Ali Thomas Shooting Clinic Launches Next Gen Sharpshooters

Updated: Aug 29, 2019


Ali Thomas' inaugural shooting clinic was a huge success by any measure. The clinic was well attended with all twenty-four spots filled including a few scholarship athletes. All the kids seemed to enjoy the experience and felt that they had improved their shooting skills. Parents were pleased with their children's performances both during the clinic, and outside the clinic playing with their respective teams. The coaches were happy with the young athletes' response to their curriculum, with their ability to grasp the concepts, and with their successful development of skills. Even neutral, third-party observers noticed improvement in their play. Most impressive were the numbers. As a group, the young cagers initially shot 18%, and by the final session, they were shooting 43%, a significant improvement.



St. Cecilia's second grader Napolean Cabading works on his footwork.

Although numbers don't lie, they don't always tell the whole story, and each student's experience at Coach Thomas' clinic was slightly different. A case in point are the brother and sister tandem of Napolean and Dominique Cabading. Napolean, a second grader at St. Cecilia's, appreciated being taught the correct shooting technique by a shooting expert. The experience removed the mystery and uncertainty of the learning process for him. Now he is happy to be able to focus on practicing what he knows is the right way.



Dominique Cabading getting reps with pros.

When Dominique was asked what she liked most about the clinic, she responded swiftly and succinctly, "Reps with pros." Dominique is a serious basketball player, and as a freshman at Lick Wilmerding High School, she is playing on the Girl's Varsity Team. She valued the feedback from professional coaches in real time. Yet, similar to her younger brother, she found it reassuring, even confidence building, that she is now equipped with a shooting routine that has been developed and used successfully by a professional basketball player.



Michael Cinco working with Coach Ali Thomas

Some of the players have already achieved results which they attribute to their newly acquired skills. Michael Cinco, a fourth grader at St. Stephen's, credited the shooting clinic with his making St. Stephen's 4th Grade A Team. Michael's father, Leo Cinco, shared that his son's improvement was so noticeable that a parent of one of Michael's teammates asked Leo what Michael was doing to make such dramatic progress.



Caden Hutcherson goes ham!

Another young baller from the clinic, Caden Hutcherson, had a similar experience. Caden, a sixth grader at St. Ignatius Academy, has already developed a passion for the game. Recently, when asked by MAD Director John Murray if he was able to put any of his newly learned techniques to use in his most recent C.Y.O. game, Caden responded, "Oh yeah. I went ham!"


In addition to the positive feedback from the kids participating, some of their parents were also impressed with what the shooting clinic had to offer. Sean Duffy thought that training with professional coaches in a first rate facility provided a tremendous opportunity for his son Dylan, a sixth grader at St. Cecilias who plays on their Sixth Grade A Team. Again, Leo Cinco, who has coached various youth sports for over 20 years, including basketball, was impressed with how each drill was demonstrated, then redemonstrated, and then repeatedly reinforced so that it was impossible that each young athlete did not know the fundamentals of form shooting by the end of the clinic.


Mr. Cinco was also impressed with the clinic's use of video to provide feedback. During his own coaching career, he has used video feedback with much success. Coach Thomas is a big proponent of visualization, and he believes video can be an effective tool in teaching the shooting form. Sometimes what athletes see in their minds eye and what they feel are not consistent with the physical reality. The use of video feedback can help them calibrate their proprioception.



Aspiring sharshooters practice one of the clinic's many footwork drills.

Coach Thomas, who created the curriculum, was assisted by another lethal shooter, MAD Strength and Conditioning Coach Emily Easom. As lovers of basketball, and shooting in particular, both coaches were glad to see the players so wholeheartedly embrace the program. Coach Thomas was concerned that some of them might get discouraged by the clinic's emphasis on footwork. However, Thomas observed that kids are pretty smart, and he was relieved that once they saw the benefits of all the footwork, they bought into it. Few things breed success like success.


Thomas played eight years of professional basketball in the EuroLeague, won more ProAm Championships than any other player in history, and still holds U.S.F.'s records for most threes made in a regular season (75) and most threes made in a career (235). Although he remains a deadly shooter to this day, it took him years to develop his shooting technique and his indispensible shooting routine. He is thrilled to be able to share his knowledge with the young athletes. More than anything else, he wanted the clinic to provide every player with an effective shooting routine for them to use when practicing on their own. "In order to become better shooters, players are going to have to practice thousands of hours on their own. I wanted to provide them with a routine which would help them maximize their solo practice time."



MAD Strength and Conditioning Coach Emily Easom conducting a drill at Ali Thomas Shooting Clinic

Coach Easom, who is an accomplished basketball player herself, was enthusiastic about being able to offer this amazing opportunity to young players, "Kids of all ages get the opportunity to improve shooting form and footwork. It’s refreshing to see young athletes of all skill levels strictly working to just get better and improve their game of basketball."

Like Coach Thomas, Easom was also a knockdown shooter in high school and college. As a matter of fact, not only does she hold the Portland State Women's Basketball records for the most threes made in a single game (7), and the most threes made in a career (135), she still owns Marin Catholic's records among boys and girls for most threes made in a season (71) and most threes made in a career (177 ). Being a fellow sharpshooter, Coach Easom appreciates Coach Thomas's attention to the details of shooting fundamentals and to the importance of regular practice, "Coach Ali Thomas constantly reminds his athletes that even what may seem like the simplest of drills still need work. You can never be too good at form shooting."

Along with their young trainees, Coaches Thomas and Easom also learned a few things during this first session. Although they considered this first clinic to be an unqualified success, they also noticed some subtle ways in which they might enhance some of their drills. Always looking to improve, they are eager to fine-tune the curriculum for the next clinic.


With the overwhelmingly favorable response to the first session, Thomas's shooting clinic looks to become part of the regular curriculum. The second clinic began on January 11, and there are still a few openings available. A third clinic is scheduled to begin in March. If you would like to register for one of the shooting clinics, or if you have any questions regarding the clinics please visit this link or contact Coach Ali Thomas at athomas@siprep.org.