Oct. 10, 2011

REED ALL ABOUT IT: DRIVEN TO BE A JAYHAWK, is written by former Jayhawk Academic All-American guard Tyrel Reed. REED ALL ABOUT IT: DRIVEN TO BE A JAYHAWK, from Ascend Books of Overland Park, Kansas, will be available October 21 at most local book stores as well as amazon.com and ascendbooks.com. This title is also available on all popular e-book platforms including ipad, Kindle and Nook.

KUathletics.com will present excerpts from the book between now and October 21. In today’s excerpt, Tyrel reminisces about his first free-throw competition – as a fourth-grader!

When I was in fourth grade, I entered a free-throw contest at the Elks club in Eureka, Kansas, where we lived. You know the Elks. It’s like the Knights of Columbus or something. Or maybe it isn’t. I don’t really know much about it, except that it is a club of some kind and they have a building and they host a free-throw shooting competition for fourth graders. Well, I won the local competition. After that was the Kansas state Elks free-throw shooting competition, and I won that, too. This meant I moved on to compete against winners from Colorado, Nebraska and, oddly, Wyoming. This competition was in Denver.

Now, at the time, I did not think anything about this was strange. But looking back, this was a pretty bizarre competition. Probably the strangest thing about it was that the Elks free-throw shooting competition was incredibly formal. Your performance was measured by 25 shots, but you did not simply step to the line and shoot 25 times. That might have been a little too simple. Rather, they lined all of us up in chairs arranged at mid-court. Boys shot on one end, and girls shot on the other (my sister, Lacie, had also made it to Denver). You would shoot 10 free throws, then go back to your chair and watch everybody else shoot 10 free throws. Fifteen minutes later, you went back up in the same order, having sat in a cold chair in a cold gym, and shot your final 15 foul shots with no warm-up attempts. Looking back, this is a hilarious way of holding a free-throw competition. You could not get into a rhythm at all, and as far as I can tell there is no practical reason to do it this way. And I am not sure I could effectively shoot them this way today. But on that day in Denver, I made my first 10 shots, sat down for what felt like forever, then made 15 more shots. I made all 25 shots. The crazy thing was, some other kid had done the same thing. The Elks free-throw competition had become a shootout. We each got five more shots. The other kid made four, and I made five.

As far as the Elks were concerned, I was the best fourth-grade free-throw shooter that could be found between the Rocky Mountains and the Missouri River. The Elks did not take this distinction lightly. The Elks – and I am still amazed at this – flew my family to Springfield, Massachusetts, to place me in the national Elks free-throw shooting competition. I kind of wonder what happened to that poor kid who went 29-for-30 and didn’t make it to nationals, but based on what I saw in Springfield, I’m not sure we should assume he went on to play college basketball or anything. This is because what I saw in Springfield astounded me. At some point in the trip, all the kids who made it there played in some kind of scrimmage and, I’m telling you, there were kids at this thing who could not even dribble. I have to conclude there were kids out there who poured their entire basketball aptitude into shooting free throws, perhaps like the kids who compete in spelling bees. I can’t imagine that, just shooting free throws all day. It must have been so boring.

The kid who won it made 24. I made 22 and got seventh. I know I did not dream all this up because after a game at KU one time, a little kid came up to me and said he had heard I had done well in the Elks free-throw shooting competition. That little kid had made it to Denver. So I know this still exists.