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St. Louis U. v  Duquesne

St. Louis University head coach Travis Ford. Photo by Chris Lee, clee@post-dispatch.com

When individual workouts with players began two weeks ago, St. Louis University coach Travis Ford initiated a project that no one outside of the program could have seen coming.

He is breaking down the jump shot of every player on the roster, introducing some drills he used as a kid and trying to turn every Billiken into a confident 3-point shooter. All of them.

"We're going to need to play with a little more freedom," Ford said. "We've been predictable offensively because we've had so many sets. I want to open it up a little more. ... I'm not saying we'll let them go out and shoot four or five a game, but if they're open I want them to have confidence to do that."

The surprises so far: center Luis Santos and forward Hasahn French. But everyone is in on the act.

Ford said he starts individual workouts with form shooting. He makes sure players get their arms in position and keep their elbows in and then "shoot" to a coach. He then has players lay on their backs and shoot upward. It's a drill Ford did constantly as a kid.

"When you shoot up, it should come back to you," Ford said. "If not, your elbow is out or you're not following through. It's something I did in my bedroom every day."

Ford has few players to work with these days. Only five -- Santos, French, D.J. Foreman, Javon Bess and Jalen Johnson -- are available for workouts. Elliott Welmer is getting close to a return but the medical staff is taking things as slow as possible after he missed the entire season with a repeat foot injury.

The players who will return for the 2018-19 season made a combined 31.4 percent of their 3-pointers last season. A group of incoming guards should help that statistic but Ford might try to make the offense more of a 3-for-all.

"With Hasahn, people are going to think I'm completely out of my mind because of his free-throw shooting," Ford said. "He can really shoot it. We're working on it. A lot of successful teams have given guys the freedom to do that. Watch Villanova. A lot of those guys weren't 3-point shooters until they got there. We've broken down everyone's shot more than I ever have and we're doing fundamentals and mechanics."

Johnson was a successful perimeter shooter last season and made 39.4 percent of his 3s. Bess had his moments but shot only 27 percent beyond the arc. French and Foreman attempted one each and missed.

Foreman took an occasional 3-pointer during his two seasons at Rutgers, making six of 15. Santos missed two attempts at South Florida before transferring and sitting out a year.

"Hasahn and Luis are shooting very much consistently," Ford said of the workouts. "Right now no one is guarding them. A few things have helped Hasahn with his form a little bit, but it takes a little while to get used to. Luis has always had a very soft shot and very good form. He's always been good from 10 to 15 feet. We're just expanding it."