The comfort zone for Ryan Wheeler is when he has the basketball in his hands.
He can place them on it and doesn’t have to look. He just knows. It sits in his right hand one particular way. The wrist is positioned just so. The elbow is situated high enough. The shoulders are square.
Byron Nelson’s junior shooting guard has done this so many times that the muscle memory takes over.
But that’s what happens when you wake up at 6 a.m., head to the gym and fire up 300-400 shots before the school day begins.
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Wheeler’s a shooter. That’s what he does.
“It’s a basic shot where I’ve made some minor adjustments,” Wheeler said. “But I know the shot very well and feel very good. I’m pretty hard on myself because I want to make every shot.”
The move-in from Flower Mound waited his turn. He’s now head coach Scott Curran’s starting sharpshooter. Wheeler is averaging about 10 points per game and is shooting 45 percent from 3-point range.
If it had worked out, Wheeler probably could have worked his way on to the varsity in 2013-2014. But because he moved in from another district, he was ineligible to play with the varsity and had to spend the season with the junior varsity.
The feel for the game is noticeable, Curran said. Wheeler doesn’t force shots. But when he spots up and is comfortable, there’s a pretty good chance the ball is finding the bottom of the net.
Wheeler has yet to have one of those exceptional performances where he has drained seven 3-pointers. It’s usually been three or four makes. But that could be more of a question of when than if.
“He’s a tremendous worker,” Curran said. “You can’t sleep on him. Once he gets going, he doesn’t think he’s going to miss. He’s such a great part of our team.”
What’s refreshing about Wheeler’s story is that he’s a self-made shooter. He said he hasn’t worked with a coach. There have been here and there tips. But everything Wheeler has done has been on his own.
There is good news and bad news for the Bobcats. The scouting report is out. Curran and Wheeler can only smile when the ball comes to him and the opposing coach screams out, “Shooter!”
But if a team does that, then the post doesn’t have enough protection to handle 6-7 post Emmanuel Nzekwesi and 6-6 post Jack Nobles. A decision has to be made.
“Those films get out pretty quick,” Curran said. “Everybody knows he can shoot. If he misses one, he thinks he’s in a slump.”
Nelson will need all of the scoring it can muster as continues through its first season in Class 6A. The Bobcats (7-5) opened District 5-6A play this past Friday against Keller.
“I didn’t know what was going to happen when the season started,” Wheeler said. “It feels good to know that I’ve been able to see how I’ve worked for this. But I have to keep earning it.”
The Texans (6-7) opened District 5-6A play this past Friday against Keller Central. They took some momentum into the game with a 61-59 overtime victory at Irving MacArthur on Dec. 16. Elijah Christman scored 25 points.