Wildcats still not shooting well outside

November 17, 2004|LARRY VAUGHT

LEXINGTON - One area that Kentucky figured to improve this basketball season was its 3-point shooting.

Three of the four players the Wildcats lost to graduation - Cliff Hawkins, Erik Daniels and Antwain Barbour - were not consistent outside shooters. While Gerald Fitch was one of UK's best long-range shooters the past two seasons, coach Tubby Smith thought he brought in new players that would make the Cats a better shooting team.

Instead, the Wildcats were a combined 8-for-39 from 3-point range in two exhibition games. That's a 23 percent mark and not what Smith expected with the arrival of guards Patrick Sparks, Joe Crawford and Ramel Bradley.

"We have not shot the ball particularly well," said Smith. "Sometimes it can be a mental thing. Or maybe we just need to get more shots up in Rupp Arena."


Only junior Kelenna Azubuike has shot well from behind the 3-point arc. He's 6-for-9 on 3-point shots, the rest of the team 2-for-33. Sparks and junior Ravi Moss, a walk-on, are the only other players to have made a 3-pointer.

But Sparks was 1-for-6 in the two games. Crawford went 0-for-6, Bradley 0-for-4. Even senior Josh Carrier, who Smith had been shooting "lights out" in practice, was 0-for-5.

"I don't know what the problem is," Sparks said. "Hopefully it will get better with playing more games and knowing where you are going to be able to take shots from during the game. That comes with time and getting to know each other. I still believe we will be a good shooting team."

New players have to adjust to Rupp Arena

Bradley admits he struggled adjusting to shooting in Rupp Arena in the two exhibition games and hopes for better results when the Wildcats officially open the season Saturday by hosting Coppin State.

"In practice, I was knocking shots down," Bradley said. "I just have not got over shooting in Rupp Arena. It's a lot different than Memorial (Coliseum). The rims are different or something. I guess it is more from not practicing there a lot. I hope as the year goes on and we have more games and shoot around more, it will improve."

Senior Chuck Hayes, 0-for-2 from 3-point range in the two games, says not to underestimate the impact shooting in spacious Rupp Arena can have on new players.

"It is a major adjustment. We have been playing in Memorial since the summer, so you get adjusted to it every day," Hayes said. "Then you have to come to Rupp Arena and it is a totally different feeling. But we can't make excuses. We have to play there."

Hayes says no one should make too much of UK's poor shooting in two exhibition games.

"You can't really look at it like we are a bad shooting team based on two exhibition games," Hayes said. "Sometimes shots are going to fall, sometimes they are not. We are a very athletic team. We rely a lot on our transition game. The shots are going to fall. We just have not had that much time to shoot in Rupp yet. As the season goes on, the shots will fall because I see them go in every day in practice."

Azubuike thinks it is just a matter of building confidence, especially for the young players.

"Once the young guys make a shot or two, their confidence will grow and the more confident you get, the more shots you make," Azubuike said. "It gets contagious. But you have to make a few for that to happen."

Kentucky Wesleyan coach Ray Harper predicted last week that Sparks, who sat out last year after transferring from Western Kentucky, would soon display the same accuracy he did in two seasons at Western.

"When you sit out a year, people don't understand how difficult that can be," Harper said. "It's just different. I had to do it as a player. It just takes two or three games to get everything back. There will not be a more fierce competitor on the floor than Patrick Sparks and once he gets the rust off, his shot will be just fine, too."

Central Kentucky News Articles