William Killian always has had a passion for theater and basketball.
The 70-year-old Indiana native spent 52 years in theater activities, including live stage, television and movies. You may have seen him in Streetcar Named Desire at Arizona Theater Company, or in On Golden Pond or A Christmas Carol with the Catalina Players, among others.
He also played basketball in the tiny Indiana community of Tyner, 35 miles southwest of South Bend, at Indiana Wesleyan College and one year in the Continental League, one of the predecessors to the present NBA Developmental League.
Oh, yes! Killian also is an ordained Methodist clergyman. He was pastor at three Chicago area congregations before a stint as chaplain at a Catholic hospital in Anderson, Ind. The chaplain work is what brought him to Tucson in 1980: a position he held for 20-plus years at Tucson Medical Center.
Some friends also call him The Free Throw Doctor – and he's still using that tag.
"Back in March 1987, Indiana beat Syracuse in the NCAA basketball championship game. Keith Smart made a 16-foot baseline jump shot from the left-hand corner with five seconds left to seal a 74-73 win. It was perfect form."
That shot proved to be a real turn-on for Killian. "After the game, I went to Cross Junior High (not far from his home near the Ina / La Cañada intersection) and made 54 free throws in a row."
Thus the start of his obsession with the science of shooting and making free throws.
Over the last 20 years, he's read many of the experts – including full-time Dallas Mavericks free throw coach Gary Boren – and devised his own nine-point method for making the 15-foot shot from the free throw line. And he's good at it too, making about 28 of 30 attempts while explaining his theory.
Killian's keys to ongoing success?
"Fluidity and authority with the legs as the factory for energy. The perfect shot should hit only net and come straight back to you at the shooting line." The entire process needs to be internalized. Killian says he thinks of "only one or two points" while making the shot.
"You know basketball players in general are terrible at the free throw line. Average accuracy is only 62 percent for high school, 66 percent for college and 72 percent for the pros."
His "office" the past 10 years is the YMCA gym at 7770 N. Shannon Road. He says he's probably worked with 250 youth on free throwing execution.
"Recently, I was helping a 16-year-old boy and, after some practice, he made 38 in a row. Then he told me that he'd never had such a 'high' in his life. These days, you just can't ask for a 'high' that better than that."
In another case, he says a youth improved his free throw shooting from 48 to 80 percent in one night. But Killian adds, "That's a very rare occurrence."
Why keeps him going with this free throw obsession? "I feel I can do it well – and also enjoy helping other people."
His current proficiency record is 192 in a row. More than 50 times he's made 100 in a row.
A future goal: "When I turn 100 years old, I want to be able to make 100 in a row." It didn't seem like a frivolous comment.