Wichita State guard David Kyles knows how to pick his basketball role models.
Think back to Boston's Ray Allen making seven straight three-pointers against the Lakers in the NBA Finals in June. That consistency and form is what Kyles is trying to capture this season. Seven games in, he is doing a freakishly good job of shooting as well as one of the NBA's best.
"Ray Allen and Kobe Bryant, one of my other favorite players, they try to make every shot look the same," Kyles said. "So at any given time they can shoot it. Their form is always the same."
The Shockers (5-2) play Nicholls State (4-2) tonight at Koch Arena with Kyles starring as their offensive centerpiece. He is shooting 61 percent (25 of 41) from three-point range and 64.5 percent (40 of 62) on all shots. Last season, Kyles shot 31.5 percent (17 of 54) from three-point range. Kyles said he shot differently, depending on the defense, as a sophomore. If guarded, he would jump. If open, he would shoot more of a set shot.
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"I think that's what caused a lot of my inconsistency," he said. "I kind of fixed that. A couple hundred shots a day keeps me in rhythm and comfortable doing it."
Kyles' hot start is more than just watching YouTube. He matured from a player regularly on the edge of coach Gregg Marshall's patience into a consistent contributor.
"It starts off with practice," junior Toure Murry said. "He comes every day with a mind-set that it's for the team, and my team needs me. When he's got his mind focused and ready to play, he's very good."
Marshall said the change began late last season. Kyles missed the final six games of the season with a broken right hand. He told Marshall watching from the bench helped him understand what the coaches want. With Kyles, coaches wanted consistent effort. Instead of "Cadillac-ing" — Marshall's term for Kyles' effort — he is playing hard all the time. Marshall said Matt Braeuer, the former Shocker guard who served as graduate assistant the past two seasons, called to ask how they got Kyles to play this way.
"He figured it out," Marshall said. "That's 2 1/2 years now, we've been trying to get the best out of him. He's decided that's what he wanted to do now. He's showing that he's a high-level player."
The Shockers need a bounce-back effort after Saturday's 83-69 loss at then-No. 17 San Diego State. Marshall insists his team needs to play with more toughness, and Kyles agrees. On offense, the Shockers are shooting accurately, but at the expense of drawing fouls and scoring from the free-throw line. Too many jump shots can create a team that is reluctant to drive to the basket. Kyles, who averages 15.3 points, has taken a mere four free throws.
"We used to be known as a tough defensive team," Kyles said. "We've turned into more of a jump-shooting team, not controlling the glass. Even our bigs are shooting jumpers, which is kind of crazy. You're not going to win a lot of games with single-digit makes at the free-throw line."