Cece Hooks stepped up to the 3-point line and shot. It was her fifth miss in a row from beyond the arc. Most players at that point would stop shooting, but Hooks stepped up to the line once again and sunk the shot that sparked a 14-point run.
The junior guard has struggled this season from beyond the arc, shooting 9-of-42 entering Wednesday’s 86-58 home win over Toledo. Other teams know this and give Hooks plenty of room to shoot, sometimes not even guarding her until she enters the paint.
Her teammates and coaches continue to insist that their star can, in fact, shoot, and they continue to encourage her to shoot the ball.
“She can shoot,” said Erica Johnson, who had eight 3-pointers Wednesday. “So, if they want to be that disrespectful and that deep into the paint, I’m trying to get it her head like, ‘Let it fly. Just trust yourself,’ because she can knock it down.”
Hooks is now just looking for the confidence to knock down her shots in games. She was more willing to shoot the ball against the Rockets as she shot seven 3-pointers, more than the last three games combined.
“Everybody plays off of me, so I just have to get used to it and be confident enough to shoot the ball,” Hooks said.
While she shot just 1-of-7 from beyond the arc, Hooks still managed to score 20 points. Her strengths lie in her ability to score around the basket and her defensive prowess. An efficient jump shot would just be a bonus to a player that is already one of the best scorers and players in the Mid-American Conference.
Ohio (17-7, 10-3 MAC) doesn’t need her to shoot, but if her shot does heat up from 3, she could change games. Opponents would have to guard her up close and risk getting left behind as she drives past them.
Knowing this, coach Bob Boldon encourages her to shoot.
“We encourage our kids to shoot shots that they think they’re going to make,” Boldon said. “And that to me is a large part of making a shot, is having the confidence to shoot it. I thought all seven 3-pointers look good… If she makes two or three, it completely changes the complexion of the entire game.”
Based on what Boldon has seen in practice this season and late in the season last year, he will continue to give her the green light to shoot the ball.
“Last year down the stretch, she was out best 3-point shooter in the month of February,” Boldon said. “This isn’t a Shaquille O’Neal free throw we’re talking about. She is a good shooter.”
Until Hooks can consistently make her open shots, teams will continue to guard her only in the paint. She will also continue to be at the top of the conference for scoring.
Most importantly, Ohio will continue to win.