He bends his knees significantly, takes the ball to his right and arcs the ball into the net. A month was enough for the nine of the last draft to hone an unorthodox style of making free throws.
While in the classic way of holding the ball with his left hand, Sochan didn’t even get a 46 percent success rate during his rookie season, since the change he is averaging 75 percent. Three out of four attempts go through the hoop.
“When I shoot with one hand, I can keep my elbow in one position. Before that, he always sidestepped me,” he explains.
Nineteen-year-old Sochan always stood out. Although born in Oklahoma, he grew up in Great Britain, where his dad played. He uses his mother’s Polish passport to represent at the international level.
Last September, he was able to present himself in the Czech Republic at EuroBasket, after all, he helped Poland qualify for the promotion, but San Antonio did not let him go. “The federation dealt with Spurs, but to no avail. They didn’t want to overburden him,” Polish journalist Jakub Wojczynski tells iDNES.cz.
You can easily recognize Sochan on the dashboard. Numerous tattoos are not unusual in the NBA, but the 206-centimeter-tall guy easily catches the eye with his hairstyle.
He likes to change colors, since the beginning of the season he has managed to alternate between pink, blond, blue, rust and green. His style is strikingly reminiscent of Dennis Rodman. Even the eccentric pivot indulged in extravagance, he also played for Spurs, wore number 10 and, like Sochan, his strengths lay mainly in defense.
Only he never really learned how to make free throws, by the end of his career he converted only about every third one. On the other hand, Sochan has apparently matured to his problems. Not even when he has an advisor from the most professional.
Just before Christmas, legendary coach Gregg Popovich came to him during pregame warmups on the Houston Rockets board with an unexpected order. “My assistant, Brett Brown, told me that from now on I would shoot with one hand,” recalls Sochan.
In this way, the idea suggested by the headline in exaggeration, that a new method of execution of free throws would emerge in the Czech league, falls. The domestic competition also has its own “Sochan”. Děčín pivot Petr Macháč plays sixes single-handedly, but with a significantly lower success rate than his Polish colleague overseas.
“It’s not usual. It was hard to get over the strange looks from the opposing fans at the beginning, but you have to get over it. I take this shooting as my business card,” explains Macháč.
Even Sochan is not ashamed of the strange ending. “How it helps my game is more important than how I look doing it,” he stresses.
What to try below?
In the 1960s and 1970s, Don Nelson, a five-time champion, was throwing one-handed sixes in the NBA. Rick Barry is the author of the historically most successful non-traditional execution of free throws. During fourteen seasons in the league, he shot them with an almost ninety percent success rate. Below.
He grabbed the ball with both hands, pulled it between his knees, spun it and sent it through the hoop with a powerful backspin. In the 1978/79 season, he even reached a success rate of 94.7 percent, even in the current NBA in this respect he would be among the absolute elite.
Watch how Rick Barry made the free throws:
But few took Barry as a source of inspiration. “I once told him I’d rather never make a free throw than make them from underneath,” Shaquille O’Neal, Barry’s Hall of Fame teammate, writes in his biography.
They say that only scumbags shoot like that. Incidentally, Wilt Chamberlain, one of the best basketball players of all time, used the same word. He tried bottom sixes for a while, but even though he improved his success rate, he didn’t think that way was elegant enough.
Rick Barry’s legacy lives on at least in the G League, the second highest overseas competition. Thanks to son Canyon Barry, who succeeded his father.
“It is scientifically proven that learning to shoot from below is easier. I’m probably the only one who still does it, but I would be terribly sorry if this performance disappeared completely,” explains the fighter, who spent the 2016/17 season in Brno.
However, he is not the only one, Chinanu Onuaku in Hapoel Tel Aviv remains faithful to such a performance in Europe. The 26-year-old American even has a 100% free throw record in the NBA, despite playing only six games there.
Back to Canyon Barry. Even in the Czech league, he did not back down from the extraordinary free throws, successfully converting 81 percent of them in the country before returning to the United States.
Incidentally, Brent Barry, another descendant of Rick’s, works for the Spurs as the vice president of basketball operations. That he was also behind Sochan’s innovative design?