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Basketball

BLOG: Matt Thomas, free throw whisperer

 AMESJameel McKay knew he could hit free throws.

Heck, he’d done it throughout the summer and on an overseas trip. He’d nailed them eventually last season, too, despite a very rough start. 

Teammate Matt Thomas went beyond the “knowing” part, though. To hear McKay tell it, the junior guard darn near confronted him about his early-season travails at the line this time around. Maybe “confront” is too strong a word, but let McKay tell the story, which reveals Thomas to be something of a free throw whisperer. 

 “He actually was a little upset with me because I worked on them all summer and he’s seen me make them,” said McKay, who’s hit 29 of his last 41 free throws (71 percent) after a startlingly subpar 7 of 22 start. “We went down to Spain and I was making them and then I got in the games this year and it just looked like a totally different shot. So he told me, ‘Dude, you worked all summer. Go up there like you know you’re going to make it.’ I use that and I think about that every time I shoot it.”

 Fear is the enemy. So is anger.

 So McKay’s been working overtime to make sure a multitude of practice makes negates any self-doubt that could crop up at the stripe.

 “The biggest thing about me is I can’t turn one miss into two,” he said. “Normally, if I make the first one, I’ll probably have a pretty good night from the line. I can’t turn one miss into two.”

 Thomas — an 80 percent free throw shooter — won’t take credit for McKay’s turnaround from 15 feet out. But it is interesting and encouraging that a guy who has admittedly struggled with confidence at times is now willing and able to coach others to greater success while he’s having a career year shooting, defending, and rebounding the basketball.

 “From personal experience with myself, shooting free throws and just shooting shots in general, if you think to knock down the shot instead of, like, ‘Oh, please don’t miss, I can’t miss this one’ — you’ve just got to step up to the free throw line and be like, ‘OK, I’m going to knock it down,’” Thomas said. “I just shared that with him early in the season when he was struggling and I think it’s helped.”

 WATCH OUT (AGAIN) FOR NIANG, MORRIS WATCH LIST

 ISU stars Georges Niang and Monté Morris are wearing out most of the high-profile watch lists.

 Friday, both were announced to be on the Lute Olson Award mid-season watch list. The award is pretend each year to the country’s best D-I player who has been in college basketball for at least two seasons. Click here to view the entire watch list. Find the full release on the watch list, courtesy ISU Athletics Communications, here and below:

AMES, Iowa – Iowa State’s Monté Morris and Georges Niang have earned spots on the Lute Olson Award mid-season watch list. The award is presented annually to the nation’s top Division I player who has played at least two seasons.

Niang is leading all Cyclones and ranks second among Big 12 players averaging career-highs of 19.2 points and 6.7 rebounds. Niang is among the nation’s top-50 players in free-throw percentage, points per game and field goals made. 

Morris is averaging 13.8 points, 7.4 assists and 3.4 rebounds. Morris leads the Big 12 and ranks among the top-five players nationally in assists per game and assist-to-turnover ratio (5.2). He is also second in the Big 12 with 2.3 steals per game.

Morris, Niang and the Cyclones are back in action Saturday against Baylor. Tipoff is scheduled for 2 p.m. with the game being televised on ESPN2.

R

Rob Gray

administrator

Rob, an Ames native, joined Cyclone Fanatic in August, 2014 after nearly a decade and a half of working at Iowa's two largest newspapers. He spent 10 years at the Des Moines Register and, after a brief stint in public relations, joined the Cedar Rapids Gazette as an Iowa State correspondent three years ago. Rob specializes in feature stories for CF.