Bay Weekly

Navy’s Heary: Free-Throw Magic Man

Michael Heary eases to the free-throw line to show off that perfect stroke. It was early in the second half and Navy trailed Fordham University in the season’s final regular home game at Alumni Hall in Annapolis.

Navy’s fine team has been a bumbling bunch this evening. Heary, one of the nation’s best free-throw shooters is preparing to tighten the score.

He parks the right toe of his Nike air an inch behind the line and accepts the ball from the ref. He bounces the ball four times, bends his knees and arches the ball toward the hoop.

Clang… Clatter. It misses badly and skitters into the mitts of a leaping Fordham rebounder.

Later, Fordham coach Nick Macarchuk summed up Navy’s early-game prowess. “They couldn’t hit a bull in the ass,” he said.

The game turned, and swiftly. With freshman star Heary leading the way, Navy roared back, whipping Fordham 70-56 to raise their record to 17-8 and build momentum going into the Patriot League tournament.

Heary’s own turnabout was eye-catching. He ended the first-half with zero points and several turnovers. He tasted leather early in the second half when a Fordham player blocked his lay-up resoundingly.

But with the game on the line, Fordham encountered a different Michael Heary. He splintered Fordham’s defense, drained long jump shots, swished five straight free-throws and ended the night with a game-high 17 points.

Navy coach Don DeVoe praised Heary afterward. “We just feel like he’s our go-to-man. He can do a lot of different things. So we just hang in there with him.

The thing Heary does best is shoot free-throws. Even with his first-half brick, Heary is shooting 89.9 percent, fourth in the country.

Among basketball purists, foul-shooting is an essential but declining art. Judging by the rash of poor shooting this season, many big-time college basketball players either are too busy working with other aspects of their game or lack the concentration to shoot the ball unguarded from 15 feet.

The malady is not limited to college basketball. Washington Bullets star Chris Webber shoots under 50 percent from the free-throw line.

Heary’s free-throw acumen is all the more amazing because he violates a cardinal rule: Never deviate from routine and rhythm. Sometimes Heary bounces the ball four times before shooting; sometimes five.

The result is usually the same – Swish. He’s shot 99 free-throws this year and made 89 of them. Heary, a shy but well-spoken young man from Fredonia, N.Y., plays down the practice and commitment that makes him one of the very best in the nation.

After all, he might heave up a clanger like that missed free-throw during the Fordham game that dropped his percentage under 90 for the first time this year.
“I’m pretty human, I think,” Heary said.

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