1/18: Donovan on free throw shooting, maturity

By Adam Silverstein
January 19, 2011

Florida Gators head basketball coach Billy Donovan likes to talk – and we like to listen – which is why we have compiled some of the most important news, notes and quotes following his press availability on Tuesday.

IT’S CALLED THE “CHARITY STRIPE” FOR A REASON

The fact that Florida is a poor free throw shooting team (65 percent combined, 54.9 percent from the starting frontcourt) is quite evident to Donovan. That is why he had his players take over 100 shots each from the line on Tuesday and expects them to put up over 500 per person this week. Yet while he provides a punishment when they miss (running) and expects improvement by simulating game situations as much as possible, he realizes that free throw shooting is mostly mental and outside his range of power.

“When a player goes up there to the free throw line, really you don’t have any control. If I could guide the ball into the rim, I would do it. But [coaches] don’t have any control,” Donovan said. “It’s a mentality. It’s a confidence. It’s wanting to be up there on the line in those situations. You fix it by getting in the gym, by constantly working on it, by taking it serious and by having a level of competitive substance that, ‘I’m going to go up there and knock down two free throws.’ There’s a mentality walking up there saying, ‘I’m going to put the game away. I’m going to do this.’ We’re going to be in more situations like that. We’re going to have to make free throws. Guys have got to walk up, man up and make shots. They got to be able to do that.”

He also provided additional thoughts about free throw shooting.

“When a golfer swings a club, right as he hits the ball he knows whether it’s good or bad. They just know. I’ve coached players where they have no understanding or idea why they’re missing,” he said. “My biggest thing [as a player] was just to focus on what’s going on right now. [When] you miss free throws, it’s the same shot, but there’s different circumstances. That’s why I try to create as close to a game-like atmosphere in practice as I can, because I’m never going to be able to simulate the crowd [or] home court.

“So much of it is an understanding and a maturity. If you’re shooting a free throw in the gym at practice, or you’re shooting a free throw in the game, it’s the same exact shot. What happens is, mentally, young guys create a bunch of drama in their head. They’re never thinking that way when they’re practicing. A free throw in the first five minutes of the game, that people would say have no barring on the outcome of the game, is the same exact shot at the end of the game except you’re creating this element around you. Trying to help those guys see that, identify that and understand that is important.”

LACK OF DEFENSE WAS A HINDRANCE

Though the Gators’ inability to hit shots from the charity stripe doomed them in the second half, Donovan believes the hole his team’s defense put them in to start the game made it difficult to win from the get-go. He thinks the poor defense, at least partially, stemmed from overconfidence coming out of a number of big-time victories.

“There’s been some slippage,” he said. “The one thing that has got to get better is our maturity in terms of understanding the winning aspect of what goes into it. ‘How can that be with some older guys?’ When you win, you have to look at where you got to get better. Winning is the best way you want to learn. It’s not fun having to learn through losing. Because we scored points, because we won in overtime against Tennessee, because we won on the road at Xavier, some of that stuff gets lost.

“Now all of a sudden we get into a situation against South Carolina in the first half where we shoot 30 percent from the field and we shoot a very low percentage from the three-point line. We gave up big percentages from the field. You’re going to be down double-digit points. If we would have played defense in the first half like we did in the second half, we probably could have weathered and battled that storm.”

QUOTES

On junior point guard Erving Walker missing his one-and-one after getting into a shoving fight: “You have to have the mentality to take a step back and move to the next play and not let that linger in there.”

On playing well enough to win: “We need to come out and play well. It’s not even about the result, because you can win a game and not play well. If we go out and play like we’re capable of playing with the passion and the intensity that we need to play with, then we got to live with the result. It’s understandable why you got swallow the result when you don’t do what you need to do to win the game.”

On getting up for a “lesser” opponent: “Every competitive challenge is totally different. You try to play as consistently or close to your potential and ability [as possible]. That’s what you’re trying to do.”

6 Comments

  1. gatorgrad79 says:

    Adam, did Donovan ever have the sports psychology guys work with his teams, or is the mental toughness learned in the trenches…?

  2. JayV says:

    The team ought to have free throw practice in the odome and invite fans to come watch.

  3. Gatorbuc15 says:

    Funny how something relatively easy can be quite hard, gotta find the solution.

  4. Jim Poteet says:

    The “paradox of the free throw” is that making one looks so easy and yet it is so hard. Mechanics are the key to consistency, however one must be mentally tough to hit them late in the game when fatigued mentally and physically. See what the free throw masters say about free throw success at http://www.nbsashooters.com.

  5. ed palubinskas says:

    When we address poor free throw shooting most of us are critical of the shooter and we cant understand why such superbly trained athletes have such a hard time with such a seemingly simple task. It is for me since I have mastered the “science” of shooting. NOtice I did not say the “art” of shooting. If it is an art then there is only 2 kinds and that is “abstract” and “realism”. The abstract shots means no one has any idea of why the shot misses and how to correct it. The realism relays the fact that the shot is true and controlled.
    The “realism” comes from complete knowledge of all the segments or principles that make up the life cycle of the shot. There can be no emotion involved in a shot since it is this that causes chemical reactions in the mind whhich is relayed to the body and the term “choking” comes to mind.
    Coach Donovan talks of players having to step up and show confidence etc. This does not work. IF A PLAYER HAS BROKEN OR FLAWED MECHANICS THEN NO MATTER WHAT GOES THRU HIS MIND, THE BALL DOES NOT CARE. IT WILL ONLY RESPOND TO CORRECT PHYSICAL APPLICATIONS TO THE RELEASE MECHANISM ALL WORKING IN SYNCHRONIZED FORM.
    I speak from experience. In 30 years I personally have only missed 3 free throws in shooting competitions, making 1,572/1,575. The more the pressure the better I get because it consumes my mental capacity to control my physical ability to create the perfect muscle memory which gets perfect results. By this I mean the proof is in the pudding. Competing against other great shooters who do not have the scientific base that I may have but they are great through years of practice.
    In Donovan’s case and I dare say Calipari and Howland at UCLA etc and hundreds of other coaches who constantly harbor these problems, it is practicing perfectly not just practicing. Its all in the numbers. If the players only make 80% in practice then they will tend to drop about 15% in games allowing for new facility, pressure, fitness and other factors. This is all easily eliminated when you have perfect mechanics because the ball only cares about the moment of release and nothing else on earth. It responds only to a displacement of energy to a bulb of air. Thats it. We teach the players the wrong stuff.

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