Drummond, who is a career 38.0% free throw shooter, was desperate for any way to improve.
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It is no secret that Detroit Pistons center Andre Drummond has his challenges at the charity stripe, with a 38.0% clip at the line during his four-year NBA career. Still, the 2016 NBA All-Star is hoping that an unconventional and new training method will eventually turn his shooting struggles around: virtual reality.
In May at the NBA draft combine in Chicago, coach Stan Van Gundy told ESPN that the Pistons and Drummond would consider everything imaginable to try to improve his low percentage, even alluding to wearing a headset.
“Whether it’s some things we can do with visual imagery, some virtual reality stuff, changing dramatically how you shoot the ball—it’s all on the table,” Van Gundy said. “Andre would tell you the same thing. Over the next couple of weeks, we’re gonna get together as a staff, talk to some outside people, and sit down with Andre to see where his head is. For it to be any good, you have to have buy-in from him.”
Nearly five months later, Drummond has finally embraced the technology.
“The first couple of days or weeks, it was hell for me,” he told NBA.com. “It was hard. I was doing something new. I’ve never done virtual reality in my life and to really accept the fact that I needed help with that part of my game was tough just to give in. When I finally gave in to training my brain to focus on one thing, it kind of worked out for me.”
The Pistons collaborated with STRIVR Labs, a virtual reality company that has worked with other professional sports teams like the Washington Wizards and Dallas Cowboys, in order to assist Drummond. He currently watches film of his own free throw shooting three days a week, either from a first-person perspective or a third-person perspective where he can see himself from multiple viewpoints.
As Drummond heads into his first season incorporating virtual reality into his preparation and training regimen, it will be interesting to see if there is any corresponding improvement, even if it is just a few percentage points.
“I’ve found something that keeps me calm,” Drummond said told NBA.com. “Even if I do miss a shot, I found something to keep me calm and not get myself rattled. Once I missed one, I’d tense up and I’d miss the next one, too. So I found a peace within myself. Even if I do miss a shot, I’m going to be comfortable to get back up there and shoot the same shot again. Make or miss, I’m not going to be frustrated but move on to the next play.”