Don’t tell Jordan Poole he’s in a slump. At least not to his face.
“I personally don’t like to use the word slump. It’s a media thing,” the sophomore guard said last Monday after he shot 3-for-9 in a loss to Iowa. “But there’ll just be games where you don’t hit shots. … I bounce back. That’s all there is to it.”
Whatever term you use, it’s undeniable that Poole’s recent shooting numbers have been below his usual standards — something that has contributed to the Michigan men’s basketball team’s offensive regression in conference play.
Since a Jan. 3 game against Penn State, Poole has shot just 19-of-63 — 30 percent — from beyond the arc. Though Poole’s dislike of the term “slump” may come down to just semantics, his shooting struggles go deeper than a simple blanket term.
“One of Jordan’s issues was where he was shooting,” said Michigan coach John Beilein last week. “He was open, but he didn’t have — he didn’t need to be standing at the NBA line and shooting.”
In recent contests against Rutgers and Wisconsin, it seemed like maybe Poole was breaking through. But lost in the cheers after Poole drained a triple for Michigan’s first points of Saturday’s win against the Badgers was the fact that he still released the shot a few feet beyond the arc — the exact kind of NBA three Beilein wants him to avoid.
Beilein estimated that Poole has hit 45 percent of his shots from the college line in practice, but just 33 percent from the NBA line. It’s a hard habit to break. After all, a shot is mostly muscle memory. Poole just gets himself open, takes the ball and shoots, the way he always has. These moments happen in a split second during a real game, so Poole has no time to look down and check his proximity to the arc.
Instead, to combat the problem, Beilein and the other coaches have been working with Poole to readjust. During a practice last Sunday, assistant coach DeAndre Haynes stood on the sideline behind Poole, watching to see if he drifted too far out. Every time he did, Haynes pushed him back toward the arc.
“It’s a hard thing,” Beilein said. “There’s some players with their GPS — it just takes time to adjust. I mean, they just have this feel of where they should be and it’s really hard. … And he’s not saying, ‘Heck with you, coach, I’m gonna stand over here!’ It’s the GPS thing that people will go through.”
The changes won’t come overnight, but if Poole continues to adjust his internal compass, it could pay dividends for him and the team. Meanwhile, there are other steps Poole has taken to put himself in better situations to get quality shots.
He’s talked to junior guard Zavier Simpson about how to not only keep passing lanes open, but also how to angle himself so that he’s in a good position to catch and shoot from an optimal location. And he’s also become tuned in to where his defenders are and how they might close out in different looks. That allows him to strike a balance between getting open and being as close to the arc as possible.
As for his depressed 3-point numbers, Poole’s just going to keep shooting. If there’s one thing he has in spades, it’s confidence, and he won’t let anything — whether it’s a few bad games or talk of slumps — faze him.
“Most of us shoot thousands of shots a day in practice and you’re working on shooting your shots and then you come to practice,” Poole said. “I mean, you shoot all the time. There’s gonna be days it ain’t going in and days it is. … You can’t change anything due to one game or two games.”