Ray Allen has the accuracy of a sharpshooter. Whether he's taking aim on a long-range game-winner or shooting for the single-season three-point mark, Ray nearly always connects. However, his sweet J wasn't 100 percent innate; perfection came after spending hours in the gym with shot specialist Dave Hopla.
Ray spent his childhood bouncing between Air Force bases as his father was constantly being transferred. The Allens landed as far west as California and as far east as England. But, a defining moment in Ray's young life took place at Shaw Air Force Base in the small down of Sumter, S.C.
One afternoon, Ray and his father went to the base's gym for a game of pickup ball with other Air Force dads. Ray was already bigger and better than most of the men in the gym. Nevertheless, a guard at the door put an end to their plans when he told them that since Ray wasn't 16, he couldn't go in. Right then, he vowed to do whatever it took to become the best player on the base, and to take it to anyone who ever doubted his skills, regardless of the reason. Carrying out his vow with a passion, Ray left the doubters in Sumter on his way to becoming a star at the University of Connecticut.
It was during his days at UConn that Ray joined forces with Dave Hopla and further honed his lethal stroke. A master at teaching shot technique, Hopla is also pretty good at burying the rock himself. In fact, many consider him the best shooter in the world. Throughout the clinics he taught in 2005, Hopla hit 35,332 out of 35,979 shots for a 99.2 percentage—pretty good indeed.
Hopla talks about Ray: "He has perfect form—the best-looking shot in the NBA. He can shoot the three ball; he can shoot off the bounce; he has a midrange game; and he can even post up. Every time he shoots, he truly believes it is going in."
Although Hopla's method is tried and true, Ray possesses certain qualities that accelerated his ability to put the ball in the basket. "He has amazing focus," Hopla says. "When I first met him, I noticed right away that he looked me right in the eye—his gaze didn't wander. His eyes are always zeroed in on what you're doing and telling him."
Ray's unwavering focus has resulted in eight consecutive 20-plus-ppg seasons (25.1 ppg in '05-'06) and the NBA single-season three-point record (269). Find your focus and use Hopla's instructions to drop shots like Ray.
Elements of the Shot
Assume a slightly staggered position with your shooting foot in front. Keep a slight bend in your knees and waist.
Toe to Target
Point the toe of your shooting foot directly at the hoop. Bring your shoulders in front of your toes and your head in front of your shoulders.
Form an "L" with your shooting arm; this is the most important element of the shot.
Cock your shooting wrist until the skin on the back of it wrinkles. Let only the fingertips of your balance hand touch the ball. Do not apply too much pressure with this hand, or you'll end up palming the ball.
Elbow Above Eyebrow
Keep your shooting elbow above your eyebrow through the finish.
Hand in Hoop
Imagine you're putting your shooting hand in the hoop as you release the ball. Keep your eyes on the target; don't watch the flight of the ball.
Freeze Your Follow-Through
After releasing the ball, freeze your follow-through until the ball hits the floor.
Shoot, Stay and Swish
After you shoot, stay put until the ball goes in. Some guys chase their rebounds, but a good shooter believes he is going to swish every shot. If you run in, the ball could bounce right over your head, back to where you just were.
• Stand two feet from hoop with ball in shooting hand
• Using only shooting hand, take shots, adhering to the guidelines at left
• Upon making three consecutive shots, take half step back and repeat
Why it's money
When you start close to the basket without your balance hand on the ball, you're forced to keep your elbow up, in the "L" position; if you don't, the ball rolls off your hand. Make sure you keep your elbow up as you move away from the basket. Otherwise, your arm will flatten out and you'll start shooting line drives.
• Assume triple-threat position, where you can shoot, pass or drive
• Toss ball about three feet in front of you with backspin
• Step toward ball, gather it and shoot, adhering to guidelines at left
• Retrieve ball; repeat for 25 shots
• Alternate sets between spinning left, right and straight on
Add head fakes and dribbles as you progress
Why it's money
This drill helps you overlearn freezing your follow-through. If you get in the habit of dropping your follow-through in practice, when you have time to think, you'll drop it even quicker in the game, when things are moving faster.
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