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Kyle Smith outlines WSU’s ‘free throw rehab’

Poor free throw shooting cost the Cougs a game Saturday. Now they’re taking drastic measures to fix the problem.

Carlos Rosario
Photo Services, Washington State University

On Saturday, Washington State lost a heartbreaker in double-overtime against Arizona 86-82. The Cougs had plenty of chances to win the game, but couldn’t get the job done in the end.

The biggest issue? Free throw shooting.

Washington State missed 18 of their 37 free throws on Saturday night, including 9 misses in the two overtime periods combined.

After the game, WSU head coach Kyle Smith said he walked into the locker room to join his team and one of his assistants had already written something on the white board.

“In block letters it said: ‘Free Throw Rehab.’”

Smith was referring to a practice drill led by assistant coach Jim Shaw. The program requires players to run through a series of free throw shooting challenges without failing.

“It’s something like, you got to make 25 without missing 2 in a row,” Smith told the media on Tuesday. “Then, I think you’ve got to make 5 in a row and then 9 out of 10... And then there’s another one. It takes some time, but he’s willing to hold them accountable. There’s not time limit on it, so they can be in there on their own making sure they get it done.”

Smith says that he believes in the system, and points to an example last season that shows it can work.

“I think it really helped CJ (Elleby) last year. He was not a good foul shooter as a freshman... CJ kind of self-evaluated and said, ‘you know, I’m not confident at the foul line.’ And it’s affecting his game, he wasn’t going to the basket as much... He started making free throws and I think (free throw rehab) started building confidence in him.”

The numbers back Smith’s assertion. During his freshman year, Elleby was 82-for-124 (.661) from the free throw line. During his sophomore season, Elleby’s free throw percentage jumped up to .823 (121-147). The Cougs are hoping a team-wide round of Jim Shaw’s “free throw rehab” will help the team make similar steps forward.

“Poor Coach Shaw. He’s obsessing over it,” Smith adding, singing the praises of his assistant. “One of Coach Shaw’s gifts is that he really connects with people. He’s really in your corner and he’s got time for everyone.”

We’ll have to wait to see how much impact Shaw’s training when the Cougs face Cal Thursday at 4 o’clock on the Pac-12 Network.

Jim Shaw's 'free throw rehab' essential as Washington State hopes to correct foul line issues | The Spokesman-Review
Jim Shaw wears two hats for Washington State’s basketball team: full-time assistant coach, part-time rehabilitation specialist.

More Links

Tip-Time for WSU at Stanford Changed to 2 p.m. - Washington State University Athletics
The earlier tip time allows the Cougs to return home Saturday.

Women's Basketball Game Friday Postponed - Washington State University Athletics
Due to recent COVID-19 protocol developments within the Arizona State women's basketball program, the Washington State women's basketball game vs. ASU had been postponed.