New York is a long way from the Bahamas. As Tyler Herro’s shooting last weekend showed, that’s true in more ways than miles.
The Herro who played against Seton Hall on Saturday was not the Herro who starred in Kentucky’s exhibition games in the Bahamas. He made four of 13 shots — including none of his six from three-point range — in the loss to Seton Hall.
In the Bahamas, Herro made 57.5 percent of his shots (23 of 40), 44.4 percent of his three-pointers (eight of 18) and every one of his 15 free throws.
This contrast surely made ever-jittery Kentucky fans anxious. But not Rex Chapman.
“Honestly, I’m not worried about Tyler,” the former UK star said. “Tyler is one of the best shooters I’ve seen come through here in a dozen years. . . .
“I’m not the least bit worried about Tyler. The main reason is he will fight you. He’s competitive. And he works at it. He lives in the gym.”
Pat Bradley, an analyst for the SEC Network and holder of Arkansas’ career record for three-pointers, also dismissed the notion that something is wrong with Herro’s shooting.
“He’s going to find his shot,” Bradley said. “He’s a shooter. He’s going to make some adjustments. But he’ll find his shot.”
Chapman, whose star turn at Kentucky 30 years ago seemed to be a prequel to Herro’s flashy debut in the Bahamas, offered perspective. He said his good old days were not without blemishes.
“I had several miserable games,” Chapman said. “Miserable. It’s just I’m 50 now, and it seems like I made all my shots.”
A check of the records showed Chapman had some clunkers en route to becoming the first freshman since Alex Groza in 1944-45 to lead UK in scoring. For example, he made one of eight shots against Texas Tech in the second game of the 1986-87 season. Later, he made three of 12 against Alabama, three of 13 against LSU and four of 16 in a first-round loss to Ohio State in the 1987 NCAA Tournament.
“Things they were trying to ask me to do my freshman year offensively I wasn’t great at yet,” Chapman said. “There’s a learning process.”
Herro — whose shooting accuracies through nine games are 41.8 percent overall and 27.3 percent on three-pointers — has adjustments to make.
For example, UK Coach John Calipari has emphasized the need to get off the shot quicker. Unlike high school, college defenders give shooters less time to assess what’s available before shooting. At times, Herro has seemed to be rushing his shot.
“That’s a good point,” Bradley said. “I’m sure that’s also playing in the back of his mind. That I’ve got to catch and shoot quicker.”
Shot selection seems to be another adjustment Herro must make. In the Bahamas, he was nearly automatic when he shot a pull-up jumper from mid-range. “It’s textbook,” Chapman said of Herro’s shooting mechanics.
But Calipari is among coaches who prefer drives to the basket or three-point shots. As Herro said in the Bahamas, the mid-range shot is becoming “a lost art.”
The mid-range shot has long been in Herro’s repertoire. Perhaps tellingly, Calipari complimented Herro for resorting to drives to the basket as the three-point misses continued against Seton Hall.
“I like the fact he went inside,” Calipari said. “He tried to score in there.”
Bradley suggested that less reliance on the pull-up jumper was an adjustment Herro might be in the process of making.
“The thing you want to be is comfortable,” Bradley said.
Of course, comfort can be an alien concept in the Big Blue Nation. As Calipari likes to say, Kentucky basketball isn’t for everyone. Each dribble is subject to examination. For Herro, each missed shot sparks commentary, informed or otherwise.
“I’m sure he feels, mentally, a lot of pressure on him,” Bradley said.
That might be ever more true with the widespread belief that shooting is a UK weakness. Through games of Tuesday, Kentucky ranked No. 323 in three-point baskets (5.6 per game) and No. 196 in three-point accuracy (34 percent).
“He hears that,” Bradley said. “He hears that this team, in general, is not making shots.. He’s putting pressure on himself.”
Herro’s 16-for-18 free-throw shooting proves he can shoot. But Bradley pointed out that Herro may be thinking about getting the shot off quicker, keeping the pull-up jumper holstered and leading the way in giving Kentucky reliable shooting from the perimeter.
“It’s never good when a shooter thinks too much,” Bradley said. “He’ll find his shot. He’s too good a shooter.”
Utah at No. 19 Kentucky
When: 5 p.m. Saturday