46 percent on free throws) became, as he said, a “mind thing.”
He nodded when it was suggested that he could sense UK fans invested in each of his shots. “Then again,” he said with a smile, “when aren’t they watching?”
Kidd-Gilchrist’s shot needed a major overhaul, said Price, now in his second season as coach at the University of Charlotte.
“Oh gosh,” Price said. “It was a lot of things. Bad footwork. Balance. His body twisting and turning as he goes up. His elbow positioning. You name it, it was something.
“We kind of took things one or two at a time. We didn’t try to fix six or seven things all at once.”
Price saluted the indispensable attribute Kidd-Gilchrist brought to the effort: the willingness to devote himself to the “very consuming” time needed to work on shooting.
Briscoe said he worked to remove a hitch in his shot. He did not always release the ball at the top of his jump, he said.
UK Coach John Calipari lightened the mental load by giving Briscoe the green light to fire away from three-point range this preseason.
Growing up, Kidd-Gilchrist and Briscoe made their marks as players who could drive to the basket and finish. Perimeter shooting was not a signature part of their offensive games.
When asked if he’d had to resort much to perimeter shooting, Briscoe said, “Not really. Nah.”
What about when he faced a defender he couldn’t get around? “I haven’t been in that (situation) yet,” he said with a smile.
The same more or less applied to Kidd-Gilchrist. Why shoot from the perimeter when you can dunk or make a layup?
“Right, exactly, oh yeah,” Price said. “He’s such a superior athlete at a younger age. He never did have to shoot it.”
At the NBA level, he did.
Jonathan Givony of DraftExpress.com said he had watched Briscoe play for about four or five years.
“He was a guy who went to the basket all the time,” Givony said. “He was a sensation on the AAU level.”
But, Givony added, Briscoe’s poor shooting last season was an aberration. Briscoe made 77, 68 and 75 percent of his free throws in the three AAU seasons, said Givony, who consulted what he called his “private database.”
Price cautioned that it takes time, effort and diligence to make a marked improvement as a shooter. But the payoff can be dramatic.
“I basically had him stay away from pickup ball,” Price said of his work with Kidd-Gilchrist, “because I didn’t want him sliding back into bad habits.
“Once training camp came, he made the first couple jump shots that he took. From that point on, you could see his confidence sort of soar.”
One man, one vote
Friday was the deadline for casting an All-Southeastern Conference ballot. Here’s my ballot:
Order of finish: 1. Kentucky 2. Texas A&M 3. Florida 4. Georgia 5. Vanderbilt 6. Alabama 7. South Carolina 8. Arkansas 9. Ole Miss 10. Tennessee 11. LSU 12. Auburn 13. Mississippi State 14. Missouri.
Comment: To borrow from Alabama Coach Avery Johnson, voting Kentucky No. 1 was as easy as picking out Michael Jackson in a photo of the Jackson Five (or in this case, Jackson 14). The only question may be can Kentucky threaten the record for widest margin by a champion over the second-place team: six games by UK in 1995-96 and 2011-12, and by Florida in 2013-14.
All-SEC team: Bam Adebayo, Kentucky; Malik Monk, Kentucky; De’Aaron Fox, Kentucky; Tyler Davis, Texas A&M, Yante Maten, Georgia.
Comment: Awfully tempting to vote a straight ticket with five UK players. Isaiah Briscoe as the fourth for sure, then either Derek Willis or Isaac Humphries. An obligation to share the wealth prevailed, although second thoughts about Briscoe continue to gnaw.
SEC Player of the Year: Adebayo.
Comment: He would join John Wall (2009-10) and Anthony Davis (2011-12) as Kentucky freshmen who have won the award in John Calipari’s time as coach.
As a freshman last season, Isaac Humphries averaged 1.9 points, 2.4 rebounds and 9.1 minutes. Nine UK players logged more minutes, on average.
Those modest numbers made for a surprise when DraftExpress.com announced its list of the top 20 NBA prospects in the Southeastern Conference this year. There was Humphries at No. 9. That was ahead of more productive big men such as Moses Kingsley (Arkansas), John Egbunu (Florida) and Tonny Trocha-Morelos and Tyler Davis (Texas A&M).
Jonathan Givony, the president of DraftExpress.com, explained.
“He’s 7 feet tall and he’s intelligent and he’s skilled,” Givony said of Humphries. “That’s hard to find.”
Givony said he was puzzled by Humphries’ 12.2 percent body fat that came out of UK’s practice for NBA scouts last weekend. That’s the same percentage as the previous year for a player who appears leaner and fitter.
But Givony sounded confident that we’ll see a noticeable improvement in Humphries’ conditioning this season.
Three thoughts that came to mind while watching ESPNU’s telecast of Kentucky’s practice last Sunday:
ESPNU did not show Kentucky’s practice. Or at least not enough of it. Instead, viewers watched Doris Burke, Fran Fraschilla and Seth Greenberg bounce ideas and opinions off each other. Meanwhile, the UK players were in the background darting in and out of view. Wouldn’t it be better to see the players while the announcers speak off camera?
This was the third year that UK staged a “practice” for NBA scouts and a television audience (read: recruiting prospects). While joining the panel for chitchat, UK Coach John Calipari said the NBA people would see the “real stuff” at Monday’s practice. Before the first such telecast in 2014, an NBA official joked about the scouts helping improve the event’s B-roll. UK officials can be spotted acting as seat fillers (think Seinfeld’s Cosmo Kramer at the Tony’s).
The ESPNU announcers pointed out how Duke followed Kentucky’s example of making one-and-done freshmen a foundational piece of the program. This year also saw Duke follow Kentucky’s example by inviting NBA scouts to practice. Duke has designated next Wednesday and Oct. 25 as the two dates pro personnel can attend practices en masse. There will not be the testing and measuring associated with UK’s Combine-style gathering, so these practices will not be televised. That won’t stop UK fans from seeing this as Duke again playing follow-the-leader.
Kansas staged a “Dancing with the Jayhawks” parody of TV’s “Dancing with the Stars.” The players danced. The coaches judged.
The Madness also included a Kansas staffer making a half-court shot to win $10,000 for a fan.
“There are a lot of reasons to come to school here,” Coach Bill Self told the crowd. “We tell every recruit that comes here, the greatest reason you want to play here is the 16,300 people that are sitting out there.”
Kansas won its 12th straight Big 12 Conference regular-season championship last season, then advanced to the Elite Eight.
Despite the losses of several key players (Perry Ellis, Wayne Selden Jr., Cheick Diallo), Self spoke optimistically about this coming season.
“As excited as you were about last year,” he told the crowd, “I can’t think of a reason why we can’t be better this year.”
Of course, Kansas plays at Kentucky Jan. 28.
FSU remembers Durham
Florida State had something of a throw-back Madness. Coach Leonard Hamilton — Joe B. Hall’s right-hand man at Kentucky — got into the spirit by wearing a large afro wig, sunglasses and bell bottoms (think Larry Wilmore’s hilarious Soul Daddy character on the now-defunct “Nightly Show”).
In keeping with the 1970s theme, Florida State honored Hugh Durham at its Madness celebration. Durham, who later coached at Georgia, led the Seminoles to the 1972 Final Four.
Hall of Famer?
An effort began last week to get former Maryland Coach Lefty Driesell inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.
Besides putting Maryland on the basketball map, Driesell is also credited with inventing the concept of Midnight Madness.
The campaign to make Driesell a Hall of Famer is on the website Leftyhof.com.
In a news release, Duke Coach Mike Krzyzewski supported the idea. In a news release, he called Driesell “one of the top coaches ever in the college game.” Former Georgetown Coach John Thompson said that Driesell had never been given the credit he deserved.
To Matt Scherbenske. He turned 29 on Friday. … To Todd Ziegler. He turns 51 on Sunday (today).