Self-made shooter

Tennessee placed 11th among the 12 SEC basketball programs in 3-point accuracy last winter at 30.0 percent and recently saw its best outside shooter, Scotty Hopson, renounce his remaining eligibility.

Fortunately for the 2011-12 Vols, head coach Cuonzo Martin is proof positive that 3-point shooting can be developed.

In his first two years as an underclassman at Purdue, Martin went 0 for 7 from beyond the arc. When he departed following his senior year, however, he was the Boilermakers' all-time leader with 179 treys. Basically, Martin learned to shoot the 3-ball by necessity more so than by design.

"I always tell our guys that the best way to develop your game is to figure out how somebody defends you," the first-year Vol coach said recently. "When I was in college nobody defended me on the 3-point line, so that meant I couldn't shoot the ball. Coach (Gene Keady) didn't have to tell me; I knew that."

Recognizing that a reliable 3-point stroke would make him a much more complete player, Martin devoted himself to developing one between his sophomore and junior years of college.

"It was a matter of me putting the time in in the summer," he recalled. "I went from working on my ball-handling to working on my shot. It's just a matter of doing it, and I didn't have the confidence to do it (shoot 3s) in a game."

The best way to develop confidence is through successful repetition. Martin put up a staggering number of 3-point attempts before his junior season to ensure that his labors would pay dividends.

"I averaged probably 5,000 shots a week," he said.

The obvious question: If he was launching 5,000 shots per week, who was retrieving the attempts?

"The managers rebounded for me," Martin said. "My wife - she was my girlfriend at the time - came in a few times. But that wasn't really rebounding. (Smiles) That was just being in the building."

Although he was careful not to neglect the rest of his game, Martin says he passed most of his practice time that summer firing one long-range jump shot after another.

"I spent a lot of time in the gym, mainly on 3-point shots," he said. "Probably 40 percent was inside the arc but most was 3-point shots. I'd get in the corner and shoot 100 shots, get in the next corner and shoot 100, then I'd go around the arc seven times and shoot 100 shots from each spot. That was consistent."

As fate would have it, Martin nailed a program-record eight 3-pointers vs. Kansas in an NCAA regional tournament game at Knoxville's Thompson-Boling Arena in 1994. Looking back, he downplays the achievement.

"It (record) was just shots that were made. I missed quite a few," he said. "I think I missed five or six."

Ultimately, his fondest memory of that evening is not the record but the fact Purdue beat Kansas to advance.

"More than that, it was a good night for our team," Martin said. "You just keep moving. Other guys did a lot better things than make 3s. That (3-point contribution) was just part of it."

Asked if he has shown the tape of his record-setting 3-point performance to his Tennessee players, Martin grinned.

"They don't want to see that," he said. "They'd say, 'Who is this old guy right here?'"

Although Tennessee shot miserably from behind the arc last fall, Martin is convinced the Vols will be better marksmen in 2011-12 if they'll put forth the effort to improve.

"I think you have to have the desire first and the work ethic to knock the shots down," he said.

Based on what he saw during individual workouts in April, Martin believes Tennessee has several capable outside shooters. The key is for the shooters to believe each shot is going in when it's launched.

"These guys shoot the ball well," Martin said. "Now it's just about putting the work in - getting a thousand shots up each week - and shooting with confidence.

"The mental part of it is very important for any player. You can't play this game at a high level without confidence."

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