No lie, straight shooter teaches Raps

STEVE BUFFERY -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 7:07 AM ET

The Raptors didn't exactly shoot the lights out last season, other than that lamp that coach Kevin O'Neill tossed in a Phoenix hotel room.

The Raptors shot an uninspiring 41.8% from the field, the second worst mark in the NBA after Chicago (41.4%).

Aiming to address that negative statistic, general manager Rob Babcock and coach Sam Mitchell have brought renowned shooting coach Dave Hopla into training camp this week at Brock University in St. Catharines, not to overhaul anyone's shooting stroke but to fine tune and redefine.

"We need to get our shooting percentage up," Mitchell said yesterday. "We think we've got guys who should be much better shooters than they are."

Hopla's presence seems to be a big hit with the players.

"I'll tell ya," Babcock said. "Our guys are pumped up. It's voluntary to come over here early, but when I got here at quarter to eight, we had nine guys in here working out and they had a good sweat going."

Hopla is a legend in basketball circles. The New Jersey native puts on clinics all over the world and has worked with some of the best, including Vince Carter when the Raptors all-star was a Grade 10 student in Florida.

Shooting often has been described as a lost art -- in high school, college and NBA ball. Mitchell's isn't so sure about that, but the former NBA standout believes it is one skill that has deteriorated over the years.

"When I came into the league, the mark was 50%. You wanted to be as close to that as possible," he said. "Now you turn on the TV and you hear guys saying 'this guy's a great shooter because he's shooting 42%.' Well, 42% is a great percentage from the three-point mark."

The first order of business for Hopla when he arrived was to demonstrate to the players that he is the real deal. Before actually teaching anything, he put on a shooting clinic.

And though the numbers aren't in, he apparently dazzled everyone with his accuracy.

This is a guy who, according to his own stats, took more than 35,000 shots over the summer, missing only 409, for a shooting percentage of just under 99%.

"He can go through a whole clinic and miss four to five shots the entire time," Babcock said. "This guy obviously knows what he's doing. If you're going out there shooting free throws and you're making three out of 10, and you're trying to tell the guys how to shoot, they're probably not going to pay much attention to you."

Hopla, who played pro ball in Europe and South America and in the CBA, has been emphasizing shooting technique but also where and when to shoot.

"I know they can be a good shooting team because they shot 75% from the free throw line," he said. "There's no major surgery required."

When asked who the best pure shooter was out on the floor yesterday, Hopla smiled and replied: "Me."

"But I'm old, I can't get up and down the court," he said.


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