Wednesday, February 27, 2013
Ryan Evans doing what it takes to win
By Eamonn Brennan
And in his case, "doing what it takes to win" means looking a little bit silly on national television.
See, Ryan Evans -- probably Wisconsin's best defensive player, and a key cog in their success this season and in recent years -- has found himself in a weird position this season: All of a sudden, he can't make free throws. Evans shot 74.4 percent as a sophomore and 72.6 percent as a junior, but this season he's shooting just 41.4 percent. That's not physical talent or innate skill or lack of practice or having hands too big for the ball, like Shaquille O'Neal. It's a weird mental hiccup Evans just can't seem to cure.
The set-shot free throw isn't working, so Evans is experimenting with alternatives. On Wednesday night, Evans debuted one of his alternatives: the jump-shot free throw. He went 2-for-2 from the line in the Badgers' home win over Nebraska -- both on one-and-ones -- and the Big Ten Network has the video.
Evans and coach Bo Ryan had been hinting at this in recent days, and it appears to be working thus far. The only potential issue I can foresee is Evans accidentally jumping over the line. The jump has to be controlled. Otherwise, short of throwing up an underhanded Rick Barry-style free throw -- which Shaq was always too proud to try, probably to his detriment -- it's not illegal, it's similar to the rhythm in which Evans shoots his typical 15-foot jumpers, and this might actually have a future for more than a few similar struggling players. At least those whose issues are clearly a golfer's type of mental swing tick.
“It worked tonight, so I’m going to keep it going,” Evans said after the game. “It felt good. I feel a lot more confident out there.”