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December 8, 2009

Struggles from the line

While Kansas has displayed many strengths in their 7-0 start to the season, their free throw shooting has not been one of them.

So far this season, Kansas is shooting 65 percent from the charity stripe, Kansas coach Bill Self wants to see that number get higher.

"We probably haven't given it the attention early in the preseason that we should," Self said. "From this point on, we should give it more."

To be fair, it's not like Kansas hasn't put in extra work to correct the problem. At the end of each practice, players have to make 25 out of 30 free throws before they leave. If they don't hit that mark, they will have to shoot them again, followed by wind sprints.

The Morris twins, never big fans of unwarranted physical exertion, proudly claim they have yet to run. But freshman forward Thomas Robinson - who is shooting a team low 43 percent from the line - is a different story.

"He can make five in a row easy, but in a game he will be dead tired and miss eight straight," Marcus Morris said.

Well, Robinson can't always easily make five in a row. The other day at the end of a long practice, Self told the entire team they couldn't leave the floor until Robinson made five straight free throws and twenty attempts later, he was still shooting. It didn't help that Self tried to distract him when Robinson had finally made four in a row.

"Coach was grabbing him and saying, 'You have a nice body,' and he missed the last one," Markieff Morris said.

Players though, have more distractions come gametime than getting flattering remarks from their coach about their physique. Against UCLA on Sunday, Marcus Morris said he noticed a UCLA fan wearing a blue afro wig running through the stands while Cole Aldrich was shooting his free throws.

"I would've air balled it," Marcus Morris said. "In a game you are kind of rushed a little bit and there are a lot more distractions."

Coaches aren't the only ones to get on the team about their free throw shooting, even the Morris twins mom has gotten in on the act. She will find her sons after games and give them the tip that every little league coach gives to their kids: you got to bend your knees more.

"I think that is the only thing she knows about basketball because that is the only thing she ever says," Marcus said. "I just laugh at it."

Kansas has had decent free throw shooting teams in the past. When Kansas won the championship two years ago, they shot 70 percent from the line. Last year, they shot 73 percent.

"I don't ignore it," Self said, "But I don't think it is something that I will call a lot of attention to."


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