The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

Sports

April 28, 2012

Hoop dreams

Ashtabula County’s and Ohio’s best free-throw shooter, Lindsey Mayle, is at Elks national championships today in Mass.

Lindsey Mayle enjoys a challenge. That’s a good thing considering the 13-year-old eighth grader from Geneva Middle School will be facing the 11 best 12- and 13-year-old free-throw shooters in the country at the Elks National Hoop Shoot Finals today in Springfield, Mass.

“When it’s a challenge (between my competitors and I), it’s more fun,” the daughter of Tim and Debbie Mayle said.

“I’m a little nervous, but I’m also excited to get down there because even I lose there, we’re all winners.”

The Hoop Shoot gives competitors 25 free-throw attempts. The contestant who makes the most, wins. The crowd is asked to remain quiet while the shooters take their shots.

“In the gym, they tell everybody to be quiet so the shooters can concentrate on their shot,” Mayle said. “It kind of feels like everyone is staring at you when you’re shooting.”

Mayle’s journey to the national event began with a win at the Ashtabula Hoop Shoot in February. She won the state competition in March and the regional event in Angola, Ind., earlier this month.

It’s the first time Mayle made it past the state competition.

“Last year, I made states,” she said. “I practiced a lot more (this year) and I have more experience.

“The goal (this year) was to get to nationals. I knew if I kept practicing, I could get there. I knew I had the skill and ability to get there.”

Mayle wants to continue her winning streak.

“I want to win the Getty-Powell Award,” she said. “That’s for the highest female scorer of the day. If you win that, you get sent to Austin to make a speech in front of the National Elks organization.

“And, of course, that means you win the national championship.”

Mayle is the youngster sister of Duke guard Shay Selby and has tapped that connection for help along the way.

“My sister’s always been helpful, considering she’s really good at shooting. She tells me what I’m doing wrong and what needs fixed,” Mayle said.

Selby will not be at the competition.

“She’s recovering from knee surgery and really can’t drive to go there,” Mayle said.

Mayle will also be without her biggest fan on the trip. Her mom will have to wait for updates at home.

“I don’t allow her to come,” Mayle said. “The only free-throw competition she came to, I lost, so I consider her bad luck. She doesn’t really like it. She wants to come, but I won’t let her.”

Mayle will have family support, though.

“My dad and my brother will be there,” Mayle said. “They spend countless hours in the gym with me. Everywhere I go, they’re always there for me.

“(My mom) is so supportive. I know she really wants to go. It’s just a superstition.”

Mayle has appreciated the support of Elks along her journey.

“I’m so thankful for everything they’ve done,” she said. “It’s an amazing event and it’s run so well.

“Bill Kovacs, the state chairman, has been so supportive of me.”

Free throws are tough in game situations, but the level of difficulty increases in the Hoop Shoot environment.

“You have to have complete concentration,” Mayle said. “It takes so much focus to stand in front of the hoop and shoot free throws over and over again. You try to perfect it as much as you can.

“It’s so quiet when you’re in the gym. My dad tries to make everything quiet for me when I practice so it’s like the competition.”

The Hoop Shoot has gotten Mayle recognition from a special source.

“Ohio State actually sent me a greeting online,” she said. “That means a lot to me because I want to go to school at Ohio State. I was really happy and excited.”  

Ettinger is a freelance writer from Ashtabula.

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