To watch him now, dropping in three-pointer after three-pointer for the Bucks, one would never guess that for years coaches grimaced and big men prepared for long rebounds whenever Michael Redd took aim from deep. "I didn't have too much confidence in my shot," says Redd, who hit only 31.9% of his tries from behind the arc as the shooting guard at Ohio State. "My legs would get tired, and I'd put up line drives. I knew I needed to work on it to play in the league."
Apparently, so did everyone else. An aggressive slasher during his three years with the Buckeyes, the 6'6" Redd went 43rd in the 2000 draft because of doubts about his outside touch. At Milwaukee's training camp coach George Karl, never a man known for coddling rookies, took Redd aside and made his position known. "I told him, 'Guards in the NBA need to have a body, and they have to be able to make threes,' " Karl recalls, " 'and until you've got all that, I'll be ignoring you.' "
Redd got the picture. After appearing in six games, scoring 13 points and missing his three three-point attempts last season, he spent the summer in the gym at his alma mater, West High, in Columbus, Ohio. Under the watchful eye of his father, Wes—who has been encouraging his son to hone his stroke ever since he put a pink trash can in the hallway and gave two-year-old Michael a pair of rolled-up socks to heave into it—Redd went to work on his shot and his conditioning. From 10 a.m. until noon he'd put up 400 to 500 junipers. After running sprints and getting a bite to eat, he'd return at 1 p.m. and hoist J's for another hour. Finally, after weight work, he'd head back at 3 p.m. and fire away for a half hour more. Slowly but surely the Ichiro-esque line drives turned into well-arced shots that found the bottom of the net. "My dad gave me confidence," says Redd. "I got to the point where I knew I could shoot."
The change has been evident this season. At week's end Redd, whose intense play in practice won over Karl "about midway through last season," according to the coach, was averaging 11.0 points in 21.5 minutes and shooting 46.9%, including 43.1% from three-point range. Redd has also shown a knack for delivering with the game on the line. He forced a second overtime with a last-second three in a 129-127 loss to the Knicks on Jan. 26; a week later he knocked down a triple with eight seconds left to bring the Bucks to within three against the 76ers, though Milwaukee bowed 86-81. Such accuracy in the clutch has earned Redd the respect of his teammates. Ray Allen is a big supporter (though he notes that Redd finishes his jumper with his hands down, "like he's a pimp or something"), and Sam Cassell bestows upon Redd that enviable NBA label, "He's a shooter."
Who would have ever predicted that? "It's crazy," says Redd, who will be a free agent after this season. "My old coaches tease me all the time. They're like, 'You are not a shooter!' It's foreign to me, being called that." He pauses, then smiles and adds, "But I certainly don't mind it one bit."