Spurs’ Jeremy Sochan finds success with quirky one-handed free kick style

SAN ANTONIO – It’s been difficult for San Antonio Spurs forward Jeremy Sochan to find much to laugh about in a season that Tuesday night produced another double-digit loss for his team.

Somehow, it seems like everyone finds something funny every time Sochan steps to the foul line to take a free throw.

The Utah Jazz’s 130-118 loss to the Spurs at the Frost Bank Center left them at 4-25 with many of those losses tied to the team’s experiment with the 6-foot-8 Sochan as the starting point guard.

That exercise was deemed a failure and was scrapped with Sochan back at forward in a starting lineup that put rookie sensation Victor Wembanyama at center and second-year guard Malaki Branham at the point.

However, a previous experiment with Sochan remains a great success: his peculiar one-handed free kick style makes almost everyone smile.

In a manner that may well be unique in the history of the game, the only time Sochan touches the ball with his left hand occurs when he uses both hands to catch it when thrown by a referee. Then, so quickly that you can barely notice, he places his right hand under the ball while simultaneously releasing his left hand and instantly begins his putting stroke. Complete with a perfect throw, the new shape has produced a dramatic improvement that Gregg Popovich appreciates and Sochan’s teammates marvel at.

After making both free throws after being harassed Tuesday night, Sochan is 112 of 148 from the line in the 62 games he has played since switching to one-handed shooting, a healthy 75.7 percent.

Jeremy Sochan’s free throws this season

Date Adversary FOOT FTA PCT

October 25

vs. Mavericks

3

6

fifty%

October 27th

vs. rockets

4

4

100%

31 October

in soles

2

3

67%

November 10

vs. timber wolves

1

2

fifty%

12th of November

vs. Heat

2

2

100%

November 17

vs. Kings

1

2

fifty%

November 18th

vs. Grizzlies

5

6

83%

November 20

vs. Scissors

2

2

100%

November 22th

vs. Scissors

5

6

83%

November 30

vs. Falcons

6

6

100%

December 1st

in pelicans

3

4

75%

December 13th

vs. Lakers

0

2

0%

December 15

vs. Lakers

1

1

100%

December 17

vs. pelicans

3

4

75%

Decembre 19th

in dollars

1

2

fifty%

December 23th

in Mavericks

1

2

fifty%

December 26

vs. Jazz

2

2

100%

Totals

42

56

75%

He’s no Steph Curry (career 91.0 percent), but he’s not Andre Drummond (career 47.8 percent) either.

He’s also not the first one-handed free throw shooter in NBA history. Most notably, Hall of Famers Bob Pettit (76.1 percent) and Oscar Robertson (83.8 percent) shot their free throws with one hand. So did Don Nelson (76.5 percent), a member of five Boston Celtics NBA championship teams and, more importantly to Sochan, one of the Hall of Fame head coach’s most valuable mentors. of the Spurs, Popovich.

During Popovich’s two seasons as an assistant on Nelson’s Golden State Warriors coaching staff in 1992-93 and 1993-94, he saw Nelson help some challenged shooters by having them use only one hand to improve their shooting strokes. This made Popovich an advocate of Dr. Nelson’s teaching technique.

Sochan’s one-handed free throw has been a revelation since he first used it in a game last season against the Rockets on December 19, 2022 in Houston. Then, he entered the 23rd game of his rookie season having made just 11 of 24 (45.8 percent) free throws. But Popovich and his longtime assistant, Brett Brown, had been working with the then-19-year-old to change everything about his approach to free throws.

“Jeremy was in the tank, 45 percent,” Popovich recalled recently. “I talked to Brett and said, ‘What are we going to do with this guy?’ He had so many strange movements (in the shot of him) that we decided, “Let’s have him do it one-handed and see how he feels about it.” “

It didn’t take long for Popovich and Brown to convince Sochan to try the one-handed shot. He disliked his horrible free throw percentage even more than the coaches, admitting that he was embarrassing, which helped Popovich pitch Sochan to try it.

“The biggest detriment of this is that most guys will probably be embarrassed that they want to do that in front of everyone,” Popovich said. “That was our biggest concern, so I went up to him and said, ‘What do you think about this? I don’t want to put you in a weird situation and if you don’t want to try it, we won’t do it. But it might be easier to control and let’s take a look at it.’

“He did it, and I don’t know if instant is the right word, but he was quickly doing them and it was a much more consistent stroke than he had before. So, we just ran with that and said, let’s see how it would go with him in five games, 10 games, whatever. The success kept coming and he now feels comfortable with it.”

When Popovich began preaching the virtues of the one-handed free throw, he discovered that Sochan was already a member of the choir.

“I was going through a bad time where I wasn’t getting enough out of it,” Sochan said. “He was willing to try anything.”

The process began near the basket, with one-handed spins to get Sochan comfortable with the feel of the shot. In the end, the shots were from longer distances and eventually from the foul line.

“I was practicing a lot, up close, one-handed, and with shapes,” Sochan recalled. “We kept taking him back to the free throw line, then got him back up close before getting back to the free throw line until he started performing well in practice.

“So it was, ‘Why not try it in a game?’ “

The first experiment was a small failure, but it caused a small change that made a big difference.

“Well, the first game wasn’t the best,” Sochan said, painfully remembering his 1-of-4 free throw shooting against the Rockets. “It was very new for me and I didn’t know what that first attempt would be like.

“When I first got together, I looked at Coach Pop and he was just smiling at me and nodding his head. So, I just said, ‘Fuck it, just do it.’ But the only thing I noticed when I did it the first time was that I had dribbled the ball twice and my response was different, so I didn’t feel as good and I rushed it.

“The next game in New Orleans I explained to them (Popovich and Brown) why I wasn’t going to dribble at all. “Just take a deep breath, put your hand in, and pick up the ball in one motion.”

Popovich happily endorsed the quicker, no-dribble release.

Less thinking, greater success.


Jeremy Sochan endures some ridicule from opponents and fans when attempting his one-handed free kicks. (Noah Graham/NBAE via Getty Images)

“Yeah, now just inhale and shoot,” Popovich said. “We all know that spending too much time on a shot is usually unsuccessful.”

Sochan was 7 of 10 the first time he used his no-dribble technique, starting a 12-game streak in which he made 24 of 29 (82.7 percent) free throws.

“So that became my thing, and I’m very happy because I went from 45 percent to 70-something,” Sochan said.

Sochan endures some taunting from opponents stationed along the street while attempting free throws.

“Oh, yes, of course,” Sochan said. “Someone on the opposing team will say, ‘What the fuck?’

“But that sh… come in.” “It is what it is and results matter.”

In particular. Spurs fans came to enjoy Sochan’s free throw style, applauding when he was full and rejoicing when he made both shots. He became a “thing” at Spurs games, enough so that the company that produces the team’s iconic television commercials for supermarket chain HEB wrote an ad that will air this season that features Sochan as a star. along with Wembanyama, Devin Vassell and Keldon Johnson.

In the short ad, Sochan completes multiple tasks one-handed with various HEB products: cracking an egg like a fast-food chef, opening a giant bag of chips with a pop, delivering a platter full of plates of food, opening a jar of sauce and sliding it across a table, all to the amazement of his teammates.

“One hand,” says Wembanyama.

“You just can’t turn it off,” Vassell adds.

However, there is one thing Sochan desperately wants to be unable to accomplish with one hand: counting the number of Spurs’ wins.

(Sochan top photo: Jed Jacobsohn/NBAE via Getty Images)