Though believing that former Kentucky standout Michael Kidd-Gilchrist needed to improve his perimeter shooting, first-year Charlotte Bobcats Coach Mike Dunlap waited for the right moment to broach the subject.
That moment came as Dunlap watched Kidd-Gilchrist's frustration rise as he missed shots more often than the other players in an informal shootaround.
"I went to him when no one was around and I said, 'Can we get this thing to where you want it?'"
Kidd-Gilchrist eagerly accepted the offer. "God, coach, let's do it," he said.
So began a process that Dunlap hopes can make Kidd-Gilchrist a better shooter. Like most NBA teams, the Bobcats begin formal pre-season camp this week. But the effort to improve Kidd-Gilchrist's shooting is already well under way.
During his time in Lexington recently for UK Coach John Calipari's Fantasy Camp, Kidd-Gilchrist said he was accompanied by a shooting coach. The player cited the flaws in his shooting motion that he wants to eliminate.
"My follow through," he said. "I need to hold it high every time I shoot.
"And I have a hitch in my shot."
In an interesting example of coaching parlance, Dunlap referred to "bus stops" in Kidd-Gilchrist's shooting motion. Dunlap, who served as St. John's interim coach last season as Steve Lavin recovered from cancer surgery, seeks two changes:
■ Simplify Kidd-Gilchrist's shooting motion. "Addition by subtraction," the Bobcats' coach said. "Take certain things out."
■ Not tinker with Kidd-Gilchrist's mid-range motion. From 18 feet — or as Dunlap called it, Kidd-Gilchrist's "kill spot" — the former UK player makes a good percentage of attempts. No change needed there. But adjust Kidd-Gilchrist's motion from NBA three-point distance to increase his range. Make the three-point attempt less of a jump shot and more of a set shot.
In a telephone interview last week, Dunlap noted Kidd-Gilchrist's willingness to change the shot. "If you don't get a willing participant in this thing, it feels jammed down his throat," the Bobcats' coach said.
An overriding question might be this: Can a player of Kidd-Gilchrist's age (He turned 19 on Wednesday) still make a significant change in his shooting motion? Or do habits become ingrained and thus impossible to change by then?
Dunlap said the amount of time NBA players can devote to shooting can translate into big improvement.
Using power forwards and centers as an example, Dunlap said, "Some couldn't make a two with a pencil. You look at them four years later, and you go, 'Geez, he's got a good 18-footer.'"
To sweeten the possibilities, Dunlap told Kidd-Gilchrist of the improvement LeBron James made as a perimeter shooter. Kidd-Gilchrist is a better shooter than James at a comparable age, Dunlap said.
"Does that mean he's going to be the best three-point shooter in the league? Of course not," the Bobcats' coach said of Kidd-Gilchrist. "But what it means is good news because we can get him serviceable from three."
As training camp begins, the Bobcats are pleased with the rest of Kidd-Gilchrist's game. Dunlap said the former UK standout was in the top one percent of players as a competitor. The Bobcats' coach also noted Kidd-Gilchrist's ability to finish plays at the basket.
"Guys ricochet off him," Dunlap said. "He can finish against 7-footers."
Then there's Kidd-Gilchrist's knack for making winning plays at decisive moments.
Said Dunlap of watching Kidd-Gilchrist play in a summer league: "The little thing that showed up for us that wasn't highlighted is when the game's on the line, his uncanny ability to get offensive or defensive rebounds."
In speaking at the Kentucky Association of Basketball Coaches convention in Lexington last weekend, Purdue Coach Matt Painter recalled working with former UK wing Darius Miller. Painter was an assistant coach for the USA Under 19 team that won the gold medal in New Zealand in 2009. Then he was head coach of the USA team in the World University Games in 2011.
Those coaching stints allowed Painter to notice Miller's growth as a player.
"He's fantastic," Painter told the coaches. "He made himself a NBA player. In New Zealand, he couldn't make an open shot."
A four-year complementary contributor for Kentucky, Miller was taken by the New Orleans Hornets in the second round of this year's NBA Draft.
"I think he got rewarded for his production," Painter said in the hallway outside the convention meeting room. "So many times guys get drafted and guys get their start (based) on their talent. And he is a talented guy.
"But in comparison to everybody else who got drafted, he's not off the charts in that area. His determination and his work ethic, those are the things that got him over the top, in my opinion. And it's great to see somebody like that get rewarded for it."
Miller made noticeable improvement in his shooting, the Purdue coach said.
Though his general approach put team ahead of individual goals, Miller continued to work on his shooting, Painter said. "He went from a guy who really wasn't that good of a shooter to a great shooter."
Painter attributed Miller's improved shooting as a product of opportunity and greater confidence rather than a correction of a mechanical flaw.
"It helped his confidence, obviously, when his role kept increasing," the Purdue coach said. "Often times, when you play more, it helps."
Morris the Cat
While eating lunch at a restaurant off Richmond Road one day last week, I looked up and who do I see approaching?
Is that Randolph Morris?
It was Morris, who played for UK from 2004 to 2007.
Morris said he lives half the year in Lexington and the other half in China, where he helped lead the Beijing Ducks to the 2012 Chinese Basketball Association championship. According to Wikipedia, Morris had two double-doubles (33 points and 12 rebounds, 32 points and 12 rebounds) in the final series.
Morris said he was leaving today for China, where he will begin preparation for a third season with the Ducks.
Lexington Center Corp President and CEO Bill Owen expressed confidence that the UK team will be able to move into its re-constructed locker room in Rupp Arena by the time of the home opener: Nov. 16 against Lafayette."But," Owen added, "'usable' and 100-percent finished are two different concepts."
Owen likened the timetable for completion of the $3 million project to a kitchen renovation. The stove and refrigerator may be in place. The family may eat meals in the space. But more work may be required to complete the renovation.
As of late last week, LCC officials were expecting to set up temporary locker room space for Big Blue Madness (Oct. 12) and the Blue-White scrimmage (Oct. 24), Owen said. The temporary locker rooms may also be needed for the exhibition games against Northwood (Nov. 1) and Transylvania (Nov. 5).
As noted last week by UK Coach John Calipari on his website, the center court section of the Final Four floor was in place in the team's circular locker room.
But workers must still hang dry wall, wire the area and complete other basic construction steps.
Plus, Owen added, it might be as long as two weeks before wooden lockers and paneling can be installed.
Mack 'a winner'
Purdue Coach Matt Painter worked with Lexington native Shelvin Mack on the USA Under 19 team in New Zealand in 2009.
Mack, who played for Bryan Station High before leading Butler to back-to-back Final Fours, impressed Painter with his shooting, sturdy body and steady play.
"The thing about Shelvin, and what he was able to do at Butler, (is) he played his best basketball at the end of the year," Painter said.
When asked if playing well late in the season meant something, Painter said, "Oh, it says a lot because that's when it matters the most. That shows you he's a winner.
"And when the chips are down, you know he plays at a high level."
During his talk at the Kentucky Association of Basketball Coaches, Marshall Coach Tom Herrion noted that his program's history includes several Kentuckians: J.R. VanHoose (Paintsville), Ronnie Dawn (Newport), Bunny Gibson (Morganfield) and Lexington's own VonDale Morton and Tyler Wilkerson. By the way, Wilkerson signed with the Spurs last week.
Herrion did not mention such notables as George Stone (Covington) and Blaine Henry (Cynthiana), the former an all-timer for the Herd in the 1960s and the latter a personal favorite in the early 1970s.
Herrion said that assistant Mark Cline, who grew up across the Big Sandy River from Kentucky in Williamson, W.Va., has lobbied for Marshall to make a bigger recruiting effort in the Bluegrass State. This coming season the Herd's roster will include Tamron Manning (Scott County) and Elijah Pittman (Holmes).
Herrion noted another Kentucky connection: Marshall will re-start a series with Morehead State.
Here's what Marshall Coach Tom Herrion called "mantras" for his program:
■ "People don't care how much you know till they know how much you care."
■ "You are what you emphasize."
Perhaps trying to make a lasting impression on the high school coaches, Marshall's Tom Herrion said of his last name, "Some nights we lose, it sounds like a drug."
A tweet from UK sophomore Sam Malone on Friday morning:
"My professor is lecturing my class on NAFTA today. The North American Free Trade Agreement. Nafta this class I'm gonna need food and a nap"
To John Calipari, who received the first Nell and John Wooden Coach of the Year Leadership award Thursday evening in Washington, D.C.
To Jeff Sheppard. He turned 38 on Saturday. ... To Mickie DeMoss. The former UK women's coach turns 57 on Wednesday. ... To Kevin Stallings. The Vanderbilt turns 52 today. ... To Dan Hall. He turned 58 on Wednesday. ... To Ronnie Lyons. He turns 60 today.