Moss Point (Moss Point, Miss.) shooting guard Devin Booker is one of the most feared marksmen in the country, regardless of class.
He can drain 3-pointers, off-balance or feet set, from what’s considered deep by NBA standards with ease and he’s become so accustomed to making shots that he can’t help but to wear an incredulous scowl whenever his makes hit any part of the rim.
“I just like to hear the swish of the nets,” said Booker, a junior. “It’s just one of my things. I honestly feel like all of my shots are going in. Well, almost all of them.”
Booker reluctantly admitted that there’s a direct correlation between his misfires and seeing the center of his defender’s palm during launch.
“I can’t front,” said Booker, who is draining 49 percent of his threes this season. “When I’m wide open, it’s going in. When I’ve got a hand in my face, I still think it’s going in, but it definitely affects me more.”
From the inch-short-of-a-blocked-shot hand to the three-steps-late hand, players agree that, no matter what, contesting shots is still the best way to contain gifted shooters.
“Oh, a good hand up can definitely make it a little harder,” said Tift County (Tifton, Ga.) shooting guard Brannen Greene, a senior who is signed to Kansas. “I feel like I’ve gotten used to it though. I just try to zone the hand out and concentrate on the basket. It’s something you have to work at.”
Greene would know.
He’s knocking down 58 percent of his shots and 53 percent of his 3-pointers this season.
St. Benedict’s Prep (Newark, N.J.) combo guard Isaiah Briscoe is having similar success draining jump shots this season, but disagreed that contesting a shot affects the outcome.
“That may affect another player’s shot, but not mine,” said Briscoe, a sophomore. “I mean, to be honest with you, I don’t really even need my eyes to make shots; it’s more about shooting mechanics. That’s all in the arms and wrist. It’s muscle memory.”
Nigel Williams-Goss wouldn’t go as far as saying he doesn’t need to see the rim to make shots, but he did agree that repetition and practice can give you Briscoe-like confidence as a shooter, making a simple hand in the face almost a non-factor.
“It’s all about practice,” said Williams-Goss, a senior point guard at Findlay Prep (Henderson, Nev.) who is signed to Washington. “My dad has always had me doing shooting drills where he puts his hand directly in my face, and I have to make the shots anyway. If I miss I just worry about the next shot. That helps your confidence.”
That certainly works for Jack Taylor.
Back in November the Grinnell College guard made national headlines when he cranked in an NCAA-record 138 points in a 179-104 win over Faith Baptist Bible College.
In that game, Taylor went 27 of 71 from the 3-point line and 52 of 108 from the field.
“Well, I missed a bunch of shots in that game, and I’m pretty sure that on those misses I had a hand in my face so it definitely affects you,” Taylor said. “It’s so big that I actually do a lot of drills to simulate that hand in the face. You can definitely prepare for having your shot contested, and that’s the key. Because great offense is gonna beat great defense every time.”
Williams-Goss was quick to co-sign that theory.
Makes sense since he recently drained a heavily-contested three to sink Montverde (Montverde, Fla.); staking a firm claim for the top spot in the USA Today Super 25 in the process.
“Sometimes you’re just not gonna be denied,” William-Goss said. “When it’s time to get a bucket, a great offensive player doesn’t think, he knows he’s gonna make that shot.”
Hand up or not.
Follow Jason Jordan on Twitter @JayJayUSATODAY.