How Andre Drummond Can Drastically Improve His Free Throw Percentage

Andre Drummond’s free throw struggles have been well documented.  Despite his spectacular rebounding production, especially on the offensive boards over his time in the NBA, Drummond’s Achilles heel dating back to his days at UCONN has been his free throw shooting. With Drummond shooting 35.5%, the lowest mark in NBA history last season, Coach Stan Van Gundy and the Pistons’ organization made it a priority to provide Drummond every tool possible to help him overcome his free throw challenges.

Prior to the 2016-2017 season, Drummond and the Pistons employed shooting expert Dave Hopla for mechanics and virtual reality technology for the mental blocks associated with his challenges. This season, these techniques seemed to create an initial bump in Drummond’s free throw percentage. However, month-over-month since November, Drummond’s numbers have trended downwards, with him shooting 47% in November, compared to 26% through the month of March. Since the all-start break, Drummond has shot just 25% from the line, well below his 38% career average.

Give Coach Van Gundy, the Pistons, and Drummond credit, as they are open and willing to try just about anything to solve the big man’s free throw woes. They also understand that at the core, Drummond’s struggles are not purely mechanical, as there seems to be a disconnect from his foul line efficiency in practice to that of the games. In their search of the most effective solution, the Pistons are in the correct general neighborhood for solving Drummond’s foul line woes but haven’t yet arrived at the right house. The reason is that they are not quite looking deep enough to identify where Drummond’s improvement disconnect really lies.

“We have an issue which Andre’s really clear about: translating from the practice gym to the playing court — and that’s not a mechanical issue.

– Coach Stan Van Gundy

The key to unlocking Drummond’s foul line success is held deeply within his unconscious psyche. Some may liken this level of consciousness to his instinct or muscle memory. Drummond is blocked on this level from moving forward. Any amount of repetition and/or practice will likely not facilitate the substantial long term improvement that the Pistons and Drummond desire until these unconscious mental and emotional blocks are removed.

What are mental and emotional blocks? Negative emotions, thoughts, and memories linked to past experiences become lodged and stuck deep within the unconscious mind of the player. When this happens, it can affect the way the player feels and subsequently performs throughout a career.

In the two case study examples provided below, players used simple effective techniques to clear their unconscious barriers both incrementally and substantially. By doing so they improved their free throw, field goal, and three-point percentages.

Example 1: the negative emotions, memories, and discord somatically remembered from missing two free throws that ultimately cost a player his team’s city championship, which affected the player’s free throw percentage until identified and cleared.

Example 2: the embarrassment and anxiety stored away unconsciously from committing a mistake during a key game freshmen year of college, which affected assist to turnover ratio until identified and cleared.

Players carry these experiences forward with them, and whether they know it or not, can and will affect their lives and ultimately their on-court performance. There is no such thing as compartmentalization. Until these undercurrent dynamics are addressed, large scale performance improvement is not likely to occur.

Blocks to performance are not activated or felt by the player until that player finds himself in a similar situation to the previous discordant experience, like stepping to the foul line during a game. The very thing keeping a player from improving is actually himself, but the part of himself that hides out beneath the conscious surface. This is probably why Drummond can’t carry over his practice free throw efficiency to the games. He hasn’t solved the muscle memory or unconscious piece to all of this just yet.

There are more than likely several unconscious undercurrents preventing Drummond from consistently improving his overall foul shooting. These need to be eliminated before the big man can sustain long term success. This being said, his foul shooting could be corrected fairly quickly.

Once the unconscious mental barriers surrounding an athlete’s performance are addressed, long term performance breakthroughs can occur.

Drummond doesn’t have to be known as the NBA’s worst free throw shooter. Drummond’s foul line issues are not only fixable; he has the chance to markedly improve this part of his game throughout the remainder of his career.

“Drummond doesn’t have to be known as the NBA’s worst free throw shooter. Drummond’s issues are not only totally fixable; he has the chance to markedly improve this part of his game throughout the remainder of his career with the proper coaching and guidance.”

By removing those unconscious blocks, Drummond could quite possibly reach sustained improvement and reset his foul line instincts, which would have the affect of producing substantial long term improvement in his free throw percentage. Combine this with the repetitions, virtual reality, and mechanical work that the organization is already employing for Drummond, and the sky could really be the limit for the Piston’s big man.



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