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Chinanu Onuaku Makes Waves with Underhand Free Throws

He’s not exactly Rick Barry, but he does it well.

NBA: Houston Rockets at Minnesota Timberwolves Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

Chinanu Onuaku is a longshot to make the Portland Trail Blazers roster, but if free-throw shooting factors into the decision, the 6’10 center has it made. At the conclusion of Portland’s annual FanFest intra-squad scrimmage on Sunday night, Dwight Jaynes of NBCSportsNW chronicled the beauty of Onuaku’s underhand form, popularized by Hall-of-Fame guard Rick Barry but seldom seen since his heyday in the 1970’s.

Underhand form is often criticized as deviant, but studies say it’s a better approach than the traditional shot, especially for big men. As Jaynes chronicles, Onuaku’s potential teammates have no problem with the phenomenon. Several appear to be in awe.

Asked Sunday night after Fan Fest if he’d ever played with or against or even seen somebody shoot a foul shot that way, Portland’s Maurice Harkless said, “For real? No.”

“And not only shoot them but make them,” Harkless said. “He’s really good at it.


Al-Farouq Aminu smiled wide when asked about Onuaku’s free throws.

“It’s a beautiful thing to see,” Aminu said. “I love it when it goes in. It’s almost like a trick shot but it isn’t.

“I don’t think anyone else in the world does it. It’s reliable. I appreciate his willingness to do it.”

Jaynes’ article includes more quotes, including from Damian Lillard.

Selected by the Houston Rockets 37th overall in the 2016 NBA Draft, Onuaku has appeared in only 6 regular-season games over his two-year career. During that time he’s attempted 4 free throws, hitting every one of them.