Thursday, March 20, 2008


Dribble, fake, shoot...sounds simple enough.

Tyler Hansbrough has expanded his game, and the wins, awards and platitudes have followed.

Part of the equation is the mid-range jump shot he now shoots with confidence. Evidently, Hansbrough started putting more practice time into mid-range jumpers (10 to 12 feet) last spring and summer according to Matt Bowers, Associate Director of Athletic Communications for the Tar Heels. (And a shout out to Matt for answering a couple e-mails from some blogger of which, no doubt, he had never heard!)

Obviously, Hansbrough’s time and effort is paying big dividends. Last Saturday, including the dramatic game winner that may have both secured Hansbrough’s hold on the various other Player of the Year Awards and a spot in the Awkward Dancing and Fist Pumping Hall of Fame (don’t worry, Phil Mikelson, among others, is in there too), ten of Hansbrough’s 26 points against the Hokies were mid-range jumpers. He canned a few more in the title game v. Clemson.

Knowing Hansbrough’s now well-documented tenacity, his desire to improve his game comes as no surprise. Nor is it any great reach that he seems to have mastered this new shot in fairly short order.

First question: Is it a new shot? Yes. A typical Hansbrough jumper would be shot from in the paint. On average, let’s say three to five feet from the basket. A mid-range jumper is a 10 to 12 foot shot. That’s increasing the range of the shot by 100% to 400%, and that’s a big change. If it weren’t, lots of big men would be doing it. Imagine Shaq all those years with a consistent mid-range jumper…Scary though, isn’t it?

Second question: Has a potential Player of the Year ever taught himself a new shot mid-career? We don’t know for sure, but we don’t remember anybody doing so. Certainly, good players have made themselves better by improving what they were already doing, but how many took on a new shot?

For example Carolina’s Raymond Felton was a jump shooter, but not a particularly good three-point shooter. He improved dramatically the year UNC won its last National Championship, and now that shot is an effective weapon for him in the NBA. Inside men improving around the basket is commonplace. Guards becoming better shooters or ball-handlers is also rather routine. But who develops a new shot?

Did Alcindor forsake the trademark sky hook for a jumper to increase his range? Will Greg Oden give it a try? Has a somewhat one-dimensional inside player moved outside? (Other than Ralph Sampson, who wanted to be a point guard?) There are plenty of 6’9” and up guys who can bomb it. Dirk Nowitzki comes immediately to mind, but how many inside workhorses develop a mid-range shot? Not too many, and that’s the point. To get better, and to frustrate opponents who look to shut him down inside, Hansbrough grew a jump shot.

A good jump shot.

According to the ACC NOW:

"You guys may laugh about it, but I’m pretty confident shooting the 3," he said. "It’s definitely not something where I’m going to go outside and just wander around the 3-point line and wait for the team to give me the ball so I can shoot it, but I’m definitely comfortable with that."

Hansbrough is 0-for-3 from 3-point range this season, but coach Roy Williams has said he thinks the junior will be able to make a few in the future.
We wager one drops during the NCAA tournament.

(Photos by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

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