The problem is, those abilities don’t necessarily transfer over on gamedays. So instead of seeing this wonderful shooter that excels in practice, the world is exposed to a version of Gant that is more or less an offensive liability.
People tend to overlook the fact that coming out of Crenshaw High School (and if you didn’t know he was from Crenshaw, then you obviously aren’t watching enough FSN), Gant was rated as one of the top forwards in the country. Washington landed his services over the likes of Kentucky, Oregon, California, and Nevada, all good programs that were recruiting Gant.
Interestingly enough, though he has assumed more of a small forward’s role with the Huskies, the 6’8″ Gant was considered a power forward out of the prep ranks, a nod to his size and athleticism. A quick look at this video from Gant’s high school days would seem to highlight that distinction.
In viewing this clip, fans might be surprised by the redshirt sophomore’s aggressiveness during his formative years. He attacked the hoop, crashed the boards, and even when taking into consideration the inferiority of the competition, played the game with an entirely different mentality than he has at Washington.
Clearly, his first two-and-a-half years of college (including the redshirt year) have been a humbling experience. Lauded for his defensive presence, Gant has even struggled in that department this season, exiting the starting lineup and losing minutes to the likes of Justin Holiday and Scott Suggs.
On offense, the Los Angeles native has been non-existent, posting a line that is more often associated with walk-ons or first-year projects (2.7 PPG, 2.7 RPG, 0.5 APG, 0.3 BPG, 0.2 SPG, 36.9% FG).
Perhaps the greatest glitch in Gant’s game is simply that shooting technique that everyone talks about. From the form, to the release, to the end result, there are gaping holes in Darnell’s shot.
In a game situation, a player’s actions tend to speed up when feeding off the adrenaline of all the extraneous factors surrounding the moment: the crowd, the clock, the defenders, etc. Because of that, a shooter can often neglect his mechanics when going up for a shot attempt.
Many times, a shooter with great form (say, a guy like Ray Allen) will hurry his approach but still get a good shot off. Because of the lack of moving parts in that shooter’s technique, his body, in midair, can compensate for a rushed attempt or an off-balanced release.
But let’s be real here for a moment: Darnell Gant does not have textbook form. Far from it, I’d argue. In fact, Gant’s form is so awful, and has so many moving parts that it’s a wonder he doesn’t miss more shots than he already does.
The problem with Gant’s technique is two-fold. One, he has a tendency to raise his arms too high. And two, he often falls-away from the hoop when he opens fire.
Let’s address issue number one first.
The hands-to-the-sky approach to shooting works great inside about 10 feet. Look at a guy like Jack Sikma, for example, who patented that shot and made it work throughout a long and successful NBA career. Outside of 10 feet, however, that type of shot can be difficult to ascertain.
Some guys can make that shot work for them from longer range. Dirk Nowitzki, for one, is a guy that can pull a 25-footer with that approach with positive results.
But for an unrefined shooter like Gant, it can be tough to capture the muscle memory of that release and repeat it in games when offensive opportunities are limited.
With regards to issue number two, Gant’s tendency to fall away from the hoop when he shoots simply makes an easy shot tough. Falling away on a wide open 15-footer upgrades the degree of difficulty on a routine attempt, and at the same time forces the shooter to alter the angle he’s more accustomed to shooting from. Unless there’s a defender in his face forcing him backwards (and I can’t recall a Gant shot attempt outside 10 feet being defended once this entire year), there is absolutely no need for Gant to fall away.
When these two issues are combined, Gant’s forced to make near-impossible buckets every time he gets lazy with his approach. Picture a hoop tilted upwards, pointed towards the ceiling at a slight degree. When Gant falls away AND brings his arms too high above his head, he’s essentially shooting on a basket that has been altered to look like this. And that makes for a tough possession.
So how do we go about curing this problem?
With a guy like Gant, who is clearly not an offensive threat in any way, shape, or form right now, you’d almost like to start from scratch with his shot. Tear it apart and make him learn to do things the right way from the very beginning. Trying to rebuild at this level can be trying for both the player and the coaching staff, so if both issues can’t be cured, at least one must be fixed.
First, Gant must focus on lowering his hands when shooting. He’s obviously developed a comfort level with that high release, but it’s just not working. The best shooters in the game rarely bring their hands above their forehead, and that’s where Gant needs to get used to pulling the trigger. If he can keep the ball at that level, rather than hovering directly above his head, then he should see more positive results.
Second, in order to cure the fallaway problem, Gant would be best served by taking jumpers directly in front of a wall or some sort of barrier. If he grazes the barrier on his release, he’s falling away. If he can rise and fall without inciting contact, then things are improving.
Why worry about any of this anyways?
With the quantity of scorers this team has, getting offensive production out of a guy like Darnell Gant would be a luxury more than anything else, a bonus of sorts.
Well the way I see it, Gant’s mere presence on the floor hurts the team’s offensive gameplan.
Opposing teams rarely put a body on Gant when he has the ball, almost daring him to shoot. In encountering such a scenario, the Huskies are faced with a 4-on-5 situation, where five defenders are only guarding four guys and leaving Gant on his own little island. This has a residual effect that allows Washington’s scorers (Quincy Pondexter, Isaiah Thomas, Scott Suggs, etc.) to be double-teamed, hence making opportunities harder to come by for the entire offense.
If Gant wants to have a positive effect on this team as a whole (not just on defense), then he’s going to need to work on his shot and make it better. Either that, or watch the final two years of his collegiate career play out from the end of a very comfortable, but very lonely bench.