Memory lapses do trick for Redick

Focusing on present pulls Duke star out of slumps

April 03, 2004|By Gary Lambrecht | Gary Lambrecht,SUN STAFF

SAN ANTONIO - Duke sophomore shooting guard J.J. Redick is a marksman who wishes to forget about whatever he has done in the past, be it good or bad. Just think about the next shot to take and make.

Never mind that Redick, who possesses one of the sweetest strokes in the collegiate game and is absolutely deadly from the free-throw line, had notable trouble making shots early in the season and had a terrible time of it in last month's Atlantic Coast Conference tournament.

Never mind that his diminished scoring output down the stretch of the regular season probably caused him to drop to the all-ACC second team. The 6-foot-4 native of Roanoke, Va., who credits his pure form partly to learning how to propel his right-handed shot properly as a ninth-grader while his broken left wrist was immobilized in a cast, sees much value in maintaining a poor memory.

Redick needed to forget his second ACC tournament experience when he made just nine of 30 attempts from the field, including 3-for-17 from three-point range, over three torturous days.

He needed to put behind him that 1-for-8, three-point dud he produced in the tournament title game won by Maryland in overtime. That day, Redick bricked at least five wide-open shots from outside, including one that could have iced the game for Duke in regulation.

The stroke, the one that led Duke assistant coach Johnny Dawkins to call Redick "one of the best shooters I've ever seen in my life," is coming back strong.

Through four NCAA tournament games, Redick is averaging 16.3 points on 44 percent shooting overall and 36.4 percent shooting from beyond the arc. He hit the crucial three-pointer that helped put away tenacious, No. 7 seed Xavier in last week's Atlanta Regional championship game.

The Blue Devils' leading scorer is feeling it again, and at the right time. He knows Duke probably can't afford a sub-par night from him when it takes on Connecticut in tonight's NCAA tournament semifinal at the Alamodome.

"It was a difficult time for me when I was going through that slump. But my teammates and my coaches made it pretty clear to me that they believed in me," Redick said.

"The shooter's mentality is to have a next-shot mentality, next-play. It's important for me, no matter if I'm shooting great or I'm shooting terrible, to just tell myself that I'm zero-for-zero and just focus on the next shot. Every day I wake up and my shot feels great. I don't lose confidence in my shot. I know it's just a matter of time."

Redick, who burst into the ACC with a stroke that reminded some observers of Larry Bird and made him unconscious at the foul line - he ranked fifth in the nation by making 91.9 percent of his attempts - got a taste of the downside at the outset of his sophomore season.

It took him nine games to reach the 20-point mark. Part of the problem was due to the lingering effects of a hamstring problem that developed in the fall and affected his conditioning and his ability to elevate to his usual 34-inch vertical leap. Part of it was simply failing as a shooter.

"I wasn't really concerned about it," said Duke coach Mike Kryzyewski, who liked the way Redick was creating his own shots more off the dribble and pulling up from medium range, instead of relying on hitting jump shots from the wing. "The thing that showed he had matured as a basketball player was he was playing well defensively. As long as he's taking good shots, he'll hit them."

"We wouldn't be at this point without J.J., and he has to realize that," Duke senior point guard Chris Duhon said. "We depend on him to knock down shots. That's who he is, and that's why we continue to feed him."

Redick seemed a bit testy yesterday talking with reporters. Maybe he was sensing the challenges ahead and how much the Blue Devils need that stroke of his to move on and bring home their fourth national title.

But maybe it was just Redick being Redick.

On the court, he doesn't exactly try to contain his emotion or his body language. He wears an ever-present smirk, exaggerates his follow-through, often bobs his head after making a shot. It might not endear him to opponents, but the player who has made 39.8 percent of his career three-point shots and 93.8 percent of his free throws doesn't care.

"It's not something I do consciously. It's just who I am on the basketball court. It gets me in the mind-set, gets me in the attack mode," Redick said. "Some people don't like it, but whatever. I know if I played for their team, they wouldn't hate me."

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