In the final hour of an Advance boys basketball team’s practice, there isn’t much noise coming from the gym.
The sounds of basketballs hitting the hardwood floor and flying through the net are about the only thing you’ll hear, but the players remain silent.
Instead, the Hornets, who will face Meadville in a state semifinal Thursday, are focused on a mandatory shooting regiment to round out a long day of practice.
It’s a system Advance coach Bubba Wheetley first implemented when he took the job two years ago, and one that he believes has helped his team get to the Class 1 final four.
“We started it last year, and back in early August we got it going again with this group,” Wheetley said. “Four days a week doing so many shots a day. There are a lot of free throws, a lot of 3’s and a lot of dribble drives. They bought into that last year. And it was hard to get those kids to get in here. We’d come in the mornings before school if we had to at 6 a.m. because there were days when we couldn’t practice after school. To get in the gym as much as you want to doesn’t always work out. But those kids last year, and even the kids that didn’t see the floor as much but are starting for us now, were committed. They all committed. No matter what, they put that time in.”
Wheetley, an Advance graduate, who got the idea to make shooting mandatory from former Advance coach and good friend Carrol Cookson, said the Hornets practice for at least three hours on average and spend the final hour working on those various shots.
While the numbers for each shot vary from practice to practice, Wheetley said the idea behind his strategy is designed to make shooting “muscle memory” for his players in games.
“I don’t really make them make so many; we just shoot so many,” Wheetley said. “We’ll shoot 100 to 120 free throws. Some days you might do 150 shots, and there are also days that we’ll back it up some. If you play hard and shoot a certain percentage, we’ll take it back a little bit. But I don’t believe you can shoot too much. It’s just that sometimes there just isn’t always enough time to get it all in, in a practice. As long as they’re shooting over 100 shots from wherever, they’re going to get in a game and make things look easy from different spots on the floor because it’s been drilled in their head in practice.”