HE’S been hit and miss from the free-throw line this season, but when the game was on the line, Brian Conklin knew his were dropping.
Six of them to be exact to close the show in Illawarra’s seven-point win over Sydney last Saturday, a victory that kept them in the finals race.
He’s admittedly been down on his normal standard from the stripe this season, but the Hawks enforcer says he didn’t head to the line with any doubts.
“This is probably the worst year I’ve shot for free-throws, my best year was 83 per cent and I’ve always shot mid 70s,” Conklin said.
“But free-throws are free-throws, you shoot them as soon as you start playing basketball so I didn’t even think about [missing] at that point.
“Basketball’s such a mental game and free-throws are probably the most mental part of it because there’s no defence and you’re there by yourself.
“Yeah it’s 15 feet and you should be able to knock it down but there’s 4000 people there, it’s on TV, if you miss you could lose the game.
“There’s a lot more to it than just stepping up and taking one free-throw but I’m paid to out the ball through the hole. I just kept shooting when I got up there and… whatever works.”
Conklin’s six clutch freebies came on an 11-12 night in a return to what’s been the 2015 MVP’s bread and butter throughout his career.
It came on a night where the Hawks shot at 80 per cent from the stripe, a high point in a season in which they’ve been the worst free-throw shooting team in the league.
Conklin – who averages a league-high seven trips to the line per game – says accuracy from the stripe is a common denominator in his side’s victories this season.
“If we’re shooting 30 free-throws a game we’re going win a a lot of games,” Conklin said.
“The last four or five weeks I’ve only been getting five shots a game in the flow of our offence so getting to the free-throw line is how I’m going to get my points.
“That’s how Bevo wanted me to come in, to be the enforcer and get us to the free-throw line.
“Getting to the line and getting us into the bonus as a team is always a goal of mine. That’s the way I’m going to have an effect on the game.”
It will be key against Adelaide in Wollongong on Thursday, with the 36ers making it to the line more than any other team in the league.
The Sixers also boast an imposing front-court in Daniel Johnson and Jacob Wiley but Conklin says it’s nothing new in a league stacked with quality big men.
“It just brings an interesting dynamic,” Conklin said.
“You can look at a lot of the bigs around the league and there’s not really a team you can look at and say ‘this is the prototype of what a big is nowadays’.
“Everyone has their own feel on what their four-five combo should be. We’re seeing New Zealand’s one is working really well at the moment.
“Adelaide’s has obviously worked well from the beginning with Wiley and DJ. You’ve just got to find a way to attack it and ways to stop them and attack their weaknesses.
“It’s the same with us with Dave [Andersen] and Timmy [Coenraad] now and AJ [Ogilvy] and I.
“It’s good, there’re a good group of bigs and you’re going to get something different every night. With DJ and Jacob you’re definitely going to get something different.”