I'm a shooter who wears a shooter's sleeve who can't shoot.
In kinder words, I'm in a slump.
Out of the past four years, this has been the worst drought of my career. I've been purposefully avoiding the stat sheet because, well, it's not too hard to calculate a bunch of goose eggs.
But, we're winning.
My team's good. I'm shooting this poorly yet we're still cranking out W's. I'm shooting this poorly yet my coaches are still telling me to shoot. I'm shooting this poorly yet my point guard keeps passing me the ball. I'm shooting this poorly yet the only negative voice I'm hearing is in my own head.
How does a shooter get out of a slump? They shoot out of it.
Yeah, yeah, yeah we've heard it all before.
"Don't overthink it."
I missed this.
Kari & I were a combined 1-17 this game.
I made the one. Nbd.
My dad called me the other day and told me a story. It was long and drawn out and I spaced out a few times, but nonetheless, he hit the nail on the head.
"What do you say to yourself after you miss a shot?"
"Dad, you know how much I like to shoot. If I miss one, it doesn't matter. You know the next one is going up."
"Let me ask you one more time. What do you say to yourself after you miss a shot?"
"I'll make the next one."
"See, that's negative."
"Huh? No, I'm being positive."
"Think about that statement, Nicole. You're acknowledging the fact that you missed your last shot. That's negative thinking. What you should be saying is 'Give me the dang ball. This is cash.'"
Ya see, I've been that player from the day I was born. Every time I touch it I want to shoot it because I know it's going in. Why do I think that? Because of the countless hours I've put in doing just that. From when I was 3 and couldn't even hit rim on a ten foot goal, I'd be out there for hours heaving it up there till I did.
Confidence comes from preparation.
And that's something I've been lacking lately. Confidence. And preparation.
Coach gave us two days off this week. Today and tomorrow. For any of you who know Cori Close, THIS IS HUGE.
After yet another night of sulking in sadness due to a treacherous shooting performance the night before, I crawled into my roommate's bed.
"Kari, will you shoot with me?"
For those of you who do not know, Kari went 6-11 from 3 last night. She's wise counsel to seek.
We woke up this morning, despite our precious "off-day sleep-in" routine, and shot.
Confidence comes from preparation.
500 shots later, we finished at 80%. Put me in the game, coach.
During season, sometimes one can get too caught up on the game plan.
Too caught up on the scout.
Too caught up on recovery.
Too caught up in your weaknesses, and not your strengths.
Now known as a defensive stopper.
In order to get out of my slump, I do need to shoot out of it.
I do need to not overthink it.
I do need to stop hesitating.
But what I really need to do is practice.
Shooting with Kari this morning was so fun. I got lost in the game again. I got lost in the fun. I got lost in playing with my best friend. I got lost in competing.
Tomorrow morning we're going to do the same thing. The next day too, and the day after that, and the day after that. All the way up until we play Cal on Friday.
This is my last go-around. I'm done playing the sport I've played since I was 3 in exactly two months. I can't just wake up in the morning and hope I shoot better next game.
To be honest, as of late, the joy of playing basketball has started to wane. Yes, we're winning and yes that is the most important part, but it is my senior year. This is my last shot. I'm here at UCLA, the happiest I've ever been, shooting the worst I ever have. In order to change the latter I need to do something about it. I need to take matters into my own hands.
Kari doesn't need to. Kari plays almost 40 minutes a game. Her grandma fifth year knees need rest.
But me? I'm a role player.
I'm a fifth year senior who doesn't start.
And I'm not afraid to say it.
My freshman year? I was afraid to say it. It was my main focus to never ever ever be second string. I wanted to be a bad mamba jamba. Three years later, it's safe to say I'm still not the star. I'm a role player. And that's okay.
Now he's the star.
Oh, how the tables have turned.
Have you seen Jordin Canada and Monique Billings? They're my teammates. And they're on another level. Mo almost dunked on a girl last week. My vertical is about that of a loose leaf sheet of paper.
I'm framing this for my daughter one day.
Best seat in the house, amirite??
Yeah that's my leg bottom left.
I tripped after selflessly giving her this assist on a breakaway.
Can't you tell why? #LooseLeaf
The coolest part about role players, though? Come March they make or break teams. It's about the work in the dark that comes to light in March. All 14 girls are needed in March. Foul trouble, injuries, (slumps) all seem to take shape during this madness, and more times than none, that's when us role players better step up to the plate.
With that being said, I'm not playing 40 minutes a game. I don't need to rest my weary fifth year playing knees. I need to shoot. I need to be prepared. Because the opportunity may present itself in a big way very, very soon.
Just after one day of extra shooting my shot feels so much better. I feel so much lighter. I feel so much smoother. I feel like Kobe.
I made this one.
I'm a shooter who wears a shooter's sleeve who can really shoot.