Before Louisville's game against Florida State on Feb. 28, Rick Pitino revealed on the pregame radio show that Chinanu Onuaku had begun practicing shooting free-throws underhanded. Pitino stated that Onuaku would not debut the style that season, but that it was improving his percentage at the stripe, and so fans could expect to see it in 2015-16.
The head coach was not lying.
When Harry Giles saw Chinanu Onauku shoot free throws, he inquired.
"What's up with that?" Giles asked his potential USA Basketball U19 teammate.
That would be the underhand form Onauku, one of 16 players competing for a spot on the roster, uses. He places one hand on each side of the ball, with the ball in front of his waist. To get optimal spin on the basketball, he makes sure his thumbs are directed toward the ground before angling his forearms upward and rotating his wrists as he releases the ball.
It's commonly referred to as "granny style," but Onauku is no granny. He's a 6-foot-10, 230-pound forward. He made less than 46 percent of his free throws during his freshman year with Louisville. Toward the end of the season - prior to the NCAA Tournament - the Cardinals' coach, Rick Pitino, showed Onauku a video of NBA hall of famer Rick Barry. Barry, who lives in Colorado Springs, made nearly 90 percent of his free throws in his professional career while shooting underhanded.
"He's sacrificing the way it looks for the result," U19 coach Sean Miller said of Onauku. "It says a lot about him."
Though he began practicing the form before his freshman season ended, Onauku didn't use the underhand style in a Louisville game. If he makes the USA roster, he'll get a chance to unveil the form at the FIBA U19 World Championships on June 27 to July 5 in Heraklion (Crete), Greece.
Nanu misfired on 16 of the 30 free-throws he attempted during his freshman campaign, making him a liability to have on the floor late in the 2nd half of games where Louisville owned a lead.
If it improves those numbers, I'm all for it.