Ochai Agbaji wouldn’t have attempted this shot a year ago.
Curling off a ball screen, the Kansas guard quickly turned and contorted his body Tuesday, firing up a quick three-pointer — one that just made it over the outstretched hand of defender Christian Braun.
It swished through. Agbaji — during Tuesday’s camp game at Allen Fieldhouse — had another example of the progress he’d made after working to retool his shot over the last few months.
“I’m back to where I’m shooting it with a lot of confidence,” Agbaji said. “I feel good about my shot right now.”
The struggles were evident at the end of last season. Following a hot start, Agbaji made 7 of 34 threes in his final 10 games (21%), which led to some re-evaluation in the last few months.
That started with film study. Agbaji noticed that he was dipping the ball too much, and also wasn’t getting full extension on release. He worked out with some trainers in Kansas City, then this week, he put in extra repetitions with Lance Jackson, a shooting specialist who KU’s staff brought to campus.
The early results have been positive. Agbaji — in a small sample — appears to have eliminated some of the unnecessary motion from his jumpshot.
Jackson, in particular, has drilled Agbaji to keep his hands up while waiting for the basketball. The shooting coach uses his own training device — called a Shotmaster — when attempting to teach others proper shooting form.
In essence, the Shotmaster is a black pad that is anchored under the armpits and doesn’t allow a player to lower his hands during shooting drills. It also forces players to keep their shooting elbows in.
Agbaji demonstrated the device while working with Jackson in front of kids attending Bill Self’s basketball camp on Monday afternoon.
“It was kind of new still. I had worked out two hours earlier prior to that with it on. I was still getting used to it,” Agbaji said. “I worked out with it (Tuesday), but it’s really good. It helps you speed it up.”
Jackson also has shared another tip with Agbaji for free throws, encouraging him to keep his focus on the rim even as he’s taking his pre-shot dribbles.
Last season — when he made 69% of his free throws — Agbaji would look down during his routine.
“Just keep my focus on the rim ... that kind of helps you,” Agbaji said.
Word around the program is that Agbaji, who led the red team with 17 points in Tuesday’s camp game, has been one of the most impressive players in KU’s summer workouts so far.
If he sees greater success in 2019-20, it’ll likely be helped by some work that’s already taken place — the result of a player refusing to settle into complacency, even after a productive first season.