The professional basketball world may be in awe of Buzz Braman's radar-like shooting ability, but they're nothing new to Old Mill basketball coach Paul Bunting.
"He's always been a scorer and we always wanted him to have the ball in pressure situations," said Bunting, Braman's teammate on the 1972 state championship basketball team at Montgomery County's Springbrook High. "But as good as he was in high school, he's much better now -- much better than he ever was."
The "shot doctor," as Braman is called, is back in town with his remedy for poor shooting. His five-day Sure Shot basketball camp -- geared for 10- to 17-year-olds -- begins Monday at Arundel High.
Bunting, who graduated from Springbrook a year after Braman in 1974, was around for his first appearance in the county a year ago.
"A number of youngsters were simply in awe at Buzzy's shooting ability. They referred to him as a 'machine,' " said Bunting. "The way Buzzy shoots the ball is absolutely uncanny.It's like he's able to actually get inside of the ball, like he knows how it ticks."
Braman, 36, recently completed his second season with the Philadelphia 76ers as the National Basketball Association's premier shooting instructor.
"He's the first full-time shooting specialist the pros have ever had," said Milton Kline, Braman's coach at Silver Spring's White Oak Junior High. "Calvin Murphy is with the Houston Rockets, but he doesn't sit on the bench like Buzz and give constant pointers."
Kline has been involved with summer camps for 25years and began working with Braman on the Sure Shot project in 1989. A Columbia resident and longtime personal friend, Kline takes time off from his job as a sportswear consultant with Graphic Concepts to promote the camp.
One of Braman's greatest achievements of this past year is guard Hersey Hawkins, whom Braman calls "a continuing success story."
This year, Hawkins led the 76ers with a 94 percent free-throw percentage and 54 percent from the floor. And Hawkins' buzzer-beating three-pointer sparked the 76ers' lone playoff victory over the 1991 world champion Chicago Bulls.
In the NBA's 1989 Long Distance Shootout, Braman made 21 consecutive professional three-pointers (23 feet, 9 inches) to break Larry Bird's record.
"In my humble opinion, I'm the best there is," said Braman, a graduate of East Carolina University. "No one in the pros can shoot better than I can. And when they see me make 50, 60 or 70 shots in a row, they believe me."
This from a guy who had the audacity to change the 10-year-old shotof Rick Mahorn, increasing the millionaire's shooting by 10 percentage points this season.
But how can a guy used to dealing with the best players in the world tone down his technique enough so he doesn't intimidate the youngsters he'll teach next week at Arundel?
"I love the opportunity to work with kids," said Braman, whose campers are videotaped at the beginning of the camp and again at the end. "Prosmake the same mistakes that kids do because they didn't get the proper guidance. I'm just correcting the mistakes earlier."
As he assesses the pupil's shot physically, Braman focuses on the follow-through and encourages him to watch the basket instead of the flight of theball. His primary concern is improving the athlete's depth perception and the straightness of his shot.
"I believe what I teach is 100percent fundamentally sound. It's a philosophy that's impossible to argue, but my approach is so laid-back that it's part of the formula," said Braman. "I just offer it as something to incorporate into whatyou already do. I don't force-feed it to anyone."
But listen to what the shot doctor prescribes, and in five days he promises improvement will be noticeable.
"Everyone talks about the mental approach and the confidence of shooting. That's a misused approach. Repetitionof fundamentals that are wrong are a waste of time," said Braman, who was All-County, All-State, All-Metro and All-American as a senior at Springbrook.
"The bottom line is that if you're in a slump, it'sgenerally due to mechanics -- something physical. When the mechanicsare straightened out, the confidence comes back."
Long before he became a professional shot doctor, he was the eager pupil during the summer after his eighth-grade year.
While he was shooting baskets in the White Oak Junior High gymnasium, two brothers -- one standing 6-foot-5 -- entered and began to play. An astonished Braman watched for about an hour as the towering teen-ager made shot after shot.
The shooting technician, Ed Peterson, later led the Atlantic Coast Conference in scoring (29.3 points a game) and the University of South Carolina in free-throw shooting (93 percent) in 1970-1971.
Once Braman learned his craft, he took on his first assignment, former University of Maryland and University of Arizona center Brian Williams, whotwo weeks ago was the 10th pick by the Orlando Magic in the NBA draft. At Maryland in 1988, Braman helped Williams to more than double his shooting percentage from 42 percent to 86 percent.
Braman, to this day, calls then-Maryland coach Bob Wade his meal ticket to success. But as he also likes to say, basketball is a "prove it to me sport." And for two years after having approached 76ers general manager John Nash for the first time, the shooting specialist still had a lot toprove.
It didn't matter that in 1987 he sank 246 of 250 college three-pointers (19 feet, 9 inches) at the 76ers rookie camp, or that he made 738 consecutive free throws that same year. Even his performance in the Long Distance Shootout was not enough.
Braman, however, wasted no time proving himself during his two-year probationary period.
It took stints with the two-time world champion Detroit Pistons,
the Los Angeles Lakers, the Orlando Magic and the Cleveland Cavaliers before the 76ers, owned by his uncle, Norman Braman, would makehim the full-time shooting coach.
In five days working with Braman, Seattle Supersonics' guard Nate McMillan went from being a 60 percent shooter to making 92 of 100 free throws. While working with IsiahThomas, Braman overheard a dull, scratching sound as Thomas releasedthe ball. A slight adjustment was the difference in improving an already superb shot.
"It was throwing Thomas off," said Kline. "He picks out the most subtle flaw, changes it and makes a great shooter even better."
Said Bunting: "There've been a lot of good shooters around since I've been around the game, but -- and I hope this is no insult to them -- there's absolutely no comparison with Buzzy. I absolutely admire what Buzzy's done."
Monday, the shot doctor wants to give you a shot.