Sophomore Tyrone Wallace spent his offseason trying to convince his right hand to mind its own business.
If the message got through, Wallace may have repaired the one glaring weakness in his game — his ability to shoot the ball.
Wallace is a left-handed guard who averaged 7.2 points, 4.4 rebounds and 2.6 assists as a freshman last season. He is a willing defender and has grown an inch to 6-foot-5 and gained 20 pounds to 190.
But can he consistently put the ball in the basket?
“Sometimes my right hand gets more dominant and it’s top of the ball and my ball spins out weird,” said Wallace, who made just 22 percent of his 3-point tries last season and barely 53 percent from the free throw line.
“That was definitely a focus to try to get my left hand to be more dominant, use my right hand strictly as a guide.”
Coach Mike Montgomery sees progress.
“There are times when he does get it where he wants to and the ball rotates really nicely and it goes in,” Montgomery said. “Maybe he gets tired, or he’s not quite square, and the right hand gets involved.”
Wallace admits there’s been an adjustment.
“In high school it was easier to get to the basket, do whatever I wanted. Here it’s a lot harder,” he said. “You’ve got to be able to knock down shots.
“When I’m able to just sit and spot shoot, my shot is better, my form is right. When I’m on the move, trying to pull up, that’s when I experience some problems with it. It’ll get better with time.”
Wallace is part of what looks to be a deep backcourt for the Bears. Senior Justin Cobbs still is recovering from offseason foot surgery, so Wallace is sharing point guard duties in practice with freshman Sam Singer.
As a freshman, he primarily played shooting guard, opposite Pac-12 Player of the Year Allen Crabbe. Crabbe is gone to the NBA, but the Bears have Ricky Kreklow back from a year of foot problems, plus freshmen Jabari Bird and Jordan Mathews.
Pleased with Wallace a year ago, Montgomery likes the progress he’s seen.
“He’s a better player than he was,” Montgomery said. “He’s a good rebounder from the guard position. He’s just got to get a little better on his shot selection — knowing what is a good shot for him.”
So, when Cobbs is healthy and back sometime next month, where on the floor will Wallace play?
“It’s up in the air right now,” Wallace said.
“That’s to be determined,” said Montgomery, explaining that Wallace provides him a lot of choices.
“He can be a dominant defender because he’s gotten stronger and he’s got length. He can guard a bigger wing and he can guard a smaller player,” Montgomery said.
“He’s not the quickest guy, but he can keep them in front of him using his length. He’s real valuable that way.”