St. Pete Scenes
One shot, $1 million -- with some Barry good help
Posted: Friday March 26, 1999 10:54 PM
By Dan Shanoff, CNN/SI
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- Between semifinal games on Saturday, keep your TV on. Alicia Brown will put on a great show while trying to win $1 million dollars with a 3-point shot.
If given the chance, would you step up to the arc?
From 19 feet, 9 inches, Brown -- a 19-year-old from Riverside, Calif. -- will get one shot. If she hits it, she'll win the Gillette 3-Point Challenge -- a million dollars for her, plus a $1 million donation to the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation. If she misses, she and the foundation still get $25,000.
Brown arrived in Tampa on Wednesday, and has been practicing furiously ever since, including teaching time with "coach" Rick Barry. They work easily together, probably because they are both players -- Barry a star in both the NBA and ABA, Brown a three-year varsity player at Corona High School in Corona, Calif.
Within a minute, you can tell Brown is a ballplayer -- she has a handle (right and left, for you fundamentalists), she's got a nice shot.
With a closely cropped haircut and dressed casually in baggy cargo-pocket shorts and Airwalk skateboarding shoes, Brown smiles easily, but seems a bit unnerved at the media attention. She frequently glances away in the glare of the camera lights, and stares straight out while thoughtfully answering questions.
Brown sports a tattoo of a skull on the back of her left leg ("Just a start," she says) and a tongue ring. But don't confuse her with some Dennis Rodman-type. Her priorities are straight and her goals are grounded.
We talk about "when" -- not "if" -- she wins. But Brown says that her "impulse buy" -- after half the money goes to her mom, Cheryl James, who won an Office Max sweepstakes that earned her the right to transfer the shot to her daughter -- will be a "new" used car to replace her beloved Toyota Tercel. "Maybe a Corolla," Brown says.
"Maybe I'll get a cheap motorcycle. But you aren't going to see me cruising down the street in a $10,000 Harley," she said. "That would be irresponsible."
For the long-term, she'd like to return to school (she's currently taking time off after enrolling at UC-Riverside) and get her degree, and hopefully pursue a career in art.
But for the moment, her mind is on nothing but hoops.
She's been practicing consistently for two weeks, ever since she found out she'd be shooting Saturday. Her style: two dribbles, a left-foot step, a right-foot step, cocking the ball back and ... release. Perfect rotation. A good foundation. Not good enough for Barry, who quickly eliminates the "two dribbles" portion of her approach.
The ball was moving from the dribble into her palm for the shot inconsistently, causing the shot to drift to either side. Instead, Barry counsels to put the ball in her palm first, forget the dribbles, then take a two-step approach and shoot. Immediately, all of Brown's shots are on line.
"You have to trust the coach," she says. "They aren't going to steer you wrong. He knows. He saw it. To try it the first few times, it felt awkward. But I took his word for it, and it totally helps. I'm glad he adjusted that."
Barry emphasizes two things: legs and shot arc. "Gotta get the legs," he lectures.
They connect as only two players could. His tutoring is appreciated, and quickly converted into practice.
It's pretty hot under the TV lights on the makeshift court, but one wonders how much hotter it will be for the real thing.
She hits four shots in a row, on the last leaving her hand extended in follow-through, reminiscent of Michael Jordan's last shot in the '98 NBA Finals.
But then, 10 misses. Frustration. Then a make, a breakthrough. Barry stresses repetition and the legs, always the legs.
His mantra: "When you have your legs under you, every shot has a chance to go in."
Her final form:
She toes a set spot a few feet from the top of the key. She palms the ball to the place exactly where she wants to release from, getting the feel of the ball as she exhales. A left step up. Then a right foot forward as she cocks the ball back over her head, just to the right. A shot.
"I'm not overwhelmed," she said. "I thought I was going to be at first, but I'm getting into the groove.
"It's a shot. No different than any other shot in my life. The ball's in my hand, I have to get it into the net.
"If I think about the million dollars it gets complicated.
"That kind of pressure you don't need."Check back for more St. Pete Scenes as CNN/SI covers the Final Four from St. Petersburg, Fla.
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