Subject Line (article title)
Send to (required)E-mail
Send from (required)E-mail
You see Josh Ruggles take one three-point shot, you've seen him take them all.
Fingers cradling the ball, shoulders square, elbow in, the Wheaton Academy basketball player bends his knees, elevates his slight 6-foot-1, 150-pound frame and lofts the ball toward the hoop almost 20 feet away. He does this hundreds of times each day, thousands of times each week.
You can see the result in the online video of the 16-year-old junior making a record 135 three-pointers in 5 minutes while missing only 12 shots. That video, shot by his younger brother Jake and featuring his older brother Brandon as his rebounder, has gone viral with a quarter-million views on YouTube.
"I've gotten so many texts and tweets from people I don't even know," Josh says. "It's crazy."
But it seems natural for the Ruggles family. Basketball plays such an important role in their lives that the custom-made basement under their garage in Wheaton houses half a basketball court with a sports-tile floor, a professional wall-mounted basketball goal and an 18-foot ceiling.
"When they were younger, I'd set up shooting regimens for them and give them rewards if they did it," says dad Dave Ruggles, 44, who was a prolific scorer when he was a high-school player in the South suburbs.
Brandon, a muscular 6-foot-3 guard, ended up being one of the leading rebounders in the state during his senior year at Wheaton Academy, but he will play only intramural basketball now that he is starting his freshman year at the University of Notre Dame. Josh was a key scorer on Wheaton Academy's varsity team as a sophomore and won the state's three-point shooting King of the Hill competition. Jake, 14, is expected to play on the freshman team this year, while his 12-year-old sister, Kylie, should be on the seventh-grade team. Brady, 9, is a fourth-grader just starting his basketball career.
"We'll have 20 games some weekends," says mom Holly Ruggles, noting the kids play on all sorts of elite travel teams. She has a full-time job as a marketing manager for a health-care company. Her husband runs heating and air-conditioning companies and does a little real estate business. Basketball is in the genes.
Josh's grandfather, Dick Ruggles, who now lives near St. Louis, was drafted by the New York Yankees and played a couple of years of minor league baseball, but his bigger athletic accomplishment might have been making the University of Kansas basketball team. Even so, if you do an online search for the words Ruggles and basketball, the new video of Josh pops up first.
"God gave him the ability to do something special," Wheaton Academy Coach Pete Froedden says of Josh's three-point prowess.
While good long-distance shooters often clang more than half their shots off the rim, even most of Josh's errant shots float through the air and gently land on the iron before rolling off.
"He has the softest ball in the air I've ever seen," says Froedden, who scored 1,053 points in his career as a point guard for high-scoring Lipscomb University teams in Nashville, Tenn., from 1987-91. "Some shots look like a butterfly with sore feet."
The teenager aims to take 200 three-point shots and 300 other shots during practice each day.
"There's a nonstop voice coming up from our basement: 'Can somebody rebound?'" Holly Ruggles says.
And there are always critics. Jake, who shot the video according to his older brothers' suggestions, has been ripped by some online commenters for holding the camera in a vertical position instead of recording a more traditional horizontal shot. A few critics suggest it is "easy" for Josh to make 92 percent of his three-point shots when he never moves from the top of the key and has no one guarding him.
Clearly, Josh won't shoot that well during games, but hitting 40 percent of three-point shots in a game is the same as making 60 percent of two-point shots, notes Froedden. Josh and his coach say they'll work on shooting quicker, from different spots, while on the move, with a hand in Josh's face. Wheaton Academy, a private Christian school in West Chicago, has sported winning basketball teams in its cozy gymnasium for years. This year's team has high goals, and Josh doesn't even have to take a shot to help the offense.
"Other teams knowing I can shoot threes can open up things for our big men because we've got a lot of good bigs," Josh says.
Leading scorer Gordon Behr, a 6-foot-8 senior forward from Winfield, has a good chance to play Division 1 college ball, Froedden says. A college scholarship could be in Josh's future, too. His record-setting video certainly garners him attention, especially from rival teams.
"He's not going to get a lot of open threes this year," his dad predicts.
Brandon and Jake say they had as much fun as Josh in making the video. They laugh as they recall Jake having to correct his counts on the rare times Josh's shots didn't go in. "He was as shocked as the rest of us when Josh missed," Brandon says.
"I knew I didn't miss for a while," says Josh, who sank 37 straight during one stretch. "I almost feel like a machine, and do the same thing every time."
Josh, who also is a good student, says he won't let his video celebrity get in the way of what he must do now.
"I need," Josh says, itching to get back to practicing, "to work on my weaknesses."