UNI Panthers

How did UNI's AJ Green develop his unique shooting form?

It looks odd, but it works for Panthers' leading scorer

Northern Iowa Panthers guard AJ Green (4) takes a 3-point shot against Drake at McLeod Center in Cedar Falls last season
Northern Iowa Panthers guard AJ Green (4) takes a 3-point shot against Drake at McLeod Center in Cedar Falls last season. (The Gazette)

CEDAR FALLS — A casual basketball fan can see Northern Iowa’s AJ Green shoot a basketball and see how different it looks than his peers.

But how did Green’s unique form come to be?

Well, nothing more than a classic case of youthful stubbornness during middle school, according to his father, Kyle.

“I wanted to get his release point up. That’s what I always talked about,” said Kyle Green, UNI’s associate head coach. “That was obviously frustrating for him as he transitioned to shooting with the high release point because you don’t make as many.

“He’d get frustrated with that and we’d kind of go back-and-forth. So, he was like, ‘OK, I’ll show you, I’ll get my release point up.’ And he just started to kind of do it on his own. It just kind of happened, organically, that way. Obviously he started to crank it behind his head a bit more and (then) the more I’d say, ‘hey, don’t do that,’ the more sometimes eighth graders want to do.”

With a laugh, AJ Green acknowledged his dad’s recollection of how his shot ended up well above and behind his head.

“Yeah, I think there’s definitely a little bit of truth to that,” Green said. “Anytime it’s a parent and a kid working together there’s always going to be a little pushback, because that’s how it is a little bit.”

Kyle Green, who’s in his 28th year of coaching, never felt an urge to tweak his son’s shot and make it more “normal” after it took hold. He did admit, though, that it’s a form he wouldn’t teach.

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Despite its uniqueness and his success with it, AJ says his shot requires consistent attention and occasional repair like any other. He also described how after an illustrious high school career at Cedar Falls he needed to make changes before playing his first collegiate game.

“I’ve tried to work on extending my range, and with that, shooting it more on the way up with a deeper shot,” AJ Green said. “I think most of my misses come (up) short.”

The tweaks didn’t stop there, either.

After a poor start to this season — he was 12 for 39 (31%) in his first three games — Green went back under the hood of his form and made an adjustment that may ultimately help him win the Missouri Valley Conference’s Larry Bird Player of the Year Award.

“I wasn’t snapping my wrist quite enough to get it there and let it fly,” said Green, who’s averaging 20.2 points and shooting 41 percent from 3-point range this season. “Also, sometimes with that, it can also be a little mental where you start missing a few shots and you overanalyze it instead of just going out there and hoopin’.”

Coincidentally, Bird, was the only comparison Kyle Green had for his son’s shot.

UNI (22-5, 11-4) hosts Southern Illinois (16-12, 10-5) Sunday at McLeod Center at 1 p.m. (ESPN+).

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