Bruce Bowen may be regarded as one of the best stoppers ever among the wing men who played in the NBA. He was a member of the three-time league champions San Antonio Spurs and shot close to 40-percent shooting from beyond the arc.
But shooting free throws were his Achilles Heel as the 6’7” guard/forward could only average 57.5% shooting from the line throughout his career.
Today, in the PBA, even guards had been struggling shooting from the charity stripe.
Simon Enciso of Alaska is among the top scoring guards, averaging 10.2 points per game, but he was only averaging 63.6-percent from the foul line, quite interesting for someone who has a decent perimeter shooting yet having trouble making a shot when nobody’s guarding him.
Through the years, there has been a decline in free-throw shooting as guards in the PBA had been the all-time leaders in free throw percentages. One of them was Ronnie Magsanoc, who ended up as the fourth overall in the all-time list with an average of 86.2-percent. As steady as he was as a free throw shooter, The Point Laureate was even deadlier when it comes to three-point shooting as he was third in the all-time list.
A PBA Hall of Famer, Magsanoc explained the logic behind the declining averages in free throw shooting as this appeared to become a lost art, particularly for guards, who should give this routine extra attention.
“I guess it’s the allocated extra time to practice free throws,” Magsanoc told The Link. “I’m a believer on you’re getting better on the things that you worked on.”
Small and not as athletic as the other guards, Magsanoc had to find an edge that would make him ahead over his bigger, stronger and more flexible rivals during his 15 seasons of playing in the PBA.
“Ako kasi ang routine ko, next to ball handling is free-throw shooting. ‘Yung three-point shooting ko ‘yung huli. Kasi gustung-gusto ko kapag na-technical ‘yung kalaban, ako ‘yung titira ng free throws. Kasi doon ako nakakapahinga,” added Magsanoc.
Back in the days when free-throw shooting was an art, the PBA even had a contest for the most consistent shooter from the charity stripe. The winner receives a television or a component from a well-known international brand in the same way that a popular restaurant gives away gift certificates each time you crack individual honors during the annual awards.
These prizes would only sweeten the pot, but more importantly for Magsanoc, free throw shooting gave him an edge as percentages played a big factor here. True enough, he used it as a potent weapon. On top of being one of the most dependable guards, he was able to play in three championship teams of Shell and Purefoods before retiring in 2002.
Magsanoc was always up there when it comes to free-throw shooting, but he also recalled the time he missed out several shots away from winning the component, which went to Ato Agustin, a former MVP, who had been the undisputed free-throw shooting champion for several seasons.
“Naiinis ako noon kay Ato Agustin, kasi halos hindi nagmimintis,” said Magsanoc in jest.
Turning serious, Magsanoc believes it’s high time today’s generation paid more extra time shooting free throws.
“Nasanay kasi ako dati, sa amateur basketball noon, wala namang time out sa dulo. ‘Yung inbound play na hindi nanggaling sa timeout, kukunin mo ‘yun, kasi kailangan kong ibaba ‘yung bola, tapos pa-foulin ka,” added Magsanoc. “Kadalasan ganu’n. ‘Yung sequence na ‘yun, mauulit ‘yun in the last two minutes at least three times. Tumatak na sa isip ko ‘yun. Kapag hindi ka maka-shoot doon sa anim na free throws, or isa sa apat or isa sa dalawa, puwedeng ikatalo niyo ‘yun. Paano kung ako yung tatanggap? Nilalagay ko ‘yung sarili ko kung ano ‘yung posible situation.”