COLUMBIA — Hickman girls basketball coach Tonya Mirts gathered her team in the spring and delivered a simple message: We need more scorers.
The Kewpies had just ended a 11-15 season in which they relied mostly upon now-senior guard Aqua Corpening for their offensive production.
To facilitate more scoring, the school bought a shooting aid called The Gun. The machine is set underneath the hoop, collects balls with a net that encompasses the rim and shoots them back to the players. They can even be made with custom colors. Hickman’s has a yellow net, and purple and yellow stripes adorn its base.
Hickman used the machine every day during its off-season summer workouts. Mirts said The Gun was the difference between a player taking 500 shots in 35 minutes or 500 shots in an hour and 20 minutes. The Gun can pump balls out to a shooter at a rate of one per second.
“You multiply that week after week, month after month, you can see a considerable difference of the number of shots kids get,” Mirts said.
The intended result of the increased shooting will be decreasing the offensive load Corpening shouldered last season. Her 16.6 points a game helped Corpening earn all-state honors and a scholarship to Truman State, but she scored nearly three times as many points as the next highest Kewpies scorer.
Relief should come this season. Sophomore guard Jade Holly returns from an ACL tear suffered in last season’s second game. Before the injury, Holly put up 31 points combined in the first two contests.
With the plan to build a supporting cast around the two proven scorers, The Gun has allowed the Kewpies to work on their shooting technique as much as possible.
One player in particular Mirts has noticed making improvements is senior guard Claire Ortbals. The Gun helped Ortbals with her release time.
“The repetition really helped,” Ortbals said. “I got better getting up quicker because I knew the next one was coming along.”
Despite their proven ability to score, Mirts has also seen Corpening and Holly improve their skills by using The Gun.
“I think it’s improved Aqua’s range considerably,” Mirts said. “Jade, it brought back her confidence after the ACL to get her shooting accuracy back.”
Hickman’s belief in its ability to score has been improved by using The Gun, Corpening said.
“The Gun is more of a confidence booster for us in a game,” Corpening said. “We feel like after we made a lot of shots and seeing our percentages on The Gun, we’ll be ready to fire if we’re open in the game.”
In preseason practices, the Kewpies have focused more on team-oriented tasks such as learning plays than on individuals working on their shots by using The Gun, Mirts said.
But all the time spent using it in the summer will have an impact once the season starts, Corpening said.
“It’s going to make it harder on other teams to play defense on us because everybody’s going to be a shooter, everybody’s going to be ready to go when we make that pass,” Corpening said.