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I knew a guy a generation ago who did something amazing one summer.

OK, it was probably two generations ago as the crow flies.

He averaged about six points per game as a junior. He wasn't happy about it, so he worked his backside off the following summer, shooting more balls than Minnesota Fats. He also shot hundreds of free throws each day in his backyard and learned how to draw contact when driving to the basket.

Consequently, as a senior he averaged 20 points per game and earned a college scholarship.

It's amazing to this older baller that ESPN doesn't show highlights of someone shooting a free throw very often, if ever. It's just dunks and dunks, a behind the back pass, a dunk, an ally "oop" with four more slams. Young players watch those images and often try to replicate.

It's a lot easier to learn how to shoot free throws consistently. It takes time and daily practice which brings about confidence when the game is on the line inside a loud, screaming gym.

And as my friend found out many years ago, your stats will go way up if you're money from the charity stripe.

Laughter echoed around Calumet's fieldhouse last Saturday as E.C. Central coach Marcus Jefferson was asked if the Cardinals were known for free-throw shooting.

Anyone remember the 1994 semistate? It was a four-overtime loss to Valparaiso, an E.C. player got two free throws with no time left on the clock in a tied game.

He missed the both.

"No, we're not," Jefferson said.

But in their 52-47 win over Chicago Lindblom at the Battle of the Borders' shootout over the weekend, the Cards were 18-of-19 from the free-throw line at one point. Senior Bryson Jenkins had missed two free throws against Crown Point in a loss earlier in the season.

Jenkins was 9 of 10 from the line in the win at Calumet and finished with a career-high 16 points.

It helps the team win. It helps your stat line. It's two, two, two mints in one.

And doesn't it taste great?

"I've been working on them a lot," Jenkins said.

Former Valparaiso coach Virgil Sweet is the greatest free-throw shot doctor in Indiana history. In 1965, during a lunch break at VHS, Mike Copper made 409 consecutive free throws, a national record.

Valpo's Rob Cavanaugh made a state-record 72 straight charity tosses in games in 1990. Sweet's 1963-64 team at Valpo shot .792 from the free-throw line which was a national record at that time.

Maybe Virgil Sweet is moving to the city?

At Tuesday night's 21st Century at Hammond game, the players from both teams were knocking down freebies with ease in the Wildcats' 99-94 overtime win. You don't have to live in the suburbs to have ice water running through your FT veins.

The Cougars were 26 of 33 from the line, or 78.8 percent. The Wildcats were 27 of 34, or 79.4.

This was a back and forth, high drama affair, with dunks and flashy passing. But when the game was on the line players from both teams simply tinkled the twine.

21st Century's Christian Roger was 7-of-8. DeAndre Gholston was 10-of-10. Hammond's Amiri Young was 9-of-11. Reggie Abram was 4-of-4.

Spend the needed time in the empty gym to get the muscle memory going. Get the instruction needed from those who know more. Practice, practice, practice. And most importantly, understand that going 10-of-10 from the free-throw line is better, more important, than a rim-rattling slam.

It will help your team win, most importantly, but your individual stats will go through the roof, too.

And there is nothing wrong with that.

This column solely represents the writer’s opinion. Reach him at


Sports reporter

Steve has won awards during two different stints at The Times. In addition to being the Prep Beat columnist, he covers football, boys basketball and boys track. He is a long-suffering Cubs fan.