IOWA CITY, Ia. — Near the end of last season, Iowa men’s basketball player Josh Oglesby pulled the trigger on advice from assistant coach Kirk Speraw after struggling to pull the trigger on his jump shot.
Oglesby, a shooter with long-range DNA and the resume to match, found himself in the midst of a lingering 3-point shooting slump, hitting just 26.9 percent — down more than 10 percent from the season before. Finally, Oglesby decided to meet with a sports psychologist.
There may be no bigger factor than outside shooting that determines whether an Iowa basketball team fat with expectations reaches the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2006 — and secures its first NCAA win since 2001.
The answer will come partly and largely from each flick of Oglesby’s right wrist.
“My confidence was a big thing last year,” Oglesby said. “I got down on myself. Obviously, shooters need to have confidence.”
Oglesby said the sessions with the psychologist provided help that was impossible to gather inside the lines of a basketball court.
The advice: Frame the math in the most reassuring terms.
“Each shot’s like flipping a coin — it’s going to be heads or tails,” Oglesby said of his psychologist’s feedback. “You know you’ve got a 50-50 shot for the next shot to go in.”
No shooter in Iowa history let it fly with more confidence from more zip codes than Chris Kingsbury.
In a 1994 game against Long Island, Kingsburg shot a mind-boggling 19. In that game and another that season versus Drake, he set and tied his still-standing record of nine 3-pointers in a game.
“You can’t get out of a slump by shooting less,” Kingsbury, a senior vice president at the Bank of Dixon County in Ponca, Neb., said Wednesday. “When you’re in a slump, the worst thing to do is stop shooting. The only thing you can do is shoot your way out of it.”
The definition of confidence is asking a man who shot 297 3-pointers in one season to gauge how many bad shots he hoisted in his career — and just one comes to mind.
“When you’re this far removed, you have selective memory and only remember the ones that went in, right?” said Kingsbury, with a chuckle. “But I had a shot at Minnesota my junior year, it was a terrible shot. It grazed the front of the rim, but it was way too far — over 30 feet.
“That’s the only bad one I remember.”
Bobby Hansen developed his shot at Dowling and the University of Iowa before using his shooting touch to cash checks as an NBA marksman for Utah, Sacramento and Chicago.
The man who hit the 3-pointer that sparked a furious Game 6 comeback by the Chicago Bulls that helped pave the way to the 1992 NBA championship understands that a shot can slip away — mentally, as much as mechanically.
“You get in those slumps where the ball feels like a pumpkin,” Hansen said. “It comes and it goes. You’ve got to get something easy in a game, whether it’s a layup or a dunk or a few free throws.
“(Utah all-pro John) Stockton and I used to talk about it. The repetition — just shoot, shoot, shoot in practice so you’re seeing the ball go through the basket. We used to shoot all the time and call it, ‘Taking the lid off the basket.’ Just swish it and see it and get back into that rhythm.”
Iowa coach Fran McCaffery said Oglesby was “on fire” during the team’s overseas trip and remained just as hot during the first practices of the season. He plans to keep telling Oglesby to gun, because “that kid is one of the best shooters I’ve ever seen.”
Kent McCausland still owns Iowa’s records for 3-point percentage in a season (52.2 in 1997) and career (45.3, 1996-99). He understands the critical role of confidence for players expected to deliver results far away from the basket.
“Once it gets in your head, it’s like golf — you can never hit a putt,” McCausland said. “You don’t want to think as a shooter. That’s what coach McCaffery’s taking out of the equation. He’s giving the endorsement to let it rip. Coach (Tom) Davis always would just yell, ‘Stick.’ He would want you to stick that jump shot.
“Do what the coach recruited you to do — and that’s knock down shots.”
There are other reasons Iowa struggled from the outside, despite a 25-win season that ended in the NIT championship game. Zach McCabe hit 32 percent from 3-point range, a season after draining those shots at a 44.9-percent clip. Devyn Marble and Aaron White also were more than 5 percent poorer from long range last season.
Improvement from those players — along with the addition of Peter Jok and Jarrod Uthoff — could make Iowa one of the Big Ten’s most dangerous teams.
The gunners are there. Self-assurance remains the greatest of the unknowns.
“I played with all kinds of kids that could score 30 points in the Prime Time League, then get into a Big Ten game and shoot five times,” Kingsbury said. “Those guys at that level with D-I scholarships have probably shot thousands of shots beforehand already. So I think confidence is the No. 1 thing at that point.”
Oglesby, the junior who has focused on his brain as well as the backboard, is poised to reward McCaffery’s confidence in a player mending his own.
The green light, as always, remains.
Bryce Miller can be reached at 515-284-8288 or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter: @Bryce_A_Miller
Category: Iowa Hawkeyes men's basketball