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Tale Of The Tape: Alterique Gilbert’s Jump Shot

Alterique Gilbert’s shooting might be the biggest factor in UConn’s success this season. Is it built to last?

Ian Bethune/The UConn Blog

Through 11 games, UConn has seen a major improvement in its offense from this season compared to last. While the structural and strategic differences have been crucial to that development, one other vital part has been the emergence of Alterique Gilbert. Not only does he appear completely recovered from the injuries that held him out of the bulk of the last two seasons, he also looks like a whole new player.

Gilbert struggled with his jumper early in his UConn career, never establishing a consistent form, and only rarely hitting shots from outside. His first two seasons, both injury-shortened, saw him shoot 22.6 percent from three. This year, everything has changed; he’s one of the team’s best players and his 41.7 percent mark from beyond the arc leads the Huskies (with a minimum of two 3-point attempts, with apologies to Eric Cobb).

But with a couple shaky games recently behind him, it’s worth wondering whether he’s overachieving or if this is just who Gilbert is now. The mechanics haven’t always looked consistent, and for someone who missed left-to-right* in his previous two seasons, that’s a concern. I reviewed the tape from Saturday’s game against Manhattan, where Gilbert made two of his six attempts from beyond the arc, to see what Gilbert’s performance against the Jaspers could tell us.

[*Missing the majority of jump shots left-to-right, as opposed to missing a touch too long or too short, often indicates a weak shooter. Hitting the far or front rim is a touch issue, and not even Steph Curry has good enough touch to make half of his threes. On the other hand, missing left or right indicates an issue with either aiming or mechanics, which is a much more difficult problem to solve.]

Here’s a look at each of Gilbert’s 3-point attempts from Saturday. All GIFs are courtesy of the incomparable TCF_15.

This is a bad miss, but I would argue that it doesn’t portend anything too troubling, though, and is more of an anomaly. For one thing, it’s late in the shot clock and this is likely the best shot the Huskies would have gotten in the possession. Secondly, his upper body looks fine through the shot, except for the adjustment he makes when the defender unexpectedly puts his hand in Gilbert’s release zone.

I think the last second adjustment pushes the shot wide, and his lower body just isn’t quite square. That happens when you rush shots, but Gilbert hasn’t rushed many shots this year. I’m willing to chalk this up to a rare bad miss, as long as it doesn’t keep happening.

This isn’t as bad a miss, in terms of distance from the basket, but it’s the more worrying kind. Gilbert’s open, he takes his time, he squares...and the shot flares to the right. This is where I’m a bit concerned with his mechanics, because he sometimes has a twist where the right side of his body flares toward the basket, not keeping his shoulders square to the target. That makes me think he’s not getting his shot strength naturally, and this may be a holdover from the injuries to his shoulder. These types of misses, and that turn in his delivery, are areas where he can improve.

I would not worry too much about this miss—at the end of the half, with time running out, you’ll force more shots, which means you’ll miss more shots. The good news is that Gilbert’s form looks really good here—he adjusts to being off-balance from the stepback to put up an on-target shot that’s just short. If the case is that his mechanics are better when he’s putting up a quick shot, that means it’s already in his muscle memory, which is a good sign. Even if it isn’t, this shot is a tough one to make, and he just needs to improve his footwork before taking this shot again, which I don’t expect he’ll do very often.

Nice job here. He’s leaning back a little, which sometimes happens with shorter players, but it’s not a drastic lean. The form is otherwise sound and the shot goes in. I don’t have this data readily available, but I’d love to see the Huskies’ shooting percentage by zone; it seems like Gilbert hits a good amount of his corner threes.

What did I just say about the corner threes? In addition to the four-point play, this is exactly what I want to see from Gilbert. Despite the pressure, he doesn’t rush, and goes through his motion very quickly. This is the best shooting form he showed against Manhattan, and doing that through the foul is an excellent sign.

This is a rush. His feet are never square, as he catches the ball with his right foot in front of the left, and rises to fire immediately, which exacerbates the mechanic flaw of turning his right shoulder toward the middle. I get why he rushed the shot, and that mechanic flaw does need to be hammered out of his game, but this is just as much an issue with footwork, which shouldn’t take much time to correct.

Gilbert needs to recognize when he’ll catch-and-shoot before touching the ball, which means he needs to get his feet even first. Since he’s been a point guard for essentially his entire life, this might be a newer aspect of the game to him, and one that won’t take too long to improve.

Ultimately, I see more good than bad in these clips. He seems to have one mechanic issue left, which is great for a player whose mechanics looked extremely wonky in two previous years. It’s no longer a matter of learning an entirely new jump shot; it’s a matter of making the current shot more consistent. Gilbert’s improvement has already paid dividends to UConn, and any further improvement could take the Huskies to another level of success.