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To Fix Shooting Woes, Ricky Rubio Will Need Confidence

The Minnesota Timberwolves continued training camp activities in Mankato, Wednesday. Shooting coach Mike Penberthy spoke about Ricky Rubio, and what it will take for the Wolves point guard to become a better shooter.

Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

According to Forbes, each year breast cancer kills 40,000 people in the United States, mainly but not exclusively women, and over 520,000 people worldwide. Yesterday, ESPN's Shelley Smith announced she will begin treatment to fight breast cancer sometime in January. Smith tweets "early detection will save her life."

Shortly after Smith broke the somber news she was interviewing Flip Saunders during Day 2 of Minnesota Timberwolves training camp. On behalf of the Canis Hoopus community, I'd like to wish Shelley Smith the best going forward in her fight against cancer.

Meanwhile, Wednesday, University of Men's Basketball Coach Richard Pitino joined Chauncey Billups as an honorary guest inside Taylor Center on the third-day of practices. Also present was Wolves shooting coach Mike Penberthy, who, in his assessment, determined Ricky Rubio's shooting woes are caused by both mechanical and mental shortfalls.

Penberthy has worked with Paul George, Reggie Jackson, Jrue Holiday, Andre Iguodala and Wes Johnson, according to Jerry Zgoda. After working with Penberthy last year, Johnson's field goal percentage went from 40 percent (2012-2013) to 45 percent ('13-'14) in his first season with the Los Angeles Lakers.

With Rubio, Penberthy believes the work-ethic is there but says"when you read all the time that you're not a good shooter, you start to believe it" and "it will take time and gradual process to help Rubio and other Wolves with their shooting."

What does this "gradual process" entail? 
Here's some added perspective..

Art Rondeau is a NLP (Neuro-linguistic programming) trainer and Peak Performance Coach with experience helping NBA, NCAA, WTA, LPGA, and Olympic athletes overcome struggles pertaining to the mental side of sports performance.

From the New York Post, and Pawtucket (RI) Times:

Rondeau can lay claim to single handedly improving the shooting of Allan Houston and Marcus Camby of the New York Knicks, Chris Burgess of Duke, Troy Smith of Rhode Island College, Dickey Simpkins and Michael Smith when they were at Providence College in the early-90s, the entire San Diego State mens hoop team in 1999 and, in perhaps his greatest accomplishment, helping to boost notorious NBA bricklayer Chris Dudley's free throw percentage from 46 percent to 70 percent while under Rondeau's tutelage.

Chris Dudley, formerly a center with the New York Knicks, needed to figure things out at the free throw line after, at one point, missing 19 consecutive free throws during the '98-'99 season. Rondeau worked with Dudley during the offseason and the Knicks center was soon knocking down free throws without a hitch. The following year, after connecting on nine-consecutive free throws, Dudley told a New Jersey newspaper he felt "confident and comfortable" at the line.

You old folk remember Allan Houston, right?

"Basically what he (Rondeau) helped me do is keep from getting out of my rhythm, helped me stay in focus. What it does is it gets the brain to transfer the memory of the way you shot when you were shooting well. It helps the brain click your body into that quicker than you normally gets you into a zone."

Allan Houston -- 1999-2000 Prior to All-Star Break Games PPG FG 3Pt Team Record
Off Rondeau's Program 23 17.2 40% 38% 12-11 (.522)
On Rondeau's Program 24 24.5 57% 53% 17-7 (.708)

Rondeau, on mechanics:

"The quickest way to get back on track in a game is to shoot off the pass, not off the dribble. Shooting off the dribble requires the conscious mind to get involved to decide when it's okay to shoot. When a player's not shooting well, it's often because the conscious mind is too involved with the process..."

"...shooting off the pass requires you to get in your shooting range and be able to catch the ball. As soon as you catch it, you shoot. Your conscious mind is not part of the shot process and your unconscious, which knows what to do to put the ball in the hoop because you've practiced it so many times, takes over and does exactly what it has to do."

As far as the mental side of things, the philosophy is simple: Players "need to change their beliefs about the meltdowns being inevitable since believing that one is coming, causes them to make it happen," says Rondeau.

Thankfully, for Wolves fans, the mental-hurdle Rubio must overcome doesn't appear to be insurmountable.

Rubio has always had a competitive, positive attitude and he has been adamant about wanting to become a better player. His determination has never been the subject of much criticism.

As far as mechanics go, my guess is Rubio's grip on the ball with his shooting-hand is the reason there is little-to-no arc under his shot after it's released. A shot that is flat creates a narrow window for the ball to fall through the hoop.

The Wolves will practice twice today, the first session beginning in the morning (10:30 AM) and going until 12:30 PM. Evening drills start at 6:30 and wrap up at 8:30 PM.

Penberthy doesn't have an eternity to work with Rubio- let alone the rest of the team. He's got to act swiftly and efficiently over a short period of time.

Game 1 of the season against the Memphis Grizzlies is October 29th. Individual game tickets for the Wolves 2014-15 NBA season will go on sale Saturday, October 4th at 10 AM. See Timberwolves dot com for details.