Saturday, February 11, 2012

Sports columnist Aaron McFarling: Cavs’ Zeglinski needs to break out of slump

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. — Now switch to your weak hand. Close one eye, while standing on one leg. Shoot five shots. Seriously try to make it. Do your absolute BEST to make the shot. Concentrate!

Oh, and do all this at mid-court.

That’s not my advice. That’s actually step 8 of 9 of “How to Overcome Shooting Slumps” on the website The idea is, you perform a bunch of crazy, unnatural shooting actions from a bunch of high-difficulty locations on the floor, and then your regular shot feels easy again.

I can’t vouch for the efficacy of this site’s instruction. But — and this could be huge — it’s the first link that comes up when you Google “getting out of a shooting slump.”

Sammy Zeglinski should try it. In fact, Zeglinski should be willing to try just about anything at this point. One of the most prolific long-range gunners in Virginia’s history can’t buy one right now.

Zeglinski went 1-for-6 from 3-point range in Saturday’s 70-52 loss to North Carolina. That dropped him to 11-for-46 (24 percent) over the past nine games.

For some players, 24 percent might be an acceptable number from long distance. But Zeglinski is a 36-percent career shooter from beyond the arc. He ranks fifth in UVa history in 3-pointers made.

For him, this qualifies as a major slump.

“I just keep telling him, ‘Impact the game in other ways, and hopefully some of them will drop.’” UVa coach Tony Bennett said. “I don’t know what else I can say about it.”

Remember, Bennett remains the NCAA record-holder with a 49.7 percent 3-point shooting percentage during his playing career at Wisconsin-Green Bay. The man knows how to let it fly.

If he’s not sure what else to say, none of us is.

That doesn’t mean Zeglinski’s teammates aren’t trying. They realize how much the senior guard means to Virginia’s success.

“We just have to keep reminding him that we believe in him, and if he has an open look, just take it,” said UVa guard Joe Harris, who’s a 41 percent career 3-point shooter. “He’s a pretty mentally tough kid. He doesn’t show a lot of frustration even if he might be [feeling it].”

He showed a tad on Saturday. When the horn sounded to end the game, Zeglinski pulled his shirttail out of his shorts, wiped his brow and slowly headed to the handshake line. He clearly wants to help more than he has been.

He was the only starter not to meet with reporters after the game — a rarity for him — but that’s understandable. Talking about it with a bunch of keyboard coaches won’t change anything.

What will?

“Just keep passing him the ball,” point guard Jontel Evans said. “I’m the type of point guard, I never lose confidence in my shooters. I’ve seen Sammy get hot a lot; I’ve seen him miss a lot, but he’s a great shooter. He’s in a slump, but I feel like he’ll pick it up as the season goes along.”

The problem for the Cavaliers is there isn’t a ton of season left. UVa has six regular-season games remaining. That includes two meetings with Maryland, against whom Zeglinski had the most prolific 3-point shooting (6-for-7) and scoring (25 points) game of his career at the end of last season.

Every long one Zeglinski hoists these days carries the hope of a breakthrough. He swished his second attempt Saturday (yes!), then missed three straight to close the half (no!). He attempted just one 3-pointer in the second half, and he missed it.

Nobody wants Zeglinski to stop shooting — least of all his teammates, who’ve all been in a slump at some point in their lives.

Mike Scott remembers his well, and he remembers how he broke out of it.

“I went into the gym and got a lot of reps, got my confidence back,” Scott said.

No doubt Zeglinski is doing that too. And if he wants to try a few with his weak hand with one eye closed while standing on one leg at mid-court? Well, that might not be a terrible idea.

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