It wasn’t just the fact that his boys basketball team was one step closer to making the playoffs that contributed to Bill McKee’s sunny mood this past weekend; it was also the gift of a $7,500 Dr. Dish shooting and rebounding machine that made its debut Saturday morning at Biddy basketball practice at the John M. Marshall Elementary School.
The versatile apparatus, which collects balls in a conically shaped mesh net (whose height is set so as to accept only correctly arced shots) and passes them out to whichever spot or spots on the court that it is programmed to do, was given to the boys and girls basketball programs, said McKee, by the East Hampton Youth Basketball and Football Association.
“They raised the money in just three weeks. . . . It’s fantastic, an incredible gift that will help all of our kids, boys and girls, become better players. I really don’t know how to say thank you.”
“You can see,” he said to an observer, as Dr. Dish fed a ball out every three seconds to a long file of boys standing at the top of the key, “how the kids are taking to it. They’ve got off 280 shots already in — how long have you been here? — 15 or so minutes.”
McKee said that the machine’s chief advantage lay in enabling a shooter “to get off a lot of shots, from one part of the court or from different parts of the court — it can rotate left to right or right to left — in a short period of time.”
McKee’s assistant, Bob Vacca, considered one of the best pure shooters ever to come out of Suffolk County, seconded that. “Once, at a Y camp in Montana, I set out to shoot 1,000 shots in one day,” Vacca said. “It took me all day — eight hours. I was feeding myself. With this machine, you can shoot 1,000 shots in an hour. And it won’t let you shoot line drives. The higher the arc the more consistent your shot will be. You’ll get a softer arc on your shot without even thinking about it.”
“These machines [manufactured by Airborne Athletics of Burnsville, Minn.] have been around for a while, a lot of college programs use them, but this is the most updated version,” he added.
“We’ll use it for all our youth teams, for junior high, and for junior varsity and varsity, boys and girls,” said McKee, “and it should prove to be a great incentive to practice in the off-season. Our summertime goal is to take 20,000 shots as a program. . . . It will also be used in fund-raisers.”
And then, turning to the present basketball campaign, McKee said of last Thursday’s 48-40 win at Miller Place, “It was an ugly win, but, as I like to say, an ugly win is better than a pretty loss.”
“We had Thomas King back for the first time in three games, and his four foul shots at the end of the game kept us in the lead.”
“It was a win we needed to have if we’re to make the playoffs, which is our goal. We need to win two of our final four to do it.”
“We’ve got Shoreham-Wading River at home Tuesday — they beat us by 4 points at their place. But, as I’ve been saying all season, it’s the team that comes to play that’s going to win in this league. Last night, John Glenn, which only had two wins, beat Bayport, which was in second place. We beat Miller Place 60-39 at our place and they took us down to the wire at theirs, and they’ve got no league wins. . . . You’ve got to be ready to play every night.”
Miller Place, he said, had played man-for-man defense the entire game, and doubled the ball at times. Consequently, the Bonackers, who went 20-for-60 from the field, didn’t shoot well.
Rolando Garces led the winners with 15 points. King had 14 and Brendan Hughes had 10 to go with 8 rebounds. “He’s become a very steady contributor for us,” said McKee. “He’s not flashy, but at the end of every game, when you look at the scorebook, you’ll see he’s had 10 points and 8 rebounds, or thereabouts.”
Thomas Nelson was the leading rebounder at Miller Place, with 12 boards.
“It was a good win for us, one that we needed to have,” said McKee.