To put it mildly, Kentucky’s first three games of the season made Chris Herro anxious. His son, UK freshman Tyler Herro, had made only two of 10 three-point shots.
“You know, I was in a panic,” the elder Herro said Tuesday.
Melvin Booker served as a soothing voice of reason.
“Devin Booker’s dad reached out to me, and he’s like, ‘Hey, it’s going to be all right, man,’” Chris Herro said. “‘Tyler’s a ballplayer.’ He’s like, ‘Take a deep breath. Devin didn’t start doing his thing until January.’
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“And I was like, ‘Man, I don’t know if I can wait till January. I might have a heart attack by then.’”
Of course, Chris Herro is fine. So is Tyler Herro. And, as UK Coach John Calipari has said, Kentucky continues to progress heading into Saturday’s game against No. 9 North Carolina.
Concern seemed to peak in UK’s ninth game when Herro missed all six of his three-point shots against Seton Hall.
A check of the UK record book supports Melvin Booker’s attempt at reassurance.
Through nine games, Tyler Herro averaged 11.6 points. That’s a better average than Devin Booker in the same span to start the 2014-15 season (8.4 ppg), and better than the top five players on Kentucky’s career list for three-pointers through the first nine games of their freshman seasons: Tony Delk (2.3 ppg), Keith Bogans (9.2 ppg), Tayshaun Prince (10.3 ppg), Gerald Fitch (3.9 ppg) and Derrick Millar (8.0 ppg).
Counting the same nine-game spans to begin a college career, Herro’s 12 three-point baskets were only topped by Millar (16) and Booker (14).
Yet ever on the lookout for paths to improvement, Calipari saw an opportunity when Herro swished a three-pointer at the buzzer ending the first half of Kentucky’s 10th game against Utah last Saturday.
“‘Do you know why you made that?’” Calipari said he asked Herro as they walked off the court at halftime. “‘Because you didn’t have time to think about it. You just caught it and shot it. And you trusted yourself. You trusted all your hard work.’”
Herro finished the game with 17 points, making seven of 12 shots from the field including two of six three-point tries.
After the game, Herro agreed with Calipari’s assessment, though adding the qualifier that he had not been over-thinking.
“Just trying to be perfect, and make every shot,” he said. “Which isn’t going to happen. Coach told me, ‘Don’t think about it. Shoot it. And we’ll live with the results.’”
Herro said that trying to be perfect has been a way.
“I’ve always been like that,” he said. “I’m hard on myself.”
When asked why, he said, “just because I’m a competitor. And I don’t like losing. And I want the best out of myself.”
A player affected by a desire to be perfect is nothing new. Calipari said another freshman, Immanuel Quickley, tries to be perfect.
“Which puts him on his heels,” Calipari said. “And I keep telling him, ‘You can’t. You’re not going to be perfect. You just try to make less mistakes than the other team. You try to miss less shots than the other team.’”
Calipari’s star of stars at Memphis also sought perfection.
“Derrick Rose would get so mad at himself . . . ,” Calipari said. “Like if you want to get mad at yourself, I can deal with that. That means I don’t have to get mad at you.”
During his radio show Monday night, Calipari suggested that Herro’s quest for perfection could be likened to golf’s paralysis-by-analysis phenomenon.
‘You’ve got to trust your swing . . . ,” the UK coach said. “The kid spends so much time in the gym. Trust your stroke. Trust it.”
Meanwhile, Chris Herro said his son wants to please. So Tyler Herro wants to make every shot while also following Calipari’s instruction to get the shot off quicker and not become overly dependent on the pull-up jumper from mid-range.
An irony is not lost on the elder Herro. His son came to Kentucky wanting to be known as an all-around player, and not a mere shooter. As conversation centers on his shooting through 10 games, Tyler Herro leads UK in steals (14), is tied for second in assists (21), ranks behind only the four “bigs” in blocks (six) and trails only Keldon Johnson among non-“bigs” in rebounding (3.9 rpg).
“If you told me six months ago, ‘Hey, if he shoots the ball from three, it’s pretty much a wrap,’ I’d say it’s a wrap,” Chris Herro said. “Because he’ll shoot the three. I promise you that.”
No. 19 Kentucky vs No. 9 North Carolina
What: CBS Sports Classic
When: 5:15 p.m. Saturday
Where: United Center in Chicago