Posted Jun 13, 2014 1:15 PM
When Craig Wilcox played college basketball for Brigham Young University in the early '90s, he was more a slasher/lockdown defender than a pure shooter. But when it came time to teaching his son C.J. the finer points of shooting, the elder Wilcox knew what to do.
First, he had to make C.J. choose a hand.
"I did a lot of stuff left-handed when I was young," C.J. Wilcox said. "I would shoot left-handed some days, and some days I'd shoot it right-handed. Some days I'd eat with my right hand. Other days I'd eat with my left."
Was young C.J. ambidextrous, or just confused?
"I remember one day, we were out in the backyard," Craig Wilcox said, "and C.J. was hitting tennis balls with a baseball bat. He'd crank one out right-handed, and he'd switch hands and do the same thing. I remember thinking, 'holy cow, he can bat both ways.' "
That might have been fine if C.J. had ambitions of becoming a switch-hitting centerfielder. But he wanted to follow his father into basketball.
"You could always see where he had good hand-eye coordination," Craig Wilcox said. "He probably should have been left-handed, but I told him, 'you really need to pick a hand. I don't care if it's right or left.' "
C.J. chose his right hand, and that's when father and son got down to business. C.J. hoisted hundreds of shots every day and the repetition improved his mechanics, but one final tweak had to be made. It wouldn't be an easy change to incorporate.
"He was good, but I didn't like his release point," Craig Wilcox said. "I remember changing it. And he shot it terrible for two, maybe three weeks. I think he wanted to kill me, because it was very frustrating for him. But we just stuck with it, and it finally took form."
C.J. eventually became the No. 2-rated high school player in Utah, and led the state in scoring as a senior. He wanted to attend nearby Utah, but Craig Wilcox convinced him not to sign early. When Washington coach Lorenzo Romar extended an offer fairly late in the recruiting process, Wilcox visited, loved the campus, and signed with the Huskies. After a voluntary redshirt season in 2009-10, all those hours shooting in the driveway paid off, as he became arguably the best shooter in school history.
There are plenty of numbers to support that contention. Wilcox holds the school record with 301 made 3-pointers. He's the only player in UW history to score at least 1,700 career points and make at least 250 3s. Wilcox finished with 1,880 career points, second in school history only to Chris Welp's 2073.
"That's Ray Allen type stuff, the way he shoots the ball, the way he's always on balance," Romar told gohuskies.com as Wilcox's career came to a close.
Wilcox spent five years at Washington proving he was one of the best shooters in the country. In the three months since his last college game, he's been busy trying to prove to NBA teams he has other skills, too. A strong showing at last month's Chicago combine showcased his nearly 6-foot-10 wingspan and athleticism. Six weeks of work with former UCLA star Don MacLean has prepared the 6-foot-5 Wilcox for what he'll face in individual workouts with NBA teams.
Early feedback has been good.
"My agent has told me that [NBA teams] have told him, 'I didn't know he was this quick, I didn't know he was that fast, I didn't know he could put the ball on the floor or facilitate for other people,'" Wilcox said.
That the NBA has only recently discovered Wilcox's well-rounded game speaks volumes about his character. At Washington, where Romar called him "the assassin," his job was to score. And he did it without complaint, even though he knew he had more skills to offer that might boost his draft stock.
"The whole time I was there, I played with a ball-dominant point guard," Wilcox said. "I was doing a lot of running off screens, stuff I'm comfortable with. But in practice, my teammates knew I could do other things. I just didn't show that in games as much as NBA teams would have liked."
Perhaps, but a look at Wilcox's senior year statistics reveals a closet stat-sheet stuffer. He used those long arms of his to lead the Huskies in blocked shots. He was third on the team in steals and assists. For a guy that has the reputation of being a jump shooter, he got to the free-throw line a fair amount (118 attempts), cashing in 87 percent of the time.
Though his game is more well rounded than he was able to demonstrate the last four seasons, Wilcox knows what his primary job will be at the next level. And for that he can thank his father, who shot .271 from 3 as a BYU junior but .349 as a senior.
"He knew the value hard work and [sound shooting mechanics], even though he was more a scorer than a shooter in college," Wilcox said. "When I was younger, I didn't really work on 3-pointers; I didn't really do that until I hit college. My dad focused on my form, getting me comfortable in front of the 3-point line and making sure every shot was consistent. He thought distance would come with maturity and age, and he was right.
"Without my dad, I obviously wouldn't be in this position."
Chris Dortch is the editor of the Blue Ribbon College Basketball Yearbook.
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