Unable to emerge from a season-long slump at the free throw line and unwilling to keep costing his team games because of his misses, Wisconsin's Ryan Evans has experimented with some unorthodox foul shooting solutions.
The senior forward unveiled one of them during Tuesday night's 77-46 rout of Nebraska, debuting his jump shot free throw.
It surely elicited some snarky comments or bewildered stares from fans in the stands, but Evans' unusual technique proved effective in a small sample size. He rattled in a first-half free throw to complete a three-point play and swished his only other attempt in the second half, an encouraging 2-for-2 night for a guy who had made only 40.5 percent of the 126 foul shots he had previously attempted this season.
“Well it worked tonight, so I’m going to keep it going,” Evans told reporters in Madison after the game. "I think it might have been the first time all season I went 100 percent from the free-throw line, so that’s an accomplishment."
Evans' free throw shooting woes have been a baffling development for a player who shot over 70 percent from the foul line both of the last two seasons and sank 81.1 percent in Big Ten play last year. This year, he started by making only 1 of 8 free throws in the Badgers' season opener against Southeast Louisiana and later hit only 1 of 9 in a Dec. 8 loss to Marquette, a pair of confidence-sapping efforts that have proven to be harbingers of things to come.
The lowest point came in an overtime loss to rival Minnesota earlier this month when Evans sank only 2 of 8 foul shots. Wisconsin players and coaches remained supportive, though some fans expressed frustration since any of those free throws could have been the difference between a win in regulation and a loss in overtime.
Determined not to let something like that happen again, Evans experimented with a few different solutions in practice this week, from Rick Barry-esque underhand free throws to trying to bank his foul shots in off the glass. He told the Wisconsin State Journal after Monday's practice that he hadn't decided whether to dabble with a new approach in a real game yet.
“It’s kind of experimenting a little bit,” Evans said to the newsaper. “It’ll be a game-time decision. I’m in the business of winning. So I’m just trying to do what I can to regain that confidence at the line.”
That Evans went with the jump shot free throw was probably a wise choice considering his mid-range game has long been a strength. Not only is he confident shooting jumpers at that distance, they also allow him to get a bit more lift on his notoriously flat outside shot.
If Evans sticks with his new method, he won't be the first player to do so. Ex-Philadelphia 76ers guard Hal Greer made 10 NBA all-star teams in the 1960s and 70s shooting jump shots from the free throw line.