Among the more impressive achievements in the breakout campaign of Los Angeles Lakers rookie Kyle Kuzma has been his shooting from behind the arc, especially considering he was just a 30.2 percent 3-point shooter in three NCAA seasons at Utah.
The first-year forward is doing significantly better than that in the NBA, leading the Lakers in 3-point percentage while knocking down 39.4 percent of his long-range attempts and talking about participating in the NBA’s 3-point contest at All-Star Weekend in Los Angeles.
During a sitdown with Mike Trudell of Lakers.com, Kuzma said shooting had always been a strength of his, even if the numbers didn’t back that up.
He also detailed a change in mentality that led to a turnaround in his 3-point shooting percentage:
“I’ve always been able to shoot, honestly. In high school, that’s all I really did was shoot threes. I didn’t really do much else until I went to college and I learned there was more to the game. That didn’t go too well, so I had to learn other things. I feel like in college earlier, I kind of lost my confidence shooting. The second half of my junior year it kind of really clicked for me. I always worked at it, always knew I could shoot, but it’s all mental. There was a point in the first half of my junior season, I probably shot 20 to 25 percent. I’m thinking, ‘Like, OK. If I want to go to the league, I’ve got to just shoot it.’ So I had a ‘F it’ mentality in my head. From there, I think the second half I shot like 40-something percent from three, and that really gave my confidence.”
Lakers head coach Luke Walton recently praised Kuzma for his tireless work that’s led to a more consistent release point and thus improved results from behind the arc.
Kuzma is said to have impressed the Lakers with his shooting in the pre-draft combine in Chicago, which in part led the team to select him with the 27th overall pick.
If he approached those sessions with the mentality he described to Trudell, it made sense that Kuzma would shoot better while putting less pressure on himself because of how important it is for shooters to stay loose and comfortable when firing away.
Whether that’s how it happened or not, Kuzma’s attitude has paid off with some scorching shooting, which has led him to the starting lineup and transformed him from interesting prospect to an integral part of the Lakers young core moving forward.
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