COLUMBIA – Their routine started at the end of last season when Josh Dinkins dared to think he could disrupt Marcus Denmon’s fluid and accurate 3-point stroke.
During shootarounds in practice or before games, Dinkins, a student manager for the Missouri men’s basketball team, started to harass the sharp-shooting Denmon by running at him and sticking his hand in Denmon’s face.
“He kind of just has this thing where he thinks I’m going to miss if he puts his hand up,” said Denmon, a sophomore guard. “It’s usually not the case.”
Clearly, Denmon has full faith in his shot, which he can justify with his 44 percent 3-point success rate – second-best in the Big 12 – and his team-leading 48 3-pointers.
But he wasn’t too stubborn to ignore the potential benefit of Dinkins’ pestering gimmick.
Dinkins developed a bond with Denmon by serving as his post-practice rebounder, sticking around after each practice until Denmon made 50 3-pointers. After Denmon realized shooting with Dinkins breathing down his neck would simulate a bothersome defender, Dinkins got the gig as Denmon’s resident pest.
While most players prefer to shoot in comfort with a personal bubble of space around them, Dinkins essentially stalks Denmon during part of his pregame shooting routine. He follows him around the 3-point arc, shoving his hand in Denmon’s face before each shot. At times, Denmon toys with Dinkins by executing a rapid series of crossover dribbles in an attempt to shake his persistent shadow, who occasionally puts his hands on Denmon’s hip and tries to shove the muscular, 6-foot-3 frame.
“Get a good picture of what the defender would be like in the game,” Dinkins said, stating Denmon’s reason for incorporating him in his shooting regimen. “He wants to simulate that as well as possible… Obviously what he’s doing is working for him.”
The practice of using a team manager to act as a pesky defender is not unique to Missouri, but Dinkins said Matt Lawrence is the only other player to consistently request a distracting body during Dinkins’ four years as a manager.
He’s gotten to know exactly how Denmon wants to be bothered. He said sometimes Denmon wants him to get all the way up in his face, which Denmon usually counters by making a move to get around Dinkins. Other times, Denmon asks that he keep a little distance so Denmon can see the basket.
“He’ll let you know if you’re too close or if you’re too far away,” said Dinkins, who has grown closer to Denmon because of his role as rebounder and simulated defender. He also said Denmon is one of the team’s especially friendly faces who values his relationship with the managers.
He might not be a player, but Dinkins has two years of seniority on Denmon, and he doesn’t hesitate to use share his knowledge if he thinks it could help his shooting buddy.
After Denmon missed three free throws down the stretch in Missouri’s loss at Oklahoma, Dinkins sent him a text message suggesting he needed to start adding 10 consecutive free-throw makes to his post-practice shooting routine.
The confident shooter said neither Dinkins nor any of the team’s other managers ever challenge him to shooting drills.
“It’s really not much of a contest,” he said.
But Dinkins can still grin when he causes Denmon to miss a shot. Or at least tell himself that he caused the miss.
“I watch the shot more sometimes just because I like to say if he misses that it was because of me,” Dinkins said. “Of course if he makes it, he lets me know that I didn’t faze him.”