By Ken McMillan
Army’s Kelsey Minato didn’t travel all the way to Texas just to participate in a college 3-point shooting contest.
She wants to win.
“I am really competitive,’’ Minato said Wednesday night. “There are a lot of good shooters there for the girls. It will be tough but I think if I just shoot my shot, and stay down and square up and just let it go, I think I will be okay.’’
There are eight men and eight women selected for the 3-point contests, and eight men for the slam dunk competition. The show will be broadcast at 9 p.m. on ESPN.
Each female shooter will have 60 seconds to shoot 25 balls – five balls on five racks set up around the 3-point arc set at 20 feet, 9 inches. The fifth ball counts for two points as opposed to one. Two shooters will participate at a time, on opposite sides of the court. The top four scorers from the quarterfinal round advance to the semifinal round, and then the top two meet in the finals.
Joining Minato in the women’s contest are Rachel Banham of Minnesota; Katie Hempen of Arizona State; Maggie Lyon of Northwestern; Tiffany Mitchell of South Carolina; Lexi Eaton Rydalch of Brigham Young; Megan Podkowa of DePaul; and, Janee Thompson of Kentucky.
“I’m really excited,’’ Minato said. “I think it will be a lot of fun. There’s a lot of good shooters there so it will be good competition.’’
By season’s percentages, Minato is ranked highest at 47.8 percent (second in nation), followed by Banham (39.0 percent, 52nd) and Rydalch (37.8 percent, 63rd). By made 3-pointers per game, Banham ranks second in the nation (3.72), followed by Minato in fifth (3.38) and Rydalch in 47th (2.55).
The participants practiced at the Berry Center, located in the Houston suburb of Cypress, Texas, on Wednesday. Minato liked the arena to a familiar setting of Bucknell’s Sojka Pavilion.
“It wasn’t too bad,’’ Minato said of the recreation center setting with more than 8,000 seats. “I wasn’t sure what the court would be like, like if the backboard is going to be really far back from the bleachers. It felt pretty good. I got some shots up and my shot was feeling pretty good so hopefully I will be able to carry it over to (Thursday).’’
Minato has been practicing ever since Army was ousted in the first round of the NCAA tournament at Syracuse on March 18. With the help of coaches and teammates, they tried to simulate the contest conditions, only Army had only two ball racks, and neither could fit the required five basketballs. So there was a lot of rebounding, passing the ball, re-racking and movement of the racks, which made for chaotic conditions.
“It was tough trying to practice and trying to simulate how it’s going to be here,’’ Minato said. “There were a lot of things going on and it was really distracting. It was hard to focus when there’s things moving in front of me and balls flying everywhere.’’
“(Wednesday) was a lot easier because I got to practice with the actual ball, the actual rack and on the actual court,’’ she added. “I am glad I got some shots up at the actual competition (site).’’
Minato said she enjoyed spending time with her fellow competitors, comparing their collegiate experiences and discussing their post-graduate plans.
Minato said she hopes to be in contention by the end of the semifinal round.
“There’s a little bit more pressure because I am competing to win and I want to win,’’ Minato said, “but it’s also fun because it’s not like a game. It doesn’t count on our record or anything like that. I’m definitely out here to win. I didn’t just come here to shoot with other girls; I actually want to win.’’
Following the contest, Minato will make her way to Indianapolis to participate in two separate showcase camps on Saturday and Sunday in her bid to impress pro scouts.