It doesn’t matter how much or how hard you practice, if you’re not doing it right, it will never be right.
For years I have been watching Alexander Nuyles toil away nightly in the Saint Vincent Gym. Back when he was still the lead Falcon, Coach Leo would often reprimand him for not getting enough rest. Even during one of the biggest storms to hit Metro Manila, Nuyles would continue practicing his shot. For a while it seemed to be working. He shot a decent 32.7 percent from beyond the arc which helped Adamson seal its place in the UAAP as a powerhouse.
Despite his success in college, Nuyles struggled in his rookie year in the PBA. Coach Yeng’s deep rotation should have served as a good opportunity for him to showcase his offensive skills, but an inability to assert his role in the system saw him unprotected and lapped up by Blackwater when the expansion team joined the league. Even there, where he was touted to be the best scoring option for the team, he underwhelmed. This led to his eventual trade to his current team, the Kia Carnival.
A few days after getting news of his trade, Alex Nuyles was once again spotted in the Saint Vincent gym practicing his jump shot away from the lights and the crowds. But something was different. His timing was different, his form was different, his release was different. Finally, Nuyles was developing a shot which was more relaxed, less forced and more fluid.
Take a look at this video taken back when Nuyles was a rookie playing for Rain or Shine. Notice how he studiously follows what coaches like Chot Reyes teach when shooting – BEEF. Balance, Eyes, Elbow, Follow. Notice how Nuyles squares his feet evenly, aligning them parallel to the ring, he jumps straight up and tries to land on the same spot. His eyes are fixed at his target, his elbow forms the all-famous “L” shape as he pulls up, and most importantly he follows through with his shot.
Now, here is a more recent video taken a few days after his trade from Blackwater to Kia was announced. Notice the difference. He no longer squares his feet to the basket, his right foot turns as he’s in the air and lands. He starts his shot from beyond the arc and lands in front of it. He no longer stiffens his arm to form the “L” shape, instead it’s more relaxed and raised higher toward his head. But just like before, he maintains his follow-through.
His jumpshot is far from becoming the beautiful work of art which is the form of Jeff Chan or Larry Fonacier, but it has already helped him improve his game.
On his first outing as a player for Manny Pacquiao’s Kia Carnival, Alex Nuyles went up against his old mentor, Coach Leo Austria’s San Miguel Beermen, and boy, did he go to work on the Beermen.
He finished with a PBA career high 18 points off 8 of 14 shooting from the floor. His offensive rating shot through the roof at 123.7 from his career average 80.3. Despite having two imports on the floor, Nuyles was Kia’s most potent scorer and for good reason.
Here we see his career shot chart prior to the Kia-SMB game:
Notice how he clearly favors slashing into the basket despite being decent from mid-range. His three-point percentage is off, dragging his general field goal percentage down.
Now here is his shot chart from the game against the Beermen:
In the first half of the game, Nuyles was taking shots from mid-range, just inside the three-point area. Those three made mid-range jumpers spelled a world of difference for him as the Beermen had not choice but to tighten up on him. This led to the paint opening up where he hurt them the most. Those 4 of 6 inside points were a result of blowing past defenders who were trying to close out on him. Had he not made those jumpers earlier, he wouldn’t have gotten the layups either.
One game later, Kia is up against a winless Barangay Ginebra team. Nuyles got extended minutes but gave a lack-luster performance with only 3 points to show. Why? He didn’t go to his jumpshot early.
For one reason or another, Nuyles opted not to take what the defense was giving him and ran the ball into the hole each time. Unfortunately, this resulted in a very low percentage for him because the defense sagged and he was unable to shake them loose. There was no reason for the defense to tighten up on him since he was passing on the jumpshots. Down the clutch, he missed the only jumpers he attempted miserably, showing that his form is still raw and not as accessible to him as he would wish.
What we can see from this is that Nuyles’ value on the offensive end drastically increases whenever he is attempting and hitting his outside shots. Working on a more reliable jump shot, one that allows him to shoot off the dribble, is definitely a step in the right direction for this young player in search for greatness. If Nuyles can raise hit consistency from mid-range to somewhere along the 50 to 40 percent area, it should make defenses worry enough about him to force them to close out.
In general, good shooting is vital to a full offensive skill set. Part of good shooting is having good mechanics and the confidence to shoot. Alex Nuyles is a work horse on and off the court. To say that he doesn’t practice his jump shot enough undermines the countless hours he has put into honing and polishing his form. Shooting mechanics can translate into better shot opportunities and later on to higher percentage attempts. The lay-up might be a 99% shot but if it’s always taken with a challenge, the lower percentage but open jump shot is a wiser option.