Maryland hoops trio 'make it ugly' during offseason
For four days in late July, three members of the Maryland men’s basketball team traveled to Long Island, N.Y., intent on becoming ugly. Or, at least, their goal was to “make it ugly,” which was the theme of the workout regimen overseen by basketball trainer Jay Hernandez.
Juniors Adrian Bowie, Cliff Tucker and Dino Gregory worked with Hernandez this summer to develop their ballhandling skills, as well as their ability to get off their shots more efficiently. Hernandez, the founder of the basketball training company Pro Hoops Inc. who has trained Maryland players in past offseasons, put the trio through drills designed to increase their dexterity with ball in hand.
“It was one of those situations where we try to explain to them how to get their shots off quicker, really clean up their footwork, condition their bodies in movement patterns so they can become even more explosive within the moves that they make,” Hernandez said. “We focused on all the skills sets, really broke everything down and put them through a series of drills that got them moving at a fast pace. By the end of the four days, they had a couple of things that they could take back with them to implement into their games.”
In terms of ballhandling, Hernandez had the players perform exercises meant to “burn out the weaker parts of the arm,” such as the forearm and the triceps. The primary focus, Hernandez said, was to make the players feel more comfortable passing and catching the ball at full speed.
Chief among the moves Hernandez taught was something called a “freeze pull-up.” The intent of the move is “to leave the defender frozen,” Hernandez said. Get it? Anyway, by getting off their shot quicker, the shooter makes it more difficult for the defender to react to the move. A slower defensive reaction time creates more separation, which makes for a more open look at the basket. Hernandez said many shooters hop toward the defender while taking their shot. He did his best to put an end to that habit with Bowie, Tucker and Gregory.
“With that stuff it was really just about cleaning up their footwork,” Hernandez said. “They would make moves and set up for the jump shot second. And that's one thing that 99 percent of players do. They'll make a move and they'll set up for the jump shot second. We started incorporating these freeze pull-ups where they make the move and the set-up for the jump shot happens at the same time. They ended up getting their jump shot off in about a half a second or less.”
Hernandez said he worked specifically with Bowie on using his quickness more effectively. Bowie made repeated daring slashes to the basket with varying degrees of success. Hernandez talked to Bowie about mixing in spot-up, mid-range jump shots with those drives to the hole.
As for Tucker, Hernandez said the focus was on sharpening up the player’s ball-handling skills, as well as “having the confidence to take guys off the dribble.” Hernandez said we worked with Gregory on utilizing a 15-foot, face-up jump shot, in addition to the player’s back-to-the-basket moves.
In the past, Hernandez has worked with such Maryland players as Drew Nicholas and James Gist. In fact, it was Gist who initially recommended Gregory, Bowie and Tucker head up to visit Hernandez this summer.
“We use a term, ‘Make it ugly,’” Hernandez said. “It's all about going into these workouts and not worrying about making mistakes and not worrying about how you look in practice. So all these guys are coming in and doing just that and working their butts off.”
Virginia sophomore guard Sylven Landesberg also worked out with the three Maryland players under Hernandez’s watch this summer, and Hernandez said he expects Landesberg to have another quality season this year for the Cavaliers.
As for Maryland, Bowie said last week one of the keys for the Terrapins will be to get off to a fast start, something he feels he and his teammates are more prepared to do after the work they put in over the summer.
“I feel like I'm a lot better than I was last year. I feel like I'm a better shooter, a better ball-handler, defensive player, just feel like I'm an overall better player,” Bowie said. “I definitely feel now we have everything that we need to go against the top teams in the nation, not just in the ACC.”
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