Getting players back to basics

Shooting guru helps pros find the `stroke'

`Buzz is an excellent teacher'

Shot doctor Braman works with youngsters, too

Howard At Play

January 19, 2003|By Jeff Seidel | Jeff Seidel,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Basketball shooting guru Buzz Braman had a busy schedule last weekend. On Saturday, he was to work with J.P. Ventura, 13, in Columbia. On Sunday morning, he flew to California for his next client, the Sacramento Kings' Chris Webber.

But that is what a typical Braman schedule looks like. He works with anyone interested in improving his or her shooting.

A former NBA assistant coach with Orlando, Washington and Philadelphia, Braman still works with the big names such as Webber and Penny Hardaway.

But the Columbia resident, who is 47, also stays involved with kids, often in Howard County.

Braman hopped a plane to California last weekend to help a worried Webber regain his shooting stroke. Webber had been inconsistent much of the season. Webber paid Braman out of his own pocket, and the pair spent 2 1/2 hours after practice one day last week working on shot mechanics.

"He called me ... and said, `I've got to get my stroke back,' " Braman said by phone from Sacramento. "I never, ever call players. I don't want them to think I'm getting into their wallet."

Last week's lessons must have worked. On Wednesday - against the Dallas Mavericks, which has the NBA's best record so far this season - Webber exploded for 34 points.

Braman said he works with Webber in the same way that he works with J.P. Ventura - sticking with fundamentals. It doesn't matter who you are, Braman believes fervently that everything starts with the basics.

"The bottom line is all of the fundamentals of shooting deal with an ability to make the ball go straight and depth perception," Braman said.

Braman thinks that because of the flashy dunks and slick passes they see on TV, children and coaches are forgetting the fundamentals.

Braman remembers a shooting exhibit he gave once where, after sinking 1,121 out of 1,144 free throws in one hour, a teen-ager came up and asked him a question.

"Can you dunk?" the teen asked.

So much for making the right impression.

"If I could teach somebody to jump like Kobe Bryant, I'd be worth $500 million," Braman said. "However, there isn't a basketball player that isn't capable of shooting like Chris Mullin did."

Braman said kids today - as well as players in the NBA - simply have gotten away from what's important.

"It's a joke [now]," Braman said. "I think it's awful. It's no mystery why guys from Europe are being drafted so often. They can shoot the heck out of the ball. The teaching over there is probably the way we used to teach here 30 years ago."

Braman is teaching the way he shot when playing for Springbrook High School in Montgomery County. He was the Most Valuable Player in the state championship tourney when his team won the title.

He eventually got away from basketball and worked for his family's car business for 10 years until coming up with an idea while in the hospital with a herniated disk 15 years ago.

Braman was reading a magazine and saw that many players were having trouble shooting and thought about trying to make a go of teaching shooting.

It took him a few years to break through, but the Philadelphia 76ers hired him in 1989. He worked under then-coach Jim Lynam and stayed with the team until 1992 before moving to Orlando for a three-year stint. He then worked for a year-and-a-half in Washington.

Braman worked with Shaquille O'Neal in Orlando and said he had fun working with the big fella, a man very serious about his shot.

"Shaq's a terrific guy," Braman said. "He didn't really want to make a whole lot of changes with his shot."

That's how Braman works all, including J.P. Ventura, an eighth-grader whose amazing shooting has private schools such as McDonogh and DeMatha luring him.

Jim Ventura loves how much Braman has helped develop his son's shot in a manner that will help him in years to come. J.P. Ventura works with Braman on a fairly regular basis and learns lots of NBA moves - which start with the basics.

"Buzz is an excellent teacher," Jim Ventura said. "Buzz can show you how to do it correctly but knows when you're doing it incorrectly."

Braman continues teaching those methods all over the place. He runs shooting camps during the summer - including a four-week camp at River Hill High School - and believes that a groundswell of support comes from parents.

"The ones that really focus, they can just take off, " Braman said. "There's nothing better than a kid learning and staying focused. It's the best. My mind works like a child. I'm a stone-cold goof-off, but I know how to teach and make it fun."

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