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Free throw phenom

Osakis’ Isaac Maddock smiles with a few of the trophies he has earned during the Elks Hoop Shoot. (Eric Morken/Echo Press)

Osakis’ Isaac Maddock is only 9 years old, but he is already someone a team might want at the free throw line with a chance to put the game away in the final seconds.

Maddock has proven to be quite a marksman from the stripe while competing in the annual Elks Club Hoop Shoot contest over the past couple months. He’s actually one of the state’s best in his age group after advancing all the way to an upcoming regional shoot in Iowa City.

Maddock, a third-grader in Osakis, has passed three stages to get to that point. Shooters in his 8-9-year-old boys’ division shoot from 11 feet, four feet closer than the actual free-throw line, and Maddock hasn’t allowed much room for error for his opponents.

He hit 22-of-25 shots in the first round of competition at a local shoot in Alexandria. That advanced him to Brainerd for the district shoot, where he went 23-of-25. Next up was the state meet, where he sank 24 of his 25 shots to advance to regions. That was the best out of any of the shooters at the state competition.

“It’s pretty fun,” Isaac said. “It’s really fun to compete against other people. It was pretty hard the last time.”

Actually getting the chance to compete is something that Maddock has been waiting for after watching the game for so many years. Isaac is the son of Sarah Maddock and Osakis varsity tennis coach and boys’ and girls’ junior high basketball coach Ryan Maddock.

Isaac is usually right there on the sidelines waiting to get shots up as Ryan runs his basketball practices after school. The family even parks outside at their house so there is an open spot in the garage for Isaac and his 5-year-old sister to play on their mini hoop during the winter.

“Since he was probably 1 or 2 years old, he’s had a hoop,” Ryan said. “He’s always had a ball in his hands, so we’re kind of seeing the benefits of just always playing. His favorite thing to do is probably just having his mom rebound for him in our driveway. We always try to make sure we keep our driveway clean so when it does warm up, if they want to play outside they can.”

Ask Isaac what his favorite sport is though, and he actually says baseball.

“I’ve been proud of him that he’s done a good job in school and whatever,” Ryan said. “He just bounces into different seasons. It’s basketball time now and then he’s always loved baseball and even played a couple tennis tournaments last summer.”

Ryan said he tells Isaac to not focus on the misses but just make as many free throws as he can going into these contests. Isaac showed off some nice form and a consistent release as he drained shot after shot while practicing in the Osakis gym on February 21.

He shoots free throws almost every day and can get into quite a rhythm. The most shots he has made in a row from that 11-foot distance is 67. That happened when he was practicing a couple weeks before the state shoot in Hutchinson.

“A lot of this has just come from playing outside in the elements and having fun with it,” Ryan said. “It’s pretty fun. To read up on [the Elks Hoop Shoot] and see that it’s this big national competition was pretty cool. When he found out he would have a chance to make it all the way to nationals, he was pretty excited. It’s pretty fun for kids their age.”

Isaac is just one step away from getting to compete at that national level. He will shoot against other state winners from Iowa, Illinois and Wisconsin at the North Central Region 3 competition in Iowa City on March 22. A win there and Maddock would move on to compete at the hoop shoot national finals in Springfield, Massachusetts from April 10-13.

More than three million boys and girls ages 8-13 compete in the Elks Hoop Shoot across the nation every year. In the end, three boys and three girls are crowned national champions and get their names inscribed on a plaque at the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Mass.

Getting this far is already quite an accomplishment. The thought of taking that next step to nationals simply elicits a shy smile from the young sharpshooter.

“That would be really cool if I do that,” Isaac said. “I’m a little nervous.”

Eric Morken

Eric Morken is the sports and outdoor editor at the Echo Press and Osakis Review newspapers in Douglas County, MN. Follow him on Twitter at echo_sports.

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