New tech helping CU basketball adjust to extended 3-point line

Shane Gatling, D’Shawn Schwartz working to improve long distance shooting

Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer
Colorado’s Shane Gatlng drives to the basket during Friday’s practice.

Shane Gatling realized he has only one more shot at this whole college basketball thing. In order to make the most of it, changes were required.

While the former junior college All-American had his moments during his first season with the Colorado men’s basketball team a year ago, Gatling also fell short on delivering in the department where he was supposed to help the Buffaloes the most — 3-point shooting. Gatling’s scattershot season from long range mirrored the surprising struggles the Buffs endured as a team from beyond the arc.

For the Buffs, some technological study aids have been introduced as coach Tad Boyle’s club attempts to regain its collective long-range touch this season with an expanded 3-point line being introduced to college basketball.

For Gatling personally, it was time to get as fit as possible. The occasional fast food indulgence has been shelved in favor of a healthier, more balanced diet.

“When I first came here, I got sick and lost five, six pounds. So weighed in at 174, 173,” Gatling said. “I spoke to a nutritionist and she wants me to eat four to six times a day. Eat some protein. Eat some carbs, all that different stuff. It’s just going to help me get bigger and stronger so I can be more physical and bang down low with guys like Evan (Battey) and Tyler (Bey).

“Usually I probably eat two to three times a day depending on what my day is. Sometimes I have to force myself to eat. That’s different for me. If I’m not hungry, I’m not going to eat. But sometimes it’s like six o’clock, I didn’t eat since two o’clock so I need to eat now, but I’m not really hungry. But I’ve got to do it just so I can benefit myself.”

Gatling shot about 39 percent from 3-point range during his final season at Indian Hills Community College, but he dipped to a .319 mark from long-range in his first season at CU. He hardly was the only Buffs player who struggled from the arc. D’Shawn Schwartz shot .383 on 3-pointers as a freshman but fell to a .313 mark last year, albeit in nearly three times as many attempts. The lone senior last year, Namon Wright, was off to an encouraging 39 percent start from long range, but a foot injury ended his season after 14 games.

In an attempt to straighten those errant shots, Boyle’s club has invested in digital technology to track the Buffs’ shooters at practice. CU’s players at practice are wearing digital tags on their shoes that read chip technology on the basketballs and sensors around the gym to provide a daily account of how many shots are going up — and how many are going in — from each Buffs player.

“We’ve put some money and some resources into some technology that actually helps the players track their shots. Helps us track their shots in practices and workouts,” Boyle said.

CU finished with a .323 overall 3-point percentage and a .312 mark in Pac-12 Conference games. That latter mark matched the Buffs’ lowest in Boyle’s nine seasons at the helm, and only the 2013-14 team (.318) posted a lower season mark overall.

This season, the 3-point line will be extended to the international distance of 22 feet, 1.75 inches, an increase from the mark of 20 feet, 9 inches that had held steady over the previous decade. Boyle remains confident the extended line ultimately will create more space for low-post scorers like Battey, Bey, and Dallas Walton. He also believes the new distance won’t be a hurdle for fundamentally sound shooters like Gatling, Schwartz, and newcomer Maddox Daniels.

“The more you shoot, the better you’re going to shoot as long as you’re fundamentally sound. And we’ve got fundamentally sound shooters,” Boyle said. “D’Shawn’s fundamentally sound. Shane’s fundamentally sound. That’s part of it. Then the second part of it is shot selection. I think if your shooting percentage is not what you expect it to be or you want it to be, it’s going to be a function of one of those two things. You’re not getting to the gym enough and getting enough reps. Or you’re not taking good enough shots. My job is to make sure that they’re getting good shots and taking good shots.”