While it might have seemed like Seth Colclasure never missed a free throw while playing for Decatur (Indiana) Bellmont High School, he came closer to charity stripe perfection than anyone in the history of high school boys basketball.
According to the NFHS’ National High School Sports Record Book, Colclasure holds the records for career three-throw shooting percentage (93.3 percent – made 519 of 554 from 1999 to 2002) and for single-season free-throw shooting percentage (97.7 percent – made 167 of 171 during his junior season in 2000-01).
While spending countless hours in empty gyms shooting literally hundreds of free throws helped crystalize Colclasure’s deadly accurate conversion rate, he had a rather unusual contributing factor to his early development as a free-throw shooter.
“I always credit the beginning of my free-throw shooting success on a broken ankle I suffered playing soccer my freshman year in high school,” Colclasure said. “After getting the cast off of my leg, I wore a protective boot. I would still go to open gyms during the fall and since I was still unable to run due to my injury, the only option I really had was to shoot free throws. Over a one- to two-hour open gym, I might shoot 500-plus free throws. Someone would rebound for me, and most of the time that would be [Bellmont High School boys basketball] Coach Busick while the rest of the guys worked out. He would challenge me to free-throw shooting contests.
“Coach Busick was a really good free-throw shooter himself, although I honestly don't know if he ever beat me in a best-out-of-100 free-throw shooting contest. I recall during one open gym, I made 260 free throws in a row with a boot on. So, I always look back at that point in my career as the time when my free-throw shooting really started to take shape.”
Coach Busick giving direction to the Bellmont High School boys basketball team in its East Noble game in which Colclasure played the entire 52 minutes
Similar to many great free-throw shooters, Colclasure developed certain routines that yielded successful results for him.
“My mindset for shooting free throws was ‘routine’ or to do the same thing every time,” Colclasure said. “So much so that you somewhat train the muscles in your body to the point where you felt you could make it with your eyes closed. My routine was simple - three bounces, bend my knees slightly and shoot.
“Along with the physical routine aspect, I also developed a mental routine. My mental routine consisted of thinking about the physical routine. As an example, when I received the ball from the official, my mind would focus purely on the physical routine. I would focus and concentrate on the rim, count the number of ball bounces in my head, or visualize the result.”
“Seth Colclasure was the smartest basketball player I've ever coached in my 23 years as a head coach in the state of Indiana,” Busick said. “He thoroughly understood small details and intricacies of the game that most players never figure out. His ‘hoops IQ’ was off the charts and his level of focus and concentration was among the highest of any player who ever played the game. He also possessed a beautiful, fundamentally sound shot.
“Seth's level of focus and concentration were unmatched. This was the key to his free-throw shooting success. When he got to the foul line, he never thought about the score, the situation, etc. He put his focus and concentration on his process of shooting a free throw. He did the same thing every time without exception. Seth's shooting mechanics were flawless. Everything was ‘right’ about his shot.”
Over the years, Busick and Colclasure engaged in numerous memorable free-throw shooting contests, including when he first beat his coach as a freshman.
“Seth missed his second free throw that day and I thought he had no chance to beat me, as I regularly hit 94 to 98 out of 100,” Busick recalled. “He didn't miss again.”
“I was leading, 70-69, after 70, and I began to get nervous and lost focus. I missed two of my next 10, so he went up, 79-78, with 20 to go. I hit all 20 and finished 98-100. I would be willing to ‘bet the farm’ that not too many people would beat me with a score of 98, but Seth did. He went 99-for-100. With that 98 in a row, he continued to shoot and ended up hitting 260 in a row! At that point, I knew he was going to be a very special player.”
Under Coach Busick’s direction and Colclasure’s on-court presence, Bellmont enjoyed a successful four years. During Colclasure’s freshman season in 1998-99, the Braves went 14-8 and won the sectional. The following year, Bellmont finished 12-8, but didn’t win its sectional.
During 2000-01, the Braves went 20-4 and won the sectional, but lost in the first round of regional play. During his senior campaign, Colclasure helped Bellmont to a 22-2 win-loss record, a sectional titles and share of the conference title. The team lost in the second round of the regional.
Shown above are the seniors on the 2001-02 Bellmont High School boys basketball team with Colclasure wearing No. 22 and coach Busick holding the basketball
As a 6-foot-1, 170-pound senior, Colclasure averaged 27 points, six rebounds and six assists, while shooting 50 percent from the floor and 93 percent from the free-throw line. He finished with a school-record 2,207 points, which upon his graduation ranked 12th all-time in Indiana history. For Colclasure, high school basketball provided many positive memories that transcended mere statistics.
“As a player, what I enjoyed the most was playing games in packed gymnasiums in front of family, friends and classmates,” Colclasure recalled. “I also enjoyed all of the off-court memories with my teammates. Many of my teammates were my best friends with whom who I played various other sports, including basketball from the time we were eight years old. So, it was great to get to share success with the guys I grew up with.
“I enjoy many things about the game of basketball. First off, I enjoy the tempo at which the game is played. The game plays at a mostly uninterrupted fast pace with normally high intensity levels. I really enjoy the up-and-down, back-and-forth style.
“Another aspect I like about basketball is the combined team/individualism the game allows. It's a team sport, but can be dominated by individual performances more easily than other sports. It could be you against the man you are matched up with, but sometimes it can feel like you against the other team.”
In tight games, coach Busick frequently looked to Colclasure to help create a positive outcome to the contest.
“During late game situations, the ball was ALWAYS in Seth's hands,” Busick said. “We won several games with Seth sealing victories from the free-throw line.
“Interestingly, he probably holds another national record that hasn't ever been confirmed. In a five-OT win against East Noble High School, Seth had nine points going into overtime. He ended the game with 27 points and did NOT have a field goal in the overtimes. He was 18-for-18 from the free-throw line. More incredible is the fact that he NEVER came out of the game. He played all 52 minutes in the game, yet did not miss a free throw. That is incredible!”
Following high school, Colclasure played for Valparaiso (Indiana) University. Attracted by the history and success of it men’s basketball program, Colclasure also was sold by the fact that Valparaiso offered an engineering major, which was the area of study in which he was interested.
“Overall, at college I was mainly a ‘shooter,’” Colclasure noted. “I did play some point guard during various phases, but I was mainly a ‘catch-and-shoot-type player.’
During Colclasure’s first two seasons, Valparaiso won back-to-back Mid-Continent Conference titles and garnered NIT and NCAA bids, respectively. Colclasure also enjoyed great success in the classroom with a 3.8 grade-point average.
“My greatest memory of playing at Valparaiso was being part of the NCAA tournament,” Colclasure recalled. “Having watched the tournament every year as a child growing up, it was an absolute dream getting to be a part of it. Even though we lost first round (Gonzaga beat us up pretty good) it was still an amazing experience.
These days, Colclasure is a family man with a wife and two sons.
“My wife, Kelly, was a four-year starting pitcher for the Bellmont varsity softball team,” Colclasure said. “She also played varsity volleyball her junior and senior years. So, she has a strong athletic background.
“Kelly and I are blessed with two beautiful boys – Deyton, who is five and Graham, who is three. A lot of people ask me if I have them playing or shooting a basketball yet. I tell them that they do enjoy playing, but if you gave them the choice to dribble/shoot a basketball versus riding their bikes and just being kids, they would choose the latter every time. I'm sure there will come a point when they become more interested, but it hasn't happened yet.”
John Gillis is the associate director of development of the NFHS. If you have any comments or articles ideas, please forward them to Gillis at firstname.lastname@example.org