Sunday, September 14, 2008

Taking 1200 shots a day for 12 years (and keeping track of every one of them)

If you've not heard of Blake Ahearn, he was the D-League's Rookie of the Year this past season, averaging 19 ppg. The Heat called him up in late March, playing 32 minutes and scoring 15 points in a MIA loss at DET.

What's remarkable is that Ahearn is unremarkable -- at least physically. What's blogworthy is his work ethic, attention to detail, and discipline.

An article that I'd saved from the Omaha paper last December describes just how disciplined he is (many thanks to Brian Cooley at South Dakota State for the link!):

"Ask Ahearn how many shots he made in practice 10 years ago, and he can tell you. Pick a date, any date, and if Ahearn shot a basketball, he has a record of it. He keeps it in the notebooks in his dorm room. Every workout has been chronicled.

Ahearn, who has been keeping the notebooks since he was in elementary school, can tell you how many shots he took from each designated spot on the floor. More important, he can tell you how many he made.

Ahearn's daily offseason workouts included shooting about 1,200 shots from the field and 152 free throws. He cuts back on that during the season but considering he's been following that regimen for most of the past 12 years.

Even by a conservative estimate, giving him 30 days off per year, that adds up to more than a million shots overall and about 400,000 free-throw attempts.

"I get my work ethic from my dad," Ahearn said. "He taught me early that if you wanted to be good at something that you were going to have to put the work into it. If you want to be a good shooter, you're going to have to work on shooting. It's that simple."

He came into the season having led Division I in free-throw percentage in each of his first three seasons at Missouri State. He set the one-season record in 2002-03 when he made 117 of 120 for a .975 percentage. His career percentage is .953 as he has missed just 16 times in 340 attempts.

"I go up there expecting to make every shot," Ahearn said. "You put doubt in your mind, you've already lost, your chances have already dropped. I've never missed my next shot, ever, in my entire life. That one's always gone in for me."

He paused, smiled and added, "At least in my head it has."

[Couple of notes: Here's an SI story about Ahearn. And here's a blog that says it took Ahearn seven minutes and 49 seconds to make 100 three-pointers a few years back.]