Shot doctor Dave Hopla hoops with area youth

Professional Shooting Coach Dave Hopla demonstrates proper form from the free-throw line, where he once made 1,234 shots in a row. Photo by Mat Clouser


BRANDON — When it comes to winning basketball, perhaps no one knows more than Boston Celtics legend and 11-time NBA champion Bill Russell, who once said, “Success is a result of consistent practice of winning skills and actions. There is nothing miraculous about the process. There is no luck involved.”

Although Russell was not present on Friday afternoon at the OVUHS gym, his message came through loud and clear via another historical hooper: professional shooting coach Dave Hopla.

Hopla—who has fastidiously recorded his shooting sessions since the age of 16—was on hand to share his methods with area kids looking to increase their ability to tickle the twine and get a glimpse of Hopla’s ridiculous skills in the process.

USA Basketball once called Hopla “the man who doesn’t miss.” His personal records include 1,234 free throws, 211 high school 3-pointers, 181 college 3-pointers, and 78 NBA 3-pointers without a miss. He currently boasts a 98% shooting clip.

“If you want to be the greatest shooter in the world,” said Hopla, “there are two things you need to do: Number one is shoot the ball with the correct form. Number two is why nobody wants to be the greatest anymore—you have to shoot it more times than anybody else the correct way.”

Hopla has worked with many of the biggest names in the NBA, including Kobe Bryant and former Celtics marksman Ray Allen. He has also coached for the Toronto Raptors, New York Knicks, Washington Wizards, and Detroit Pistons, where he helped turn around the free-throw shooting of someone who had been one of the worst free-throw shooters of all time, Andre Drummond, improving his accuracy by almost 25%. 

He cited former NBA and ABA player George Lehman as inspiring his shooting methods. Lehman was the first ABA player to shoot over 40% from the 3-point line and utilized a system called BEEF: balance, elbows, eyes, and follow-through.

Hopla, who has published a book called Basketball Shooting, named eight steps to correct shooting form: Keep your toes to the target, keep your feet shoulder-width apart, form the letter L with your shooting arm, cock your wrist enough to wrinkle the skin, bend and extend your legs, make sure to keep your elbow above your eyebrow, put your hand to the hoop as you release the ball, and freeze the motion on your follow-through after the release.

He was a blend of motion and motivation as he addressed the kids, never staying still or quiet, emphasizing practice, preparation, positivity, and persistence. 

In a span of about an hour, he shot and swished nearly every one of the hundreds of attempts he put up from all over the court. His accuracy was so astounding that the crowd was audibly shocked on the rare occasions he missed. 

“When you see yourself getting better,” he urged, “you gotta practice more.”

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