The evolution and importance of Tyus Battle’s stepback jumper

first_imgLast week, Gary Battle was standing in a North Jersey gymnasium, watching his 9-year-old daughter, Gigi, at a basketball practice. A thought rushed in his head.“Right about now, when Tyus was her age,” Gary Battle said, “he had just started to work on his stepback.”About 10 years ago, Battle was toying around with a basketball at a high school near his home in New Jersey. That’s when Battle — who has become Syracuse’s best player — successfully took his first stepback jumper, almost prematurely. He had just begun to possess the ability to screech to a halt when driving, allowing him to stepback with enough separation to sneak off a jumper. He displayed the shot in Syracuse’s most recent game, a 60-55 win Saturday afternoon at Pittsburgh, where he scored 14 points.Tyus’ father, Gary, chuckled at the notion that little has changed for his son’s “big-time” shot. It drew raves among spectators at his middle-school games, given that it is a skill few players use with any regularity at any age, Battle and his father said, let alone grade school. Here is Battle now, a sophomore guard for Syracuse (15-6, 4-4 Atlantic Coast), the team’s leading scorer (19.7 points per game) still sticking to what he calls his “go-to” shot: the stepback jumper.It developed naturally, matured through high school and has become the single most important shot for an Orange team searching for an NCAA Tournament berth.AdvertisementThis is placeholder textGiven SU’s struggles to generate offensive movement, it is increasingly important for Battle to take the shot and knock it down consistently. Defenses have hunkered down on Battle and backcourt mate Frank Howard, Syracuse’s most consistent offensive players. Defenders are jamming up the middle of the paint. Drives all of the way to the hoop have become scarce.And yet when guarding Battle, defenders don’t always know what’s coming. He has a strong ability to give the illusion that he is going all of the way to the basket on line drives. He can navigate to the rim when he’s not double-teamed, and he relies on the stepback jumper more than anyone at Syracuse.“A lot of guys are worried about me getting by them,” Battle said, “so I just use their momentum and I stepback. They’re still going back. It just gives me open space. That’s all I need, a little open space.”Kevin Camelo | Digital Design EditorBattle can change speeds but is a fairly limited ball handler. He shoots many pull-up jumpers but he doesn’t always release at the optimal part of his jump, sometimes releasing on the way down. He has a reliable pull-up game and rise on his jumper, and he has said his stepback is best in the mid-range, about 15 to 17 feet from the basket. He has the strength to take the shot from closer to the 3-point line, too. Just ask Georgetown, against which he hit longer stepback jumpers in an overtime victory last month. He finished with 29 points in the game.Battle said the focus with any good stepback lies in giving the defender the feeling that he will drive all of the way to the rim. That’s when he decelerates, with the ball in his left hand. He gets low, his right shoulder driving toward the defender’s chest. He hops back to lift up into his shooting motion.“This year, he has to create pretty much everything he gets,” Gary Battle said. “He has to use it a little more than he wants.”To have enough energy with the shot, Battle said he has to get low to the ground in his drive. This way he can transfer the momentum to his hop back, which he relies on almost exclusively in one-on-one situations. It’s an isolation mechanism, usually utilized off the dribble against a defender close enough to necessitate the backward movement.If Battle notices his man is tight on him, he said he can hop as much as two feet back. That drastic hop back makes it difficult to remain balanced and still rise up high enough to lift the ball above a defender’s arms. Mastery requires diligent practice: Battle may take up to about 75 stepbacks in a single shooting workout, his father said. The next step in his shot’s progression is shooting off the right dribble, a challenge for most righties who mostly push off the right foot when driving left. Shooting off the right dribble would require stepping off his weak left foot.Freshman forward Oshae Brissett said he also wants incorporate the stepback jumper into his game because it gives him space and time to shoot, which he said creates a sense of calm. It didn’t take long for Brissett, who averages 14.5 points and 9.2 rebounds per game, to pick up on Battle’s go-to shot. Last summer, in one of the first scrimmages, Battle went to his stepback jumper over and over. Everyone on the court knew it was coming, but “nobody could really stop it.”“Tyus is just so fast, so strong,” Brissett said. “If he gets his shoulder on you, then you’re automatically going back and he’s stepping back. It’s money every time. That’s something he can use no matter who’s guarding him.” Comments Facebook Twitter Google+ Published on January 28, 2018 at 9:48 pm Contact Matthew: [email protected] | @MatthewGut21last_img read more