Philly U coach Magee provides guiding hand for Sixers' Turner

Herb Magee watches Sixes' Evan Turner as he helps young player improve his shooting technique.
Herb Magee watches Sixes' Evan Turner as he helps young player improve his shooting technique. (DAVID MAIALETTI / Staff photographer)
Posted: July 20, 2011

'MY MIDDLE NAME is redundant," Herb Magee said yesterday as he prepared to take the court that bears his name. "My other middle name is tedious."

Magee met Evan Turner for the first time last week. They spent most of their time talking, getting to know each other, an introduction to what would happen next. Magee watched Turner shoot - straightaway shots close to the basket, then a step back, a step back, a step back. Watched him do some three-spot shooting - right elbow, foul line, left elbow. Turner never got near the three-point line.

"The first time we met, I was looking at his natural technique and natural form," Magee said. "Then, we wanted to see what kind of corrections we wanted to make and how we could practice. It was an opportunity for me to get to know him."

The Philadelphia University coach hosted Turner for a more serious shooting session yesterday. Turner, who just completed his rookie season, had called him to set up the tutorials. Magee first wanted to see how serious Turner was about it. Once he got his answer, the legendary shooting guru, who will be inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame next month, was all in.

Turner started by shooting standstill 3-footers in front of the rim. Then, 5-footers, 8-footers, 12-footers and free throws. Magee wanted to get a good look at his form. They stood across from each other on the foul line, tossing imaginary shots at each other. Magee wanted to see Turner's ball rotation. And he wanted Turner to see it.

The coach had Turner repeat the earlier straight-on shooting. Turner was instructed to catch and shoot with only his right hand. He never missed, moving from the rim to NBA three-point line and beyond.

"That's not the problem," Magee said. "You have perfect form, perfect rotation."

Magee had Turner shoot all those one-handed shots because he wanted to show him he had good form. Wanted him to see the ball go in the basket.

The problem is when Turner puts his left hand (or guide hand) on the ball. His left hand flies out the side. It looks as if he is waving to an imaginary crowd in the stands with that hand. The guide hand is just that. It is not supposed to help shoot the ball.

Shawn Werdt, a Philly U. assistant, was the rebounder/passer.

"He's essentially shooting with two hands," Werdt explained.

Which is why Turner is spending time with Magee. He can shoot midrange jumpers. He is a terrific free-throw shooter. He just does not have NBA shooting range.

"His guide hand position is wrong, in my opinion," Magee said after the 90-minute shooting tutorial was over. "He had it too close to his shooting hand. It was actually helping shoot the shot, which is not what you want. You want to shoot with the shooting hand."

Done correctly, the guide hand stays on the same plane as the shooting hand right to the release point.

"You want to feel it go through your hand," Werdt said.

If you can clap your hands when the ball is on its way, you got it just right. Turner can't clap his, because his left hand ends up in the wrong position.

Magee understood the issue instantly. And he knows how to correct it. It will take time, because he is trying to break a lifelong habit. Turner also understands the problem and wants to make it right.

"I just want to be a complete player," said Turner, drafted No. 2 overall last summer by the Sixers. "Once I get my long-range shot going, it will open up the things I'm good at, which is driving to the hole, shooting the midrange, penetrate."

He has always known his shot was not textbook.

"That's a funky shot, but it's going in," Turner would say when he saw video of himself. "Now, I know how to sit [the guide hand] there. When I have free time, I'm going on my deck to shoot."

Turner worked on the same three-spot shooting drill they did during their first meeting. Those shots came quite easily for him.

Student and teacher spent a lot of time talking between drills - more discussion than lecture.

As they were getting set to take a brief break, Magee said, "We'll work on his dunk next."

With that, Magee's 50-shot shooting chart was brought out. When he was teaching himself to shoot as a kid, Magee did it exactly the way he teaches it.

Ten shots from the corner, 10 from the wing, 10 from the foul line, 10 from the other wing, 10 from the other corner, the first 50 at 15 feet, the next 50 from the three-point line.

"Here's what we're going to do," Magee said. "Where are the misses?"

Magee charted each shot. On the 15-footers, Turner was 26-for-30 from the wings, but only 10-for-20 from the corners. When he missed, he was short.

"Hold that [guide] hand there," Magee said over and over. "It's going in the basket when you do."

When Turner shot, Magee made predictions on how he released it and where that guide handed ended. He was rarely wrong.

When Turner went out to the three-point line, he was 27-for-50. His misses were usually left or right.

"He does very well from 15, 16, 17 feet," Magee said. "When he steps out to three, he doesn't have as much confidence. What happens is he reverts to his guide hand turning toward the rim, which is not what we want. It will take a while."

Turner put up approximately 500 shots. He had some bad misses. He also hit eight consecutive three-pointers from the left corner at one point.

"It is about developing muscle memory," Werdt said.

And believing he can make longer shots with the correct form, without throwing that guide hand out at odd angles.

"You cannot get better at this if you think while you shoot," Magee said. "However, when we're here in the gym, he has to think. That's going to throw him off. But he will get better. I guarantee he will get better."

Magee wants to see the ball go straight.

So, of course, does Turner.

"When somebody gives you that [long] shot, you start thinking, 'Don't miss,' " Turner said.

Which is no way to shoot. Turner is a confident player, just not a confident long-range shooter. A lot of that is simply technique. With the right technique comes belief. After two sessions, he clearly believes in Magee.

"I learned how to hold the ball, how important it is to follow through, keep your eye on the rim and shoot the ball straight," Turner said. "The talk before [the first workout] really helped."

Turner explained it was more difficult to get a rhythm in his first NBA season when he might get only three shots per game.

"In college, that was my warm-up," said the 2010 national Player of the Year from Ohio State.

They will get together again tomorrow. The coach will tape Turner shooting. And they will then look at the video together.

"I've done this in the past with some guys where they did it because their agent told them to do it," Magee said. "We're doing this because I know the young man wants to do it." *

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