When big men converge, Syracuse guards try to answer with the teardrop

first_imgFor Tyus Battle and Frank Howard, the decision to float the basketball up in the air comes sometime after their first dribble. From either wing or the top of the key, the natural progression is to try to beat their man. Then they make the split-second decision: take it all of the way to the hoop or loft it over the outstretched arms of help defenders.Battle occasionally drives with the mentality not that he will reach the basket, but that he will float it up from several feet out. Howard, meanwhile, knows that despite his size (6-foot-5) for a point guard, he often has no chance against 7-footers converging on help defense. That’s when he lets the ball float off his fingertips from five to 10 feet away.Call it a runner. Call it a floater. Call it a teardrop. In any case, it can be demoralizing. It got its name because the ball drops down from the high point of the arc, like a falling teardrop on a face. Syracuse (13-6, 2-4 Atlantic Coast) players think of it as one of the most challenging shots in the game, since it drops through the net with only the right amount of touch and pace. But not only has the floater produced a bevy of rebound opportunities for SU, it has given guards Battle and Howard another option off the dribble-drive.“I’m just reading if I can get to the basket,” said Battle, who averages a team-high 19.8 points per game. “If I can, I’ll lay it up. But that’s rare, so I’ll just get the floater up or pass.”The floater has fueled a Syracuse team with little interior offense, giving it life near the basket that it wouldn’t otherwise have. When Howard and Battle meet help defenders just outside of the rim, they have a shot somewhere in between a layup and short jumpshot.AdvertisementThis is placeholder textThe idea behind the shot is to get it up and over the arms of forwards and centers hungry for blocks. When big men step up, Battle said, he can throw the ball for an alley-oop to a cutting Paschal Chukwu or Matthew Moyer. When they don’t step up, Battle lofts his runner.It’s a product of the Steph Curry effect, which comes from the NBA star who regularly deploys the runner, said ESPN analyst Jay Williams. In much the same way Curry has revolutionized the 3-point shot, college and high school players want to emulate the Curry’s runner. The shot can be deflating for big men, especially those who think they have a surefire block.“It’s becoming a popular weapon for guys to use,” ESPN analyst Dick Vitale said. “It’s a good shot if you can be efficient with it.”Syracuse guards practice the shot every day in practice, Battle said. Assistant coach Gerry McNamara mastered the shot as a player, including his magical floater in the 2006 NCAA Tournament. Whenever he beat his man off the dribble, McNamara could slow down his body to float the ball over bigs. He now urges Battle and Howard to use it “a lot more,” freshman forward Oshae Brissett said. Brissett added that, as a defender, the shot is among the most difficult to block because it is hard to time when exactly he should jump.Dunks, 3-pointers and blocked shots take up highlight reels. As forwards leap for blocks, guards such as Battle, Howard and freshman Howard Washington — who said he developed his floater from former Syracuse star and mentor Tyler Ennis — possess a shot with protection built in.“It’s an easy basket,” Washington said. “You don’t want to go all of the way there and get blocked by a 7-footer. If the guy steps up, dump it off. If he stays back, then you have a floater. We’re going to use it throughout the season.”Players have the option to shoot off both feet, but they don’t have to land on both feet simultaneously or possess the same balance as they would with a standard jumper. By landing on one foot at a time after releasing the floater, players said they can better slow their forward movement. This is most helpful when players attack hard to the rim but need to quickly slow down to get a soft floater up.The floater is also preferred over short jumpers because jump shots require a full stop. Players must open up their hips and expose the basketball to the defender, which gives them more time to catch up and contest the shot. When attacking from the wing, it is also possible to shoot the floater off the glass, a natural way to slow down the spin of the ball when driving fast.“I don’t want to force it all of the way to the rim,” said Howard, who averages 15.6 points per game. “I know if I have a smaller guy on me, I can get my floater going. If I got a big guy on me, I can get into his chest and finish at the rim. I want to continue to be strong with the ball and focus. A lot of guys like to block shots and it’s easier to just float it up. It’s a quick shot and it’s effective.” Comments Published on January 22, 2018 at 11:07 pm Contact Matthew: [email protected] | @MatthewGut21 Facebook Twitter Google+last_img

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