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Airrrr Ballll: HS basketball players dish on the embarrassment of missing everything



Whitney Young (Chicago) star Jahlil Okafor says the best way to play off putting up an air ball is to pretend he was fouled. / AP

Kameron Chatman is reluctant to admit it at first, but a few seconds in and he’s fessing up with a laugh.

It’s relative.

No one -- least of all someone who is know for his shooting ability -- wants to admit that, at least once in their hoops career, they’ve launched a jump shot that’s failed to hit anything in the gym.

“Maaaaan, shooting an air ball has got to be the worst feeling in the world,” said Chatman, a junior shooting guard at Long Beach Poly. “I mean it actually makes me feel kinda sick. Now it doesn’t happen often, but when it does, it’s something that’s indescribable.”

The worst part?

The classic “Aiiiiir baaaaall” chant from the crowd.

MORE: Kickers on what it's like to miss

“That reminder from the crowd is the absolute worst,” said Holmes County forward Chris Walker. “They keep it going too. For that reason I’ve got to say shooting an air ball is the most embarrassing thing ever. We try and forget about those real quick.”

We caught up with a handful of players and had them relive the ultimate embarrassment of launching an air ball. They then dished on fail-proof methods to play it off.

Kameron Chatman, Long Beach Poly (Long Beach, Calif.), 2014

Signed to: Undecided

The Initial Reaction: “I just start looking around and shake my head. It’s the worst. Everyone is laughing, or at least you think they are. I am just feeling really embarrassed and I jog back down the court. It’s a long jog though.”

The Play-off: “The best thing to do is to turn into the best defender on the court. You’ve got to go lock your man up and maybe force a turnover or something. You’ve got to make up for that so you’ve got to get that turnover, and it has to be on that next possession.”

Jahlil Okafor, Whitney Young (Chicago), 2014

Signed to: Undecided

The Initial Reaction: “I look at the fans to see what they’re doing and they’re usually laughing. I kind of just laugh a little and run back down the court. Whatever you’re doing it’s all to minimize the embarrassment, but the truth is you can’t.”

MORE: Jahlil Okafor blog

The Play-off: “The best way to play the air ball off is to pretend like the defender fouled you. That’s a good one because most of the time someone is jumping to try and block your shot so you just tirn to the ref and hit your hand is if you’re showing him what just happened. You’ve got to sell it, but it can work.”

Chris Walker, Holmes County (Bonifay, Fla.), 2013

Signed to: Florida

The Initial Reaction: “I start laughing. I try and go ahead and laugh before the fans start up. Ya know, just trying to get ahead of that embarrassment. I try and brush it off, but that’s kinda hard.”

The Play-off: “You’ve got to fake an injury. Just pretend that your arm was hurting or something like that. You’ve just got the squint like you’re in pain or something like that. I think that can work.”

Jonathan Milligan, Mount Zion (Durham, N.C.), 2013

Signed to: Undecided

The Initial Reaction: “I’m pretty much beyond embarrassed. Shooting an air ball checks your ego really quick. I’m thinking to myself ‘I may need to drive from now on.’ You try and shake it off, but then the crowd start chanting and it’s harder then. It’s like that butterfly feeling in your stomach. It’s not a good feeling at all.”  

The Play-off: “What I do is tap my hand and turn to my coach and the ref like he missed the foul. That’s what most guys do knowing that they just shot an air ball. It’s all you’ve got at that moment though. You’ve got to look mad while you’re saying it to the ref too. It helps that there’s no instant replay in high school.”  

Follow Jason Jordan on Twitter @JayJayUSATODAY.

 

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