How an NBA star helped Wisconsin’s Chucky Hepburn develop his 3-point shot

The point guards meeting happened last offseason and it gave you a chance to learn.

Fred VanVleet of the Toronto Raptors was in Madison, not far from his hometown of Rockford, Illinois, and, as University of Wisconsin assistant coach Dean Oliver says, he wanted to see the Badgers.

UW’s Chucky Hepburn was intrigued.

“They’re very similar style players and Chucky wants to be great, so he asked him some questions about, what should I do? What should I be better at?” Oliver said.

The response from VanVleet, a 2022 NBA All-Star and 2019 champion, was direct: Hepburn needs to be able to not only pick the right spots to shoot, but also shoot well.

The UW sophomore has taken it very seriously. His shooting frequency has increased, especially three-pointers. And he’s hitting them more often, part of a dramatic offseason turnaround for the Badgers.

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No. 18 UW hosts Michigan State on Tuesday with Hepburn shooting 50% from 3-point range and the team more than 6 percentage points higher than last season.

Hepburn said she knew the success of the team’s outside shooting came from the August trip to play exhibition games in France, when players ran out of 3-pointers in transition.

His improvement has at least a little to do with that discussion and a workout with VanVleet.

“We did a lot of footwork and so I feel like my footwork has improved from last year,” Hepburn said. “Just gaining space, creating for my teammates or whatever, he’s just gotten a lot better.”

The Badgers lost their two top 3-point shooters from the team from last season: Brad Davison and Johnny Davis combined for nearly half of UW’s attempts, and Hepburn and freshman Connor Essegian have taken over those shooting roles. of shots.

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Hepburn doesn’t qualify for the official 3-point shooting ratings because he hasn’t averaged 2.5 hits per game (he’s 2.2). She but she has hit three or more in seven of 14 games, including the last three.

He was loose with his shooting last season like many freshmen, Oliver said, but developed better consistency this offseason after shooting 35% from 3-point range in his freshman season.

“The confidence of a sophomore who’s been there, you start to know on a baseline when I have to take the shot myself or even hunt some shots instead of having to get other guys involved,” Oliver said. “That’s hard as a freshman. As a sophomore, he has a bigger role and he knows when he has to do those things.”

You’re still learning how to find the best possible shot on a possession instead of making a shot, Oliver said.

Hepburn followed up a 6-for-12 night in a loss to Wake Forest and went 5-for-6 in an overtime win against Marquette. His only miss against the Golden Eagles was in the waning seconds of regulation when he forced a deep try.

He is 23-for-40 (58%) on 3-pointers in his last eight games. The team is at 39% in that section and at 37% for the season. UW was last in the Big Ten at 31% a year ago and hasn’t finished above 37% since 2013-14.

Hepburn is shooting a 3-pointer for every 7:14 he’s on the court this season compared to 9:07 as a freshman. That translates to 1.1 more long-range shots every 40 minutes.

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Hepburn said he was rushing his shot earlier this season and shooting more from the dribble, but has developed more of a catch-and-shoot mentality. Her first two 3-pointers last Tuesday against Minnesota put the UW in the lead and both came from trades and blocks, one by Steven Crowl and one by Carter Gilmore.

He has connected on his first 3-pointer in seven of the last nine games in which he has attempted one.

“Once I feel like I can take down one, I can take down a lot,” Hepburn said. “So it definitely sets the tone.”

The discussion with VanVleet helped set the tone for Hepburn’s shooting improvement in the offseason.

“My lesson is to get as much space from the defender and create an open shot for myself,” Hepburn said. “I think I’ve done a lot this year, whether it’s dribbling, blocking off the ball or just whatever, just creating a lot more space to create easier shots.”

The message seems to have arrived. Maybe it was easier considering the source.

“It’s amazing that we coaches can say anything, but then Fred VanVleet can come in and then he’s like, boom, I’ve got to do it, and he did it,” Oliver said with a laugh. “Smart for him. Obviously, Fred has had a tremendous career.”

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