'Shot Doctor' injects accuracy into students

July 20, 1991|By Gary Lambrecht

,TC The way Buzz Braman sees it, his theory on shooting a basketball hits nothing but net. Which is usually what happens when Braman sends the ball toward the basket.

Such as the time in fall 1987, when Braman made 246 of 250 from 19 feet, 9 inches away -- college three-pointers -- at a Philadelphia 76ers rookie camp. Or the time in 1987 when he made 738 consecutive free throws in a Florida high school gym. Or the time in 1989 when he broke Larry Bird's record at the NBA's Long Distance Shootout by making 21 straight three-pointers from the pro distance of 23-9.

Braman calls himself "The Shot Doctor," and his patients are a diverse group. His Sure Shot basketball camp came to Arundel High School yesterday for a five-day stop designed to help more than 100 boys and girls, ages 10 to 18.

But Braman spends most of the year curing the shooting ills of some of the top players on the planet. For the past two years, he has been the shooting instructor for the Sixers -- the only such coaching position in the NBA.

"Pros make the same mistakes that kids do," says Braman, who will return for a third season with Philadelphia. This also marks the second summer he has run the Sure Shot camp. "I've always loved to work with kids and show them the right way. Too many kids grow up shooting the wrong way.

"The given at the NBA level is athletic ability. Eighty percent of the guys are incredibly athletic," he said. "But, as far as shooting the ball goes, I grew up with a lot of guys who could beat most of them [pros] playing H-O-R-S-E."

Braman's theory is based on physics. Careful to guard the details of his method, he reveals some foundations on which his lessons are built.

He preaches shooting one-handed. This helps the shooter maintain the straightness of his shot, and doesn't allow his off hand to alter the desired course of the ball. Another crucial element behind successful shooting, Braman said, is mastering depth perception.

The key to Braman's success, say his amateur and professional pupils, is his ability to communicate.

"Buzz simplifies shooting. He breaks it down for you," says Sixers shooting guard Hersey Hawkins, who had a sharp shot when he broke into the NBA three years ago. "When I miss a shot, I know how to correct it the next time down the floor."

Braman gets his message through to the youngsters as well, although his approach varies.

"With some little kids, I just want to make sure they leave here knowing how to shoot the ball. These kids are looking for help, whereas the pro isn't looking," Braman said.

"My approach has always been, 'Let me offer this to you. If it doesn't make sense, fine. If you want to throw it out the window, I don't care.' It's all approach. You have to massage egos and push the right buttons, more so with pros. My point is, I think I'm on the money."

Brett Romanoski, an 11-year-old shooter at last week's camp at Hammond High, agrees.

"I was a pretty good shooter before I came here, but now my shot is a lot better," he said. "Shooting the right way is easier

than I expected. This camp is more than I expected."

Five years ago, Braman, who led Springbrook High of Montgomery County to a state basketball title in 1972, probably didn't expect to be here. He was enjoying a successful living as a car dealership owner in Florida, where his uncle -- Philadelphia Eagles owner Norman Braman -- got Buzz started in the late 1970s. While lying in traction in a Florida hospital after rupturing a disk playing tennis, Braman decided a career change was in order.

"The thought occurred to me that a lot of people don't know the things I know about shooting," said Braman, who played at East Carolina in the mid-1970s and said he owes much of his knowledge to Ed Peterson, a former South Carolina player he met more than 20 years ago, when Braman was about to enter high school.

Braman's name began drifting around NBA circles in the fall of 1986, when he helped several players improve their shooting, most notably the Detroit Pistons' Isiah Thomas and the Seattle SuperSonics' Nate McMillan.

Still, even after then-Maryland coach Bob Wade invited Braman to help the Terps improve their foul shooting in 1988, even after Braman helped center Brian Williams improve his free-throw percentage from .42 to .86 and even after conducting his own shooting exhibitions, it wasn't until 1989 that Braman got his break with Philadelphia.

"Buzz convinced me and [Sixers coach] Jimmy Lynam, then the three of us had to convince an owner [Harold Katz] that this made sense. Then Buzz had to convince the players," said Washington Bullets general manager John Nash, then Sixers GM. "Buzz has the ability and the knowledge and the philosophy, but he also has the street smarts of a car salesman. He's a rare combination. He may be a pioneer."

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