COLUMBIA — At first glance, it doesn’t appear to be the prettiest shot. It is taken off of one leg and is a mix of a hook shot and an underhanded flip towards the basket. While it might not look pretty, it’s definitely effective.
It’s Shak’s shot.
No. 15 Xavier (9-3) at Missouri (10-2)
WHEN: 6:30 p.m.
WHERE: Mizzou Arena
Called “Shak” by her teammates, Shakara Jones, a junior on the Missouri women’s basketball team, is a major reason the Tigers are off to a 10-2 start this season. One might think a coach wouldn't want a player to take such a shot, but Missouri coach Cindy Stein says she has her reasons to encourage Jones.
“That is something we asked her this summer really to work on,” Stein said. “She’s usually an undersized post. You have greater elevation going off one foot. She can get by the defense a little bit. And she’s perfected it.”
In a conference where there are many tall post players, Jones, just 6-foot-2, will have to use the shot often. Baylor freshman Brittney Griner is 6-8 and already has 88 blocks this season.
“For a taller player, it’s harder to defend the hook shot because you get it up so high and I kind of flip it up there,” Jones said.
In years past, Jones had used the shot often, but solely with her right hand. In the offseason, she developed the shot with her left hand as well.
“I’ve been shooting right-handed all three years here, so people were starting to guard that,” Jones said. “So, I had to learn to do it with my left, so I can be more versatile and harder to guard.”
Another reason Jones has been successful is the work ethic and training. In games, Jones, who looks suitable for the cover of a women’s fitness magazine, rarely gets tired.
“She’s in great condition … even when we’re just running sprints,” Stein said. "Most kids don’t want to run sprints very hard, and she’s always one of the leaders. That’s what makes her so valuable. Her work ethic can’t be compared.”
Jones is the type that enjoys keeping a consistent workout regimen.
“I’m one of those people that, I can’t barely go three days without working out,” Jones said. “I’m so into keeping my body in shape, so I can get up and down the floor and help my team the best way I can.”
This season, Jones has been helped by the emergence of another post player, sophomore Christine Flores. While Jones averages 10.9 points a game, Flores is not far off that pace at 8.6 points a game. Flores has led the Tigers in scoring in four of their past five games.
“It’s very important (to have Flores contributing). As we get into our Big 12 season, you need more post players to score,” Jones said. “Having her as another threat is tremendous for us.”
The Tigers will need to continue to garner contributions from both post players as the team nears the gauntlet that is the Big 12 season. Currently six teams in the conference are ranked and three others are receiving votes. Despite the hot start, Missouri is not one of those nine teams. This is probably because of the Tigers relatively weak schedule thus far and the fact the Tigers were picked to finish last in the conference in the coaches preseason poll.
The Tigers play their last nonconference game at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday at Mizzou Arena against No. 15 Xavier, a team Stein described as “huge.” Jones and Flores will have to compete with the Musketeers two leading rebounders, who are 6-foot-6 and 6-foot-5. Stein knows that a win could give her team a boost heading into conference play.
“I’m excited about it … You don’t have a whole lot of opportunities outside of your conference to play a ranked team,” Stein said. “And obviously at Florida State, we got so close but couldn’t finish. You just hope we can compete at a high level.”