There's something amazing going on, and you need to pay attention.
You remember back in 1998 whenever Sammy Sosa or Mark McGwire would come to bat or in 2001 when Barry Bonds would come up to bat? It didn’t matter where you were, you were going to stop, be quiet and watch the at bat, because there was a pretty good chance something amazing was going to happen.
You don’t get that too often in sports, and it’s really one of the true measures of whether something is really special. Tiger Woods has that factor, LeBron, Kobe, and Dwyane Wade probably do too, but outside of them, there just really aren’t many athletes who just stop you in your tracks when they are about to do their thing.
I’d like to call the world’s attention to exactly that kind of athlete. His name is Arinze Onuaku, and he plays center for Syracuse University. Most big time basketball fans know of him. He’s a solid enough player, averaging 10.7 points per game and 7.5 rebounds. He also shoots an astounding 67.5 percent from the field, but that’s not why he’s special.
This kid is special because he very could be the worst free throw shooter to ever play basketball at a high level. Last night I was watching Syracuse play Seton Hall in the Big East Tournament. Less than 15 seconds in, Onuaku stepped to the line, and that’s when I realized exactly how amazing he is.
I’ve mindlessly watched him shoot free throws before, and I noticed that the man has the touch of a creature with no opposable thumbs, but it didn’t quite click. Last night, as I watched his two free throws, there was no ignoring it anymore.
His first hit a place on the rim that I have never seen anyone hit on a free throw. He missed to the left, but also long, which created a carom so unique, I don’t think I could duplicate it in 1000 tries.
His second shot was even more tremendous. He launched an attempt off of the backboard, which is atrocious in and of itself. On top of that, it was so far left, that after it hit the backboard, it bounced at a 90 degree angle off the rim. In short, it was pretty much the most perfect free throw ever if your team was down by two with 1.5 seconds left and you needed to miss on purpose to try to get the rebound.
I was glued to the TV the rest of the game, cheering in a way I never have while watching a game. I cared nothing about the outcome of the game (other than cheering for Eric Devendorf to get hurt, of course), and was hoping only to see Onuaku go back to the line.
Every possession, I begged for ‘Cuse to pound the ball inside, then for Onuaku not to score, but to put a shot up and get fouled, all while yelling at the officials if I thought he got hacked but it was not called. It was truly a unique experience.
Shaquille O’Neal gets a lot of attention for his free throw shooting, and rightfully so. Even Shaq has hit on over 50 percent on his career. Ben Wallace likely has the title in the NBA, with his sterling 41.5 percent career mark.
Think about that, the man plays basketball at an All-Star level (or at least he used to), but he can’t hit an unguarded shot from 15 feet away with any kind of regularity. At his worst, Ben Wallace shot 33.6 percent from the line for an entire season in 2000-01. That’s amazing.
I think that title has officially changed hands with Arinze Onuaku’s recent efforts. Including last night’s stellar 2-5 performance in the six OT thriller against UConn, the man is shooting exactly 30% from the free throw line on the season. He’s 36 of 120.
Bear in mind that Rick Reilly just wrote a story about a blind kid who was allowed to shoot his team’s free throws. In practice he hits about half of his attempts. He’s more than a 20% better shooter than Onuaku.
Perhaps the most amazing thing is that he started the season on a veritable tear from the stripe, shooting 28-68 (41.18%) during his team’s first 17 games. That means that he is a whopping 8 for his last 52…15.38%. That’s not a tiny sample size: nearly the entire Big East schedule for Syracuse. How is this not being talked about more? To give you some perspective, Ben Wallace is 5-43 SHOOTING THREE POINTERS for his career, which is just barely 3% worse than Onuaku’s recent foul shooting.
That’s not a tiny sample size: nearly the entire Big East schedule for Syracuse. How is this not being talked about more? To give you some perspective, Ben Wallace is 5-of-43 SHOOTING THREE POINTERS for his career, which is just barely 3 percent worse than Onuaku’s recent foul shooting.
All I know is that I will be absolutely glued to the TV anytime the Orange play the rest of the season, because Arinze Onuaku is the most compelling thing in college basketball in my mind.
Last night, I browsed YouTube for a compilation of his greatest hits—well, misses—from the foul line, and I found nothing. This needs to happen. Strait Pinkie is offering a free t-shirt with shipping included to anybody who either finds or puts together a video of Onuaku’s worst misses, and I will love you for the rest of my life if the t-shirt’s not enough.
Also, don’t forget to tune it to watch Arinze do his thing tonight at 9:00 versus West Virginia in the Big East Tournament on ESPN. Will his clutch shots against the Huskies buoy his confidence enough to keep his season percentage over 30%???
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