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There was nothing free about free throws for Chamar Sherrod.

The Michigan City senior was 1 of 8 at the foul line on the season when assistant coach Drew Eubank approached with a novel idea — shooting underhanded.

"I thought they were playing," Sherrod said. "They were laughing for a minute."

But it wasn't a joke.

"He doesn't really shoot outside of layups in a game," Eubank said, "It wasn't so much his form, There was just consistency with the direction of the ball. He had way too much motion. The shot wasn't there. He had an air ball at LaLumiere. The one he made, he banked it in. "

Sherrod wasn't a bad free-throw shooter growing up, but it went south for him when he got into high school. He had never heard of Rick Barry, an iconic underhanded free-throw marksman in his NBA days, but was familiar with Clint Capela of the Houston Rockets, who had adopted the method in college and used it for a period of time in the pros.

"I started watching (Barry) videos and I didn't understand how he was hitting free throws like (that)," Sherrod said. "Then we'd slow it down, you'd see the perfect overspin, you could understand the motions, the right backspin. It was just learning a routine."

It didn't take long for Sherrod to get a feel for the change.

"The first day, he was better underhanded than he ever was overhanded," Eubank said. "There were a lot fewer moving parts. Studies show it's a lot more efficient way to shoot. It's amazing how he went from no rotation to perfect rotation. It was matter of getting it figured out. Once he did, we made some subtle changes and he was consistent. If he missed, he missed short or long, it wasn't right or left."

At that point, it just became a matter of Sherrod being comfortable with shooting underhanded in a game. Eubank had pitched the idea to Sherrod's brother, Cevin Crawford, who shot around 45 percent when he played for the Wolves a few years ago.

"He was shy with it," Eubank said. "We'd never had anybody do it in a game. I'd talked to some coaching friends who had spent time on it about it and they said sometimes it's the best way to go, it's just not as cool. We'll watch coaches and they're like, 'Did I just see what I think I saw?' You see the faces when he goes to the line. People are talking. He just had to put it past him."

Sherrod unveiled his new form at The Big Dipper tournament to rave reviews.

"They loved it," he said. "I made one and one of the players was like, dang. The worst part was in Detroit. The first one, I threw it up and I made it, and the whole crowd was staring at me. It bothered me in the beginning. Now I just shoot it."

While he's not about to threaten Barry's accuracy record — Sherrod was 3-for-5 in limited trips to the charity stripe — he's no longer a liability a foul shooter.

"I feel like I'll keep it this way," Sherrod said. "It's coming along pretty well. Once I got it right, it started to feel good. My free-throw rotation is second nature now. It makes me more consistent."

Eubank credits Sherrod for being willing to do something that was initially uncomfortable to make himself better.

"He could shoot 20 before and maybe not make any, where now he's 60, 70 percent," Eubank said. "What's special about it is he realized it was an issue for him and it was more important to help the team than to look cool."


Sports reporter

Jim was keeping standings on his chalkboard from the time he could print and keeping kickball stats in grade school at St. Bridget's. He covers all manner of prep sports for The Times and is a long-suffering Chicago Cubs fan.