(Editor's Note: The following article was written by John Howell of Shadyside, Ohio, who is Basketball Commissioner for the OVAC.)
We are now well into basketball season and, unlike previous seasons, I haven't heard as many questions about high school basketball rules as in the past. So, I will write about something I find quite fascinating.
Most kids grow up fantasize about scoring the winning touchdown, making the basket to win the game, hitting a home run in the bottom of the ninth to win the world series, or, the one I experienced, stepping to the foul line to win the game with no time left.
What if you stepped to the line, knowing you needed to make 50 - yes 50 - free throws in a row to win? Even though there would be no defense on the key to snatch rebounds, if you miss even one, you come back next year.
You probably wouldn't mind if you were someone who could toe the line at most any time and make 100 consecutive free throws or 50 three-point shots in a row.
But, you don't often hear of a golfer or a bowler making 100 consecutive 15-foot putts or stringing together the same number of pin-clearing strikes.
I have met someone that can twirl this magic with a basketball. But, I must admit that I have seen him miss. Once. This amazing person, a graduate of the former Wheeling High School and former guard on the basketball team, is a multiple-time world champion traveling throughout the country throwing down shot after shot with thousands of spectators and other competitors just waiting for him to miss.
Just imagine the pressure knowing you can't afford to miss just one or you lose. You step to the line, knowing that you have to be perfect. I have been entertained watching him make shot after shot, with most hitting nothing but net.
When most people talk about foul shooting, the first thing they tell you is to concentrate. But, this gentleman has mastered his shooting mechanics so well that he not only makes nearly every shot he takes, he also tabulates his shooting statistics while he is shooting. Some people would have a problem just keeping count when someone else was shooting. These shooting stats are all recorded in a book after his day's workout has finished.
The gentleman I am speaking of is Bob McCoid, a former college professor, who lives on a farm near West Alexander, Pa., and competes in the world's seniors division. Many times he competes against those who are 25 years his junior.
When I asked what ages he shoots against, he replied, "What makes the difference? I plan on making every shot." I forgot to mention that Bob is a very young 75 years of age and started national competition in 1998 at the age of 60 - after 37 years away from basketball. He did so at the urging of then 82- year-old Earl Klevins, who also was an avid free throw shooter. You probably aren't aware that McCoid spends most of his training time at the Howard Long Wellness Center in Wheeling. That's where I first witnessed his unique ability and have watched many days when I haven't seen him miss a single free throw or three-point shot. Bob's mindset is not "I'm going to try not to miss." Rather, he thinks "I expect to make them all." During one competition, his closest competitor missed a free throw and Bob told the person next to him, "He just lost," and then stepped in and made all of his shots to win.
This past October, Bob competed in World Senior Games in St. George, Utah, and the Senior Olympics in Las Vegas on the same weekend and came home with three gold medals - one for three-point shooting, one free throws and a third for Hot Shot, shooting from different places on the floor.
He also picked up two silver medals for combo three-point and free throws. (He was "downgraded" to silver because he missed one three-point shot and one free throw.)
His overall percentages have improved since he had his knees replaced. During his first practice shooting after his knee surgery, he used a walker to get to the free throw line. During his shooting contest travels, Bob has fired up free throws in more states than most NBA players - and at a much higher percentage. He has perfected his art form to the tune of championships in 20 states.
I asked Bob if he is ever contacted to help instruct young basketball players in methods of improving their free throw mechanics. Surprisingly, it doesn't happen as often as you would expect, considering how many games are lost due to missed free throws.
Some of the numbers you will see here are hard to believe unless you have seen this magician in action. On Feb. 8, 2012, he shot for three hours and was successful on 985 out of 1,000 free throws. His record is 990 out of 1,000, set on April 30, 2001. Obviously, age is having little effect on his accuracy.
In answer to a question about his practice time, I was given figures for the past 10 year averages of 14,000 three-point shots per year and 20,000 free throws per year. Since 1998, Bob has made 100 or more consecutive free throws more than 700 times.
Just thinking about this number makes my arm sore. And, days after a lengthy discussion with him, I fell asleep one night and couldn't even out shoot him in my dreams. As to my high school experience at the foul line with no time left, both free throws went in. But they drew more iron than a pipeline welder.
If you ever get the opportunity to observe Bob in action, I suggest two things. First, congratulate him for his unique ability and accomplishments. Most importantly, if you haplessly bet him a dollar you can beat him, just hand him the money and walk away.
Please contact me at email@example.com with suggestions for basketball discussion and rules topics.