Catch. Shoot. Swish.
A simple formula, but one •Tommy Freeman has used for four years to ascend to the top of Ohio’s record books. The Bobcats’ perimeter sharpshooter made his •200th career 3-pointer against Miami Jan. 9 and ranks second in the school’s all-time list for career 3-point makes •(210) and percentage •(45.3).
Last season, Freeman led the nation in 3-point percentage for much of the year and claimed Ohio’s all-time single-season record in that category (47.7 percent).“Shooting's always something that's kind of been my forte, what I've been known for,” Freeman said. “So I just try to work hard and continue to do that.”
The work began years ago at Freeman’s home in Muncie, Ind., where instead of video games or television, Freeman spent his time outside with a basketball.
“Me and my dad really put in a lot of hours: early mornings, late nights, always out in my barn shooting,” Freeman said. “I was always just outside in the barn shooting free throws and playing against my dad — until I started beating him.”
Freeman practiced until he perfected the shooting form — elbows in, knees bent, feet squared and stay balanced. Now, his made shots almost always hit only net and his misses barely fall short or long.
Of all of the mechanics, Freeman said balance affects the shot the most.
“If you're off-balance, if your feet aren't squared up, you're going to have a tougher time making that shot,” he said. “(Balance) is a big key in getting the shot off quick and getting it up there to the point where it’s going to go in.”
But the most important aspect in the makeup of a quality shooter, Freeman said, is confidence: the ability, after missing five, six, even seven shots in a row, to believe the next one is always going in.
For help in that department, Freeman looked to former Bobcat Bubba Walther, who played from 2006 to 2008 and had no hesitation in shooting from anywhere at anytime.
“He definitely took me under his wing as a freshman,” Freeman said. “I spent a lot of time with him over the first summer I was here and just doing a lot of shooting workouts with him. I was just trying to pick up little keys, because I knew he had been in the (Mid-American Conference) for a long time.”
Freeman said he still talks to Walther for advice on staying confident and always thinking about the next shot — traits Freeman is now passing to the newest generation of Bobcats.
Freshman guard Nick Kellogg is second on the team behind Freeman in 3-point percentage this season, at •44.9 percent. In recent weeks, Kellogg has made shots in important late-game moments, and he said Freeman’s leadership has been vital to his own development.
“All great shooters will tell you to just keep shooting,” Kellogg said. “You can't be discouraged if you miss a couple of shots and that's what he's told me and that's why I think he's such a good shooter.
“I just try to take tips from him and just stay positive and keep confidence in myself and keep shooting the ball."
Although confidence hasn’t been a problem, Freeman has had to work to get open shots this season. After his stellar junior season, teams have started to shield him from catching the ball.
Against Miami, Freeman had only one shot in the final 25 minutes of the game after hitting five 3-pointers earlier in the contest. Against Kent State last Saturday, he managed only three shots in the first half before breaking free for four 3-point makes after the break.
Freeman said floor spacing and a fast release on his shot — the final pieces of the puzzle for a great 3-point shooter — help him to succeed despite the heavy coverage.
“Teams definitely know where I am and they're trying to find me more in transition and not let me get open looks,” Freeman said. “So I had to focus on getting my shot off quicker and being able to use screens better in order to free myself.”