By LARRY VAUGHT
He’s held the record for 40 years, but former Kentucky All-American Kyle Macy says he never really fretted about freshman Tyler Herro breaking his single season free throw accuracy record.
“He is doing a great job. A lot of guys don’t spend time working on foul shooting like they should,” said Macy, the starting point guard on UK’s 1978 national championship team. “I don’t know how much time he spends, but he’s got it down with what he’s doing. He gets the ball, shoots it and doesn’t think about it.”
Whatever Herro does, it’s working just like it did for Macy when he always followed his ritual of wiping his hands on his socks before shooting.
“I think the routine puts you in a trance and you block out everything and do not worry about the crowd,” Macy said. “When you put in shots and see results, you get more confidence. You want to be the one fouled because you have confidence to help your teammates. The more you make, the more confidence you get.”
Herro is shooting 94.3 percent (83 of 88) at the foul line and made two in the final seconds of Saturday’s NCAA Tournament win over Wofford to put UK into the Sweet Sixteen. He had tape on his wrist with the number 25 on it to remind him to win for PJ Washington, who was out with a knee injury.
Herro has made 66 of his last 67 free throws, including the last 36. Macy holds the single season record at 91.23 percent (104 of 114) from the 1979-80 season. He also made 115 of 129 (89.1 percent) in UK’s 1978 national championship season . Macy is second on the career all-time free throw percentage list at 88.98 percent (331 of 372) behind Jodie Meeks’ 88.99 percent (299 of 336). Travis Ford is third at 88.19 (239 of 271).
It’s no fluke that Herro has his name in that elite company. The Kentucky freshman says he often works on his shooting three times a day. Even if anyone told him to consider getting more rest, he wouldn’t.
Herro cannot really remember when he couldn’t make free throws.
“You just step up there knowing that it is going to go in once you see a few drop. You never really think about missing at the line,” Herro said. “You just have to believe you will make them and then you will.”
Macy said that’s the only attitude a player can have.
“If I missed one early in a game, I didn’t miss again. I would get upset with myself and focus even more,” Macy said. “I didn’t have many games where I missed more than one free throw. It’s 85 percent mental. The rest is about your routine.”
Postseason pressure does not change the free throw routine, or accuracy. Herro has been in his best in the most pressurized situations just like Macy always was at the foul line.
“You are so focused on the game that you don’t worry about a streak of how many shots you’ve made,” Macy said. “You want to be the one to shoot the big foul shots. Most of my problems came in blowouts. In the postseason, you are not worried about individual goals. You are worried about the team. Some guys might worry more than others but it’s pretty obvious pressure won’t bother him.”
Macy has not had a chance to meet Herro. The Kentucky freshman said he was not really sure who Macy even was until recently even though he was on the verge of breaking Macy’s record.
“It has been fun to watch his streak and I hope he keeps it going,” Macy said. “He doesn’t even get a lot of rim (with his shot). It’s all net. That’s how good he is.”