It doesn't matter if you are in high school, college or the pros, a lot of players can't shoot straight in.South Effingham assistant Varnard Reese
GUYTON — Shooting free throws wasn’t just difficult for South Effingham’s Maleece Newbill. It was “too hard.”
After two seasons of frequently clanging the ball off the rim and backboard while lined up directly in front of the basket, the senior opted for a different approach. She shoots from the right side of the charity stripe, giving her an angle that has resulted in a 55 percent success rate.
The fix came from an unlikely source — the memory bank of longtime Lady Mustangs assistant coach Varnard Reese.
“I picked it up from a college basketball team — Jacksonville,” Reese said. “A long time ago (1970) when they went to the NCAA tournament final, they had a boy who couldn’t shoot straight on, either. When they moved him over to the corner, he couldn’t miss.
“Maleece was in the same habit for the last two years so I tried it with her. It was a good move. Her (free throw) percentage went way up.”
Reese said Newbill’s earlier problems at the line aren’t uncommon.
“It doesn’t matter if you are in high school, college or the pros,” he said, “a lot of players can’t shoot straight in. They can shoot all day from angles — especially forty-five degrees and out with threes — but they can’t shoot straight in.”
Reese said he and South Effingham head coach Jenifer Hall tried other methods to enhance Newbill’s efforts at the line but they were unsuccessful.
“It’s a change we made after the season started” Reese said. “A couple of other things didn’t work so we tried something that I ran across a long time ago.”
Reese said Newbill was receptive to his idea.
“When she made her first two in a game, she looked at me and started smiling,” he said. “I thought, ‘Problem solved.’”
“I was willing to try anything to help my (free throw) percentage and my team,” Newbill added. “That’s why I gave it a shot. I was surprised it actually worked. It didn’t work the first two times I tried it but then the shots started falling and I just stayed there.”
Newbill realizes the importance of free throws. She gets plenty of opportunities because she is frequently fouled while grabbing rebounds.
“I think I put too much pressure on (free throws),” she said while reliving her previous troubles. “I was shooting too hard. When I was straight on, I focused on the square (on the backboard).
“I just focus on the front of the rim now. I’m trying to strip the net.
Newbill hit a couple of free throws in Thursday’s 49-46 win against Savannah Christian. The Lady Mustangs converted 11 of 18 while rallying in the fourth quarter.
“I think free throws won the game for us,” Hall said.