Stuck at home for the foreseeable future, Leah Church figured her mini hoop could get some use.
So she dug it out of the basement, hung it on a door in her upstairs bonus room and started shooting. An hour later, the UNC women’s basketball player had a “backwards quarantine edition” trick shot video that — like many of her other feats — made the rounds on Twitter and Instagram.
In the 12-second clip, Church stands a good 10 feet away from the goal and sinks four straight shots with her back turned. She edited in some “Jump Around” music, and just like that, the guard whose team has dubbed her its “backwards baller” had another highlight.
On Tuesday, Church, a junior reserve guard, spoke with The Daily Tar Heel about that clip, her other shooting records and UNC’s season at large, among other topics. The interview has been lightly edited for brevity and clarity.
So how did this mini-hoop idea originate?
I had seen, on Instagram, the #InHouseChallenge. It was just a lot of people doing trick shots — Trae Young doing the 3-point contest with socks and a trash can, I think, and all these different things. So I was like, ‘How about I put a twist on my backwards shot that went viral back in August and try it on a mini hoop indoors?' It was actually more difficult than shooting on a regular goal. The balls are really small and also, with the ceiling, you can't really mess up on your arc or it'll hit the top. It actually took me — I don't know how many tries — about an hour. I was just up there playing around. I would get two or three in a row, but I wanted to hit four, so that's what took me a bit longer to achieve.
What's the key to a backwards shot like that?
It's still like your own shot, which is weird. It's lining yourself up to start with, because obviously I don't use a mirror or anything, so I can't even see where the goal is. Just kind of lining yourself up and just trying to get the feel, the consistency of how you shot the first one and keep that the same throughout the next three.
So when you were shooting, were you able to see if you made the shots?
No, I just listened. Whenever I heard the net move or heard the backboard, I just kept shooting the next ones. so I actually didn't know for sure that I hit all four of them, but I went ahead and acted like I did. Then when I watched the video, I was like, 'Oh yes, I did hit all of them.’ I thought I had, but I wasn't 100 percent sure.
Can you take me through the other backwards shot in August?
That one, I was totally not even trying to do it. I was outside with my mom and sister actually, and I told Mom, ‘Just record this. I want to hit two backwards shots in a row,’ because I'd hit one in the past, just playing around. I kept shooting, had my sister passing me the balls. I was like, ‘Taylor, keep passing as long as I keep hitting.’ I only had three basketballs, so I actually ran out. That's why I stopped at three ... I was just killing time outside with my family, playing around ... I shared it to Instagram, and it went from there.
Are people routinely trying to challenge your 3-point record?
I haven’t kept up with it. If the 3-point record (32 makes in one minute) was broken, I would hear about it. But honestly, I'm confident in it. If it does get broken, I'll definitely try to break it again.
What are your general reflections on this past season for UNC women's basketball?
Obviously, we didn't exactly end the season like we wanted to (on an eight-game losing streak), but there were a lot of positives throughout. The team really stuck together. There was never a time we gave up or quit. We kept working hard in practice, in the film room, in the weight room. I was really proud of my team for that, for staying together and working hard. With Coach (Courtney) Banghart's first year, there were a lot of adjustments, I know, for her and for us. But I felt that overall it was a successful first year, and something we can build on going into my senior year with the freshmen we have coming in and the talent we have coming back. It's just looking up from here. It’s excitement.
I noticed the interesting stat that you only took 3-pointers and free throws until really late in the season. Was that something you were aware of?
Yeah, I think it was through the first (23) games that I hadn't even attempted a two-point field goal. I was aware of it, but I'm a 3-point shooter. Yes, I'm going to start expanding my game, but that's what I do. I was aware of it, and so when I did hit my first two-pointer, I was aware that was my first … Definitely, I want to expand that more so I’m not just 3-pointers and free throws. But when you're a 3-point shooter, you're a 3-point shooter (laughs).
What's the team been doing communication-wise and workout-wise through this crazy time?
We're starting up weekly Zoom meetings with the entire team and coaching staff. I'm excited to get talking with the freshmen and my teammates, who I haven't seen in a couple weeks. As far as workouts go, Coach Jason (Beaulieu), our strength coach, sends each of us a (voluntary) weekly workout. He knows what equipment we have available, then he tweaks each individual workout to the equipment we have, which is very beneficial. We normally talk to him each week and do a progress report update, as well as with Coach Banghart, so everybody can stay on the page.
Last one — are there any more interesting trick shots on deck?
As of now, there's not any until I see something else on the internet or Instagram. You never know. So we'll stay up to date with that — we'll see.
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