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By John Crumpacker, WCC Columnist | @CrumpackerOnWCC
EL SEGUNDO, Calif. - It seems only fitting that someone from a town named Vista should have a good view on things. The fact that he went to a high school with "Buena Vista'' in its name is all the better.
In Johnny Dees' case, his vista was a basketball hoop. Endless practice at the hoop in his front yard - at the end of an uphill driveway, no less - made him into a shooter so proficient the "D" in his last name should really stand for "Deadeye.''
As a University of San Diego junior in 2013-14, the 6-foot Dee led the West Coast Conference and the entire Division I in free throw accuracy at 94.5 percent. That's second best in WCC history behind the mark of 96.1 percent rung up by Gonzaga's Derek Raivio in 2006-07.
"I think the big thing with free throws is confidence,'' Dee said at WCC Media Day in Los Angeles. "I shot enough to where I felt I could make some. I shot more and more and built confidence over time.''
A year ago Dee swished 120 of the 127 free throws he attempted. As impressive as that figure is, he said he started out making "only'' 7 of his first 10 attempts, meaning he dropped in 113 of his final 117 attempts from 15 feet.
"It'd be disappointing not to lead the country again,'' he said. "But if my team needs two free throws, I want to knock them down. I believe I can do that. I have no idea what I'll shoot, percentage-wise. I believe I can make every one of them.''
Dee makes so many of them that the rare ones he misses tend to stick with him, like a nagging itch or a pebble in his shoe - an irritant. Like No. 48, for example. In recounting his sterling season on the line, Dee said at one point he had made 47 in a row.
"I remember missing 48 short. You can't miss short,'' he said. "That was the one free throw last year I'd like to have back. When I missed 48, one of my teammates yelled a cussword. I got texts after the game.''
The texts were all of the "Dude, I can't believe you missed that one!'' variety.
Not to worry.
"I got hot the last three weeks of the season,'' Dee said. "I didn't miss a free throw.''
As well, at no point in 2013-14 did Dee miss two free throws consecutively. His infrequent misfires were all of the solo variety.
It will be difficult for Dee to top himself in 2014-15. To do that, he'd have to be darn near perfect. He shot 85.9 percent (61 of 71) as a freshman and 88.8 percent as a sophomore before cracking 90 percent as a junior.
Add all that up and it comes out to 268 of 296 from the free throw line for 90.5 percent.
"It's going to be a good year for us,'' Dee said after the Toreros posted an 18-17 mark (7-11 in the WCC) last season. "We had a good time in Italy on the tour. As a team we have a lot of depth, a lot of guys who can score the ball.''
With 272 points this season Dee will become USD's career leader and he has a good shot at cracking 2,000 points for his career; he's currently at 1,519.
San Diego opens its season Nov. 14-15 in the Loyola Marymount Classic in Los Angeles with games against Boise State and Southeast Missouri State. The Toreros open their home season Nov. 19 against Florida A&M at the Jenny Craig Pavilion.
San Diego is hardly a one-man team, even though that one man is the best marksman in the country. With Dee in the back court is point guard Christopher Anderson, a 5-foot-7 dynamo who averaged 10.3 points and dished out 6.2 assists last season.
On the wing is 6-5, 220-pound Duda Sanadze, who scored at a 12.9 clip last season. In the post is 6-9 Jito Kok, whose major contributions were in swatting away opponents' shots. His 63 blocks set a school record. He also contributed 4.7 points and 4.5 rebounds per game.
The constant is Deadeye Dee at the free throw line. He comes from a significant athletic background as his father Donnie played in the NFL for Seattle and Indianapolis in 1988-90 while his mother Jackie ran cross country at the University of Tulsa. Grandfather Don Dee was a member of the gold medal-winning 1968 U.S. Olympic basketball team.
AROUND THE WCC
At St. Mary's, coach Randy Bennett has been pleased with how point guard Aaron Bright has fit in with his new teammates as a fifth-year transfer student from Stanford. When Bright injured his shoulder early in the 2013-14 season and realized he'd have to redshirt while rehabbing from the injury, he went looking for another opportunity.
He found it in Moraga.
"It was kind of a deal where he was looking for a place he could fit in as a fifth-year senior,'' Bennett said. "He knew our program. He could have gone to a lot of highly perceived programs. He thought this was a place he could be successful. It's hard to do what he's done. He's one of the leaders on our team. He played it smart. He didn't come in barking out orders. He's a leader by nature. Our players like him a lot.''
Less is more
When last season ended, St. Mary's center Brad Waldow realized he needed to get in better shape for his senior season. The 6-10 pivot finished last season at 295 pounds but he'll start this one at 268.
"The biggest thing for me was my diet,'' Waldow said. "I met with a nutritionist and a strength and conditioning coach and we changed my diet completely. I gave up sodas completely. I gave up fast food completely and late-night eating.
"I like sugar. I like candy a lot. I substituted candy with smoothies. It's a lot better than Gummy Worms.''
Big shot at BYU
Brigham Young senior guard Tyler Haws is not unlike his school's quarterback until Taysom Hill broke his leg earlier in the season. That is, both players bring versatility to their sports. For Hill, it was running or passing. For Haws, it's scoring from all over the court - layups, set shots, three-pointers.
Haws did it all a year ago in leading the WCC in scoring at 23.2 points per game, good for sixth nationally in Div. I. Some people are suggesting that Haws could even led the nation in scoring this season.
"I just want to win games,'' Haws said. "That's our main goal. Our focus is to win every game we play. I expect to help the team and I think I help us by scoring. I'm looking forward to a good season. I don't feel like there'll be that much pressure this year. We have a lot of talented guys who can score the ball. I'm just going to help any way I can.
"I'd say I'm a scorer. I feel I can score in lots of different ways. I get to the foul line, I score in transition, I have a mid-range game and I'm working on my three-point shot.''
Degree of difficulty
At San Francisco, senior guard Chris Adams has a lot to be proud of. An accomplished long-range shooter, Adams is a beacon of stability as four-year man on the Hilltop. He'll graduate in the spring with a degree in advertising.
John Crumpacker spent more than three decades working at the San Francisco Examiner and San Francisco Chronicle. During his career he has covered the full gamut of sports from prep to professionals. Most recently, Crumpacker served as the beat writer for Cal through the end of the 2013-14 season. In addition to covering 10 Olympic Games, Crumpacker served as the beat writer for the San Francisco 49ers. He is a two-time winner of the Track & Field Writers of America annual writing award and has several APSE Top 10 writing awards.