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Chris Elliott: Extra work part of the package for pure shooters

Published Feb. 11 at 1:06 a.m. | Last updated Feb. 11 at 1:21 a.m.

ESPN did a segment on Boston Celtics guard Ray Allen on Sunday that made me raise an eyebrow. It labeled Allen the premier three-point shooter of the NBA's modern era and broke down why his shot is so smooth.

Being a New York Knicks fan, I'll go with Allan Houston as the better shooter. But it also got me thinking about the Wichita area's best high school shooters. There are a few, especially Craig Nicholson (Northwest), Ryan McCarthy (Maize) and Conner Frankamp (North).

These guards have proven to be outstanding scorers, but what truly sets them apart from the average athlete is their accuracy from the field despite the volume or difficulty of shots taken.

McCarthy averages 19 points for Maize, shooting 48 percent from three-point range. Nicholson averages 20 points, shooting 44 percent from three-point range and Frankamp averages 27 points, shooting 47 percent from downtown. Each shoots above 85 percent from the foul line.

They are not just scorers. They are efficient scorers.

"I watch Ray Allen. Ray Allen is one of the greatest shooters ever," Frankamp said. "He has a really quick release. I've been working on getting my shot up a little quicker than normal."

Frankamp may watch a lot of Celtics games to catch ways he can improve his shot, but he didn't become one of the City League's most feared scorers by sitting on the couch.

"The reason why they got to where they are at is because they've spent a lot of time working on their game to get there," North coach Gary Squires said. "A lot of kids don't understand that. Conner will shoot 100 threes or 150 shots after every practice. I'm sure those kids (McCarthy and Nicholson) spend some time shooting, too."

Northwest coach Chris Collins didn't have to worry about Nicholson finding a place to work out when the team's practices were canceled this week due to snow. But mechanics, practice and repetition are only part of the reason why Nicholson is so dangerous.

"A lot of it has to do with desire," Collins said. "As opposed to just having the ability to shoot. I've known a lot of guys that can shoot the ball. There's a lot of difference between shooting the ball and wanting to take the big shot and then hitting the big shot."

Collins said Nicholson's shooting mechanics only break down when he rushes or starts to get tired. But Nicholson will get to a point as he matures when that isn't the case. Collins and other coaches have noticed that Frankamp, the City League's top scorer, possesses a stroke that stays the same no matter the situation.

"They are starting to double and even triple him, and he still gets shots off," Squires said. "He's always in balance. He shoots it the same way every time. When he misses shots, it just comes down to arch. The guy is always in balance and he's got great fundamentals. Every shot looks the same."

McCarthy has the ability to beat people off the dribble like Frankamp and Collins, but his effectiveness from the field comes from all of the work he does without the ball before he takes the shot.

"He never stops," Maize coach Mike Darrah said. "He's moving constantly without the ball, coming off picks and beating people down the court. He just doesn't stop, he has an engine in him, and when he gets hot, it is hard to stop him."

These players are far from reaching the status of Houston, the best pure shooter of the NBA's modern era, but it will be interesting to follow their careers and see where their strokes can take them.

Check Chris Elliott's high school sports blog at blogs.varsitykansas.com. Reach him at 316-268-6296 or celliott@wichitaeagle.com.