The Free Press, Mankato, MN

MFP Sports Extra

March 15, 2014

Left or right? Doesn't matter with MSU's Wooten

MSU senior makes the most of his shots, no matter which hand he uses

MANKATO — Gage Wooten releases a 3-pointer from the left wing, and it swishes. A few minutes later, the Minnesota State senior goes to the free-throw line and makes two.

Wait a minute! Didn’t he shoot that 3-pointer with his left hand? And didn’t he shoot righthanded on the free throws?

Yes and yes.

“I’ve kind of got an ugly game,” Wooten said.

Wooten, a 6-foot-4 wing, is one of the Mavericks’ key players heading into the Central Region tournament, which begins today at Minnesota State’s Bresnan Arena. The No. 1-seeded Mavericks take on Harding (15-14) in the 5 p.m. quarterfinal today.

Minnesota State coach Matt Margenthaler said he’s never seen another player that, purposely, shoots from the perimeter with one hand and free throws with another. When he went to recruit Wooten at Missouri State-West Plains junior college, assistant Pat Monaghan warned the head coach.

“When I saw (Wooten), I said to coach Monaghan, ‘Did he just shoot with a different hand,’” Margenthaler said. “It’s crazy, but his percentages are off the charts, shooting with both hand. He’s very efficient.”

Wooten taught himself to use his left hand after a third surgery on his right shoulder, back in high school, and he’s become pretty good at it. This season, he’s made 46.3 percent of his tries from behind the arc.

“I’d always shot with my right hand, but after the last surgery, I got pretty good with my left hand,” Wooten said. “My (junior college) coach thought I was crazy.”

Everything else on the court, and away from it, he does with his right hand. He’s making 82.5 percent of his free throws, using his right hand with a strong assist by his left.

“It doesn’t look like it should feel comfortable,” Wooten said. “Everybody used to make fun of me.”

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