Seventeen. In the past week, that’s how many free throws Immanuel Quickley has attempted; that’s also how many he’s made. It’s also the number of times he’s closed his eyes; it represents the number of deep breaths he’s taken.
Following his perfect 9-for-9 performance Saturday afternoon against Missouri – on the heels of his flawless 8-for-8 night against Louisville – Quickley took a moment to re-trace his steps. When did he start that? You know what I’m talking about – his “calm” face, the one that went viral after his incredible night on the line against the Cards last Saturday.
Apparently, it was that same day.
Quickley’s composure at the free throw line should not go unnoticed, he was 8-8 at the line vs. Louisville
the definition of calm and collected at the free throw line
— Big Blue Nation (@BigBlue9ation) December 29, 2019
“It kind of got popular, and it’s been helping me a lot. I’m trying to do it every free throw and make it a routine. You never know – maybe it’ll help me get an advertisement or something, I don’t know,” Quickley laughed.
“I always took a deep breath, but I’d never closed my eyes [before the Louisville game],” Quickley continued. “But closing my eyes has helped me. Before every game, I visualize myself playing good… Visualizing the ball going through the net has helped me a lot.”
But one trip to the line against the Tigers was different. Quickley’s pair of shots from the charity stripe came right after the play where he jammed one of his fingers on his shooting hand. He says he’s fine now, but it was definitely bothering him in the moment.
“Just jammed it really bad, but I should be ok. I knew it wasn’t popped; it just hurt really, really bad,” Quickley recalled. “I tried to go [rebound] with two hands, and somebody just smacked my hand.”
Still, it was time to head to the line, and the game was still close. He had to quickly pull it together – no pun intended.
“It was definitely a quick turnaround, but I knew in order to knock down those free throws I was going to have to get to my calm face,” Quickley said.
— Jordan Roberts (@08jroberts) January 4, 2020
Quickley was strong from the charity stripe last season, finishing the year averaging around 83 percent. But he was, of course, “overshadowed” by the best to ever do it at Kentucky – Tyler Herro, who set the school record for free-throw percentage with a 93.5 percent average. Herro went 87-93 from the free-throw line last season, at one point hitting 38 in a row. Before Tyler Herro came along, UK’s school record had stood for decades – Kyle Macy claimed the top spot after the 1979-80 season where he hit 91.23 percent.
But Herro may not keep the title for quite so long. This year, Immanuel Quickley has made 46-of-48 so far, good for 95.8 percent. He hasn’t missed one at the line since the Cats’ game against Lamar on Nov. 24, when he went 4-5 from the charity stripe. That streak is good for 24 consecutive free throws. The school record could soon be his.
Although Quickley says he’s talked to Herro, his former teammate and the current record holder, he says they haven’t discussed the record itself. That’s simply not what Immanuel Quickley is worried about this season.
“If I get it, it’s great. But if not, hopefully I can keep closing my eyes and knocking down free throws.”
So far, so good.