The shot that coaches once told Cornelia Fondren not to take is back in her game
Evan Jenkins | Staff Photographer
The shot that has carried Cornelia Fondren and, as a result, Syracuse through the postseason is one that coaches have been telling her for years not do to.
It’s simple — a right-handed floater, teardrop or runner from inside the lane. It’s effective — used for avoiding charges and blocked shots. But hard to master — especially considering her dominant and shooting hand is her left.
Fondren scored in double-digits just four times throughout the 29-game regular season. She’s done it in each of the team’s four postseason games, including an 18-point performance against North Carolina State in the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament quarterfinal. Paramount to her success has been the extra wrinkle to her offensive game that she dug up from her high school days: the floater. She’ll put it to use again when fourth-seeded Syracuse (26-7, 13-3 ACC) hosts 12th-seeded Albany (28-4, 15-1 America East) in the NCAA tournament’s Round of 32 on Sunday at noon.
With a win, the Orange could advance to the Sweet 16 for the first time in program history.
“You know she can score either way or with either hand,” SU guard Alexis Peterson said, “so it kind of keeps the defense off balance. They don’t know which hand she’s going to shoot it with so it makes shot blocking that much harder.”
Fondren, who leads the team in fouls and gets called for, she says, two or three charges a game, uses the floater to evade offensive fouls. Instead of putting her head down and barreling into the lane and anyone in front of her on her way to the basket, she’ll pull up just in front of the foul line and loft a shot in.
It’s all about reading the defense, she said. When the defenders are playing back and taking away layups she can float it in with a shot that’s more difficult to block.
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“Some people can’t stop the floater,” Fondren said. “… There’s no way you can stop it if somebody slows down before they get a charge.”
But for her, that wasn’t always the case.
At, Overton (Tennessee) High School, Fondren started experimenting with the move, waiting for her chance to pull it out on a bigger stage in AAU ball with the Memphis Lady Magic.
She tried a few times, but her coach shut her down.
“‘You’re going to have to work on it consistently all the time if you want to make it work,’” Fondren remembers him saying. “Because Derrick Rose does it and he was like ‘If you want to do it just like him, you got to work on it,’ you know, because practice makes perfect.”
So she did.
Sometimes it would fall. Sometimes it wouldn’t. But when teams started taking charges on her in high school games, she shelved it.
During her freshman year at Syracuse as the team’s starting point guard, Fondren tried bringing the floater back.
“I started doing it and he was like ‘Why are you going up with your right hand?’ Go to the basket with your left hand,’” Fondren said of Syracuse head coach Quentin Hillsman. “I was like ‘OK.’”
Not until two weeks ago in the ACC tournament did it make a permanent return. Fondren consistently pulled up for floaters with success that eventually opened up room for her to get to the basket for layups.
On one play, she banked one in from the right of the basket while fighting off a defender for the and-one. Her teammates joked with her about it and guard Brittney Sykes compares it to the likes of San Antonio Spurs star Tony Parker.
Evan Jenkins | Staff Photographer
“Corn’s been playing phenomenal for us,” Syracuse guard Brianna Butler said. “She’s just playing more free. She’s just playing more like herself. It’s kind of like the freshman Corn that I remember playing with.”
The floater is natural now. Just like Fondren crosses over when a defender comes near, she pulls up for the righty floater when the defense backs off.
It took several years, but as she’s successfully used the floater in recent games, it finally has the approval of a coach.
“I think it’s the best option sometimes, but he would rather me get to my left hand because it’s my dominant hand,” Fondren said. “Sometimes I agree. Sometimes I feel like I have to do it.
“He’s comfortable with me doing it now so I’m happy for that.”
Published on March 19, 2016 at 11:05 pm