Practice was over on Wednesday, but Shakeya Leary didn’t leave the court with the rest of her teammates.Instead, she walked over to the other end of the Carmelo K. Anthony Center and began shooting free throws.And they went in. One after another. It was the same every time. Get the ball. Bend the knees. Release. Swish.“It’s something that I’ve been good at since I was younger,” Leary said. “I practice it all the time so that’s how I’ve been good at free-throw shooting.”Leary certainly doesn’t fit the prototypical mold of a great free-throw shooter, yet the 6-foot-3 senior center is the best on the team. This season she’s connected on 89 percent of her shots from the charity stripe, making 32 of 36.AdvertisementThis is placeholder textLeary’s always been good from the line — she’s shot at least 72 percent in each season with Syracuse University — and it continues to pay dividends for the Orange.In Sunday’s game against Georgia Tech, with the Orange up two points with the ball with 17 seconds remaining, Leary checked into the game.The Yellow Jackets were pressing, trying to force a turnover. The defense was hounding, but it left Leary wide open to get the pass. She was immediately fouled, and iced the game by sinking both free throws. “Most of the time when we’re playing games, your (center) will be the one that’s going to be open,” SU head coach Quentin Hillsman said. “So you get the ball to your (center) and let her shoot free throws, you’re in good shape.”Leary said she’s been a good free-throw shooter since she was a young girl. Her uncle told her that though she’s a post player, she had to be able to play like a guard and be a well-rounded player.But most importantly, he helped instill a confidence in her that has been evident in her success at the free-throw line. She knows that no one expects her to make them there, but she’s fine with turning heads.“I’m a post player,” Leary said. “Post players can’t really shoot free throws but I’m glad that I am in position to help the team win games.” Leary spends four minutes after practices shooting free throws, and doesn’t miss many. Teammate Brittney Sykes said that she and Leary have a friendly competition when it comes to shooting from the line.Sykes said that Leary is able to be so successful because she’s calm and level-headed. She never gets too up, or too down.“In the huddle we say, ‘Keya you’ve got to make these,’” Sykes said. “She just looks at us and goes, ‘I gotcha, I got it.’”That’s been the script for Leary nearly all season. On the rare occasions when she does miss, she does get bothered. Sykes said she gets a kick out of it, because seeing her let loose is such a rarity.“We get on each other in the game and I’ll go back and sit on the bench and be like, ‘You’re supposed to make that,’” Sykes said. “And she goes, ‘Sorry, I’ll make the next one.’”But Sykes doesn’t get to say that too often. Leary hit her first 14 free throws of the season spanning four games, and has hit her last six dating back to Duke on Jan. 9. Hillsman said she has a “natural gift,” but it doesn’t matter what you call it. She just knows that whenever she steps to the line, it’s going to go in.“You have to be confident about everything you do, especially on the court,” Leary said. “If you don’t have confidence then it won’t work.” Comments Published on January 16, 2014 at 1:37 am Contact Sam: [email protected] | @SamBlum3 Facebook Twitter Google+
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