Sports Editor’s Playbook, Thursday, Jan. 26, 2012

Patrick Newell

hen you report basketball games night in and night out, you often notice trends. What is “trending” now is abysmal foul shooting amongst the eight Chenango County-area clubs that we cover. Doing the math, there are five starters per team and 16 total teams between the boys and girls for a total of 80 starting players. Can you guess how many total players average 70 percent from the foul line or better? How about 65 percent? Keep reading, and I’ll reveal my numbers at the end. Another trend that caught my eye was the poor foul shooting of athletes who were either named all-stars in their league or to our postseason All-Evening Sun team a season ago. Take a gander at these shoddy foul shooting percentages: 36.1, 42.8, 43.1, 47.1, 50.0, and 51.4. These are free throw shooting percentages (with a minimum of 20 attempts) of excellent players, many of whom do not hesitate to fire up three-pointers from the 20-foot range. Yet, give them a straight-on, unguarded 15-footer – and 10 seconds to shoot the freebie – and they struggle. To be fair, I should point out our most distinguished free throw shooters. The list is fairly short. On the girls’ side, Sherburne-Earlville senior, Cassie Beaver, is shooting a remarkable 81.6 percent from the stripe. Beaver’s rate is nine percent higher than the next-best girls free throw shooter, Jordan Anderson of Unadilla Valley (72.7 percent). On the boys’ side, Norwich’s Dennis Oralls tops our list (again, only those with at least 20 free throws qualify). The Norwich senior is hitting 79.7 percent this season, and his percentage is probably well over 80 percent during the fourth quarter. Oxford’s Ryan Moore, who attempts just under two free throws per game, was next at 77.2 percent from the foul line. And now, the most revealing statistic: All told, out of the 80 starting players, only 11 average 70 percent or better from the charity stripe. That is roughly one out of eight players that can be counted on to make free throws. It doesn’t get any better as we drop our expectations with just 14 players eclipsing the 65 percent mark. Free throw shooting is a staple of every basketball practice, and has been for as long as I can remember. So why do we have more Shaquille O’Neal-like foul shooters than Ray Allens? Perhaps players are spending too much time polishing individual moves that are long on flash, but short on substance.

Congratulations to the Sherburne-Earlville boys’ basketball team, who clinched the Center State Conference Division One title Thursday night at Mount Markham. Winning teams have become more common at S-E over the past several years, but division titles have remained quite elusive. Head coach Kevin Vibbard said the division title was just the second for the Marauders over the past 25 years.

Today we unveiled a promotional ad touting new outdoors columnist, George Franke. George will tell you himself that no one can replace the late Bob McNitt, but he has told me he hopes to continue the tradition of fine outdoors reporting established by McNitt over the previous 34 years. Franke’s first column will appear this coming Thursday, Feb. 2

I can’t spill the beans on our athlete of the week, but he is most deserving. During my discussion with the head coach, he gave me one of the best quotes I’ve heard in years. Perhaps it is a budding cliche that this coach borrowed from someone else, but I thought it was a message that all high school athletes should heed. Check it out in Friday’s edition.

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