Caulton Tudor

Heels haven't been exceptional at FT line in years

Posted December 20, 2013

James Michael McAdoo (43) drives past James Young (1) during action at the Dean E. Smith Center between the North Carolina Tar Heels and the Kentucky Wildcats on December 14, 2013 in Chapel Hill, NC. UNC won the contest over Kentucky 82-77. (Photo by: Will Bratton)

Although North Carolina’s free-throw shooting almost certainly will improve with time this season, the Tar Heels’ current conversion percentage of 59.6 is following the program’s general trend of the past few years.

Once among the nation’s most accurate teams at the line, the Heels haven’t converted more than 70 percent of their of free throws since the 2008-09 NCAA title team shot 75.2 percent.

The following season (20-17 overall, NIT), the percentage nosed to 65.3 and has stayed in the 60 percentile range since – 67.2 percent in 2010-11 (29-8 record, 14-2 ACC), 68.2 percent in 2011-12 (32-6 overall, 14-2 ACC) and 67.5 percent last season (25-11 overall, 12-6 ACC).

Free-throw shooting is down nationally and has been since the mid-1990s, but Carolina had been well above the norm most of those years. Beginning in the 2004-05 NCAA title season (33-4 overall, 14-2 ACC), the Heels converted 72.5 percent and didn’t slip below 70 percent until 2009-10.

Dating all the way back to early ’50s, Carolina has managed to shoot at least 62.9 percent (1952-53) and has finished above 70 percent in 31 seasons.

But with James Michael McAdoo having missed 41 of his 90 attempts (54.4 percent) and J.P. Tokoto seriously off-target (38.9 percent on 39 chances) through 10 games, the current team is flirting with historically weak numbers.

After missing 23 of 47 attempts in Tuesday’s 86-83 loss to Texas, Roy Williams challenged his team to “be tough enough to step it up and make the dadgum thing” at the free-throw line.

But in order to make consistent improvement, it’s clear that McAdoo’s mechanics are off and Tokoto has developed what seems to be a phobia at the line.

Like many big men with oversized hands, McAdoo has a tendency to hit the back of iron – missing long. For a person with average-sized hands, it’s like free-throw shooting a softball at a target 15 feet away and 10 feet high.

Many big men with similar troubles have had some success by simply stepping a foot or so behind the line. That strategy worked well at times for Wilt Chamberlain, Dennis Rodman and Hakeem Olajuwon, but not so for Ben Wallace and Chris Dudley.

McAdoo following Haywood path?

McAdoo shot 57.8 percent on 173 attempts last season and 63.8 percent on 94 attempts as a freshman, so there’s no reason he shouldn’t be able to improve at least some.

To a degree, McAdoo is much like former Carolina center Brendan Haywood in the late 1990s. As a freshman in 1997-98, he shot 63.5 percent, followed by 62.7 as a soph, 60.2 as a junior and then a miserable 51.6 as a senior in 2000-01.

Now with the Charlotte Hornets, Haywood has been a career 58.7 percent shooter at the line.

McAdoo hasn’t had an easy ride thus far and could be distracted to a degree from having had to play out of position frequently. A natural power forward, he’s been forced to the wing for long stretches but that situation should improve with the return of veteran winger Leslie McDonald.

Tokoto, Brice Johnson (58.6 percent) and Kennedy Meeks (58.1) are struggling but only Tokoto seems to be psyching himself out at the line. Johnson and Meeks clearly have potential to shoot in the mid 60 percent range.

Against Davidson (4-7) on Saturday (5 p.m., Smith Center), the Heels will face a team that has averaged more than 20 fouls per game and has watched opponents convert 72 percent of the time.

Whether it’s mental, mechanical, bad luck or a combination of everything and anything, missed free throws have resulted in two Carolina losses (Belmont and Texas) and will continue to be a point of opposition emphasis until the Heels can turn trips to the line into an asset rather than a liability.

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  • tayled Dec 20, 11:06 a.m.

    In my opinion, this is not a problem confined to UNC. FT's win games, but I think if you look at percentages say from 10-15 years ago compared to today, you would see that they are lower now. Can't quite understand it. I know coaches emphasize it, but players seem not to be able to do it consistently. When I played, if you were not at least a 70% FT shooter, you rode the pine in close games.

  • Alex25 Dec 20, 11:09 a.m.

    The scandals can't be helping. UNCCH's long tradition of cutting corners is now fully exposed.

  • rosemarymcdonald23 Dec 20, 11:22 a.m.

    Just fix the dadgum problem, Roy!!!

  • baldchip Dec 20, 11:42 a.m.

    100 free throws per day could fix this-along with some good technique coaching!!

    Their shooting motion on free throws are all out of wack!!

  • HEELSrocknU Dec 20, 11:50 a.m.

    The scandals can't be helping. UNCCH's long tradition of cutting corners is now fully... View More

    — Posted by Alex25

    ding ding ding..we have a winner!! Most lamest post if the day!...congrats! now go worry about your own teams scandals, remember WRAL did a special a month ago

  • The Heels Win Again Dec 20, 11:57 a.m.

    The scandals can't be helping. UNCCH's long tradition of cutting corners is now fully... View More

    — Posted by Alex25

    ding ding ding..we have a winner!! Most lamest post if the day!...congrats! now go worry about... View More

    — Posted by HEELSrocknU

    Alex is still in High School. Give him a break. LOL!

  • heelgrad1978 Dec 20, 11:58 a.m.

    We have bad coaching. Pretty Easy to fix.

  • Objective Scientist Dec 20, 12:00 p.m.

    My Dad had season football and basketball tickets to one of our great triangle universities and from my toddler years through high school I was at every home game plus some on the road. Upon entering middle-jr. high years and playing basketball, I begin to study "shooting". I'd determine who was regarded as the BEST "pure shooter" on every team I saw and would study that playeer intently, during warm ups and during the game regarding form, technique, rhythm, etc. I would then practice shooting using the "BEST" techniques of the top shooters. I became a very good shooter... I KNOW HOW the best shooters in the history of the game shoot a basketball. What do I see today? I see very few "pure shooters"! I see some guys who "score" and have decent-good PPG averages, etc., but those may be often from players who really are not good pure shooters... often they simply take a lot of shots per game. There seems to be little attention by many players to "good form and technique" when shooting. Then... there is the "dunk". Even kids who will never be "big enough" to dunk in a game are lowering their goals in the driveways and backyards so they can "have fun dunking" - and that is time not spent on developing the shot they will have in a game! The dunk and goals that can be easily lowered and raised may have had a big "negative" impact on the development of shooting skills. Bottom line... I believe neither coaches nor players are working to develop pure shooting skills today as was done in the past... and that includes FREE throws! There are some very good free throw shooters today and in recent years... but the overall number seems to have definitely declined. You do not become a good shooter without lots of solitary practice - the player, the ball, the court, the basket - the player and those things together for hours and hours. Not dunking, not shooting "trick" games of horse type shoots, etc., but shooting the kind of game shots you know you will have!

  • zonk Dec 20, 12:03 p.m.

    Isn't there a maximum word limit ? GEEEEZ

  • zonk Dec 20, 12:06 p.m.

    And that quote by Alex is lame post of the month !!

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