Macklin hones hook shot, dreads free throws
Florida center Vernon Macklin first honed his hook shot during two seasons at Georgetown, watching center Roy Hibbert and forward Jeff Green use the post move to perfection.
Macklin devoted even more time on it last summer, getting tips at various camps and sharpening his skills under the guidance of Florida's coaching staff.
His main drill was taking countless hook shots with heavy medicine balls, which helped him strengthen his hands, arms and upper body. Now, his hook seems effortless. Maybe he should try the same from the free-throw line.
Macklin's free-throw shooting has been downright awful this season. He's shooting 40 percent heading into Tuesday night's game against No. 23 Vanderbilt, a glaring weakness in an otherwise solid senior season.
''I think I got caught up in trying to change my shot too much and getting caught in between trying to keep the ball low or bring it high and it's kind of getting in my head right now,'' Macklin said. ''I'm thinking about it too much and I'm missing a lot of free throws. I'm just going to go back to relaxing and trying to shoot without thinking about it. Once you think about it, it gets worse.''
Macklin is Florida's third-leading scorer and second-leading rebounder, averaging 11.3 points and 6.3 rebounds. His numbers would be even better if he hadn't had to deal with tendinitis and bone spurs in his right knee and a banged-up left shoulder.
Those injuries, as well as having fellow big men Patric Young and Erik Murphy coming off the bench, have limited Macklin to 24 minutes a game. His free-throwing shooting also has him taking a seat late in games.
It's a wonder opponents don't try the ''Hack-a-Mack'' approach. After all, he's hitting just 36 percent (9 of 25) in Florida's last eight games. He already has missed the same number of times (33) in 21 games this season as he did in 34 games last year.
''Vernon Macklin, throughout his career, has been (inconsistent),'' coach Billy Donovan said. ''But he really made some good strides last year. What I try to do in practice is create as much of a game-like atmosphere and situations as I can and try to put them in those situations. But we need to continue to take reps. We need to continue to shoot. It's something we've got to try to get better at. ... Vernon needs to keep working and trying to get better.''
Macklin's hook shot is a totally different story.
When performed correctly, especially by a 6-foot-10 center with long arms, the move can be tough to stop. Against shot-blockers, Macklin tries to get a shoulder into their chest and create a little extra space. Against others, he just hopes to get his shoulders parallel with the basket for a good look.
He also can vary his release point, making it even more difficult to defend.
''You don't know when I'm going to release it,'' Macklin said. ''If I get a good look at the rim and the guy doesn't leave his feet, I'm pretty confident I can put the right touch on it and make it go in. ... It's tough.''
Thanks to the shot, Macklin ranks third in the Southeastern Conference in shooting percentage. He's hitting 57.8 percent of his shots, most of them around the basket. He hasn't taken a 3-pointer and rarely shoots from outside the paint.
''He's worked hard at it and he spent some time in the gym,'' Donovan said. ''He's got a very, very quick first step getting to the middle of the lane so he can get that shot off. He's got a lot of confidence in it. ... He's gotten better at that.
''I don't know if Vernon ever coming out of high school was ever looked upon as being a great scorer. He was a great athlete, great shot-blocker, floor-runner, but I think to his credit he's worked hard to try to get better at those things.''
Macklin hopes to do the same from the free-throw line.
''You can shoot a million free throws, but when you go to the line, you're liable to miss that one free throw you shoot,'' he said. ''I think it's just us, mentally. We can shoot as many as we want, but when we go in the game, we've got to make them.''