Zen and the Art of Corey Maynard

Corey Maynard credits an improved mental approach for the clutch three-pointer that proved the game-winner last night as the Townsville Crocodiles defeated Sydney Kings 80-77.

With 18 seconds remaining and Sydney leading 77-76, Maynard caught a pass on the left wing from teammate Brian Conklin, set his feet and knocked down the gutsy game-winner.

Kings star Julian Khazzouh was then unable to tie the game on the following possession, allowing Maynard’s shot to deliver the Crocs their first win of the new NBL season.

The 24-year-old told Downtown post-game that he had recently set a personal challenge to “stay more connected” during games and that recent conversations with three-time NBA Champion Luc Longley had helped enormously.

“I did a lot of work over the offseason on my game – especially the mental aspect – and one of those things was staying connected when things aren’t going your way,” Maynard said.

“I spoke to Luc Longley a lot about it when we were away in Korea for the World Uni Games and that has helped a lot.”

Speaking after one of the biggest moments of his career – if not the biggest – Maynard appeared remarkably poised and clear of thought when discussing his new approach. He was adamant that the improved mental side of his game was the reason he delivered so brilliantly in the big moment last night.

“I wasn’t playing a good game and I was struggling and I think a year ago my mind would’ve wandered and I would’ve lost focus,” he said. “But I stayed connected and, yeah, what happened happened.”

Maynard has also been spending time learning from one of the world’s leading experts on psychology and emotional intelligence, best-selling author Daniel Goleman.

“I’m actually reading a book right now on focus and the chapter I’m on is talking about doing things naturally and not over-thinking things,” Maynard explained.

“So when I was open I just thought ‘you know what, I feel good, I feel confident’. I don’t hesitate in those big moments – I trust myself and I’m confident so I just let it fly.”

The book is called Focus: The Hidden Driver of Excellence and in it Goleman explains how to improve your focus and ability to pay attention in an era of unstoppable distractions. Focus BookThe reserve guard started reading it in response to a message head coach Shawn Dennis recently delivered to the Crocs players.

“SD has challenged us all to tick off two extra goals outside of practice that we want to set our minds to and picking up that book was one of my goals,” Maynard said.

“I’ve picked up some handy stuff and I reckon it helped me a lot tonight.”

All players can relate to the struggle of wiping away a poor first half or staying mentally engaged while sitting on the bench.  A bad half so often turns into a bad game and then, inevitably, a week of soul-searching and negative thoughts.

Maynard believes his extra reading and Longley’s mentoring have taught him a lot about staying in the moment and that he consciously used those lessons last night in advance of knocking down the game-winner.

“Luc said that he had some troubles with it when he was young too,” Maynard explained. “He said Phil Jackson used to literally make them go over to the bin and throw the ‘shit’ that they were carrying out and come back to the bench with a fresh mindset.

“I didn’t quite do that but, you know, I kind of felt my mind starting to wander a little bit because I had a pretty bad patch at the end of the third quarter and I was in foul trouble.  The worst times are the best times to check yourself so I was like ‘this is the time for me to show that I’ve grown up since last year in Cairns’. So I went to the end of the bench, took a few deep breaths and kind of metaphorically threw the shit that I was carrying out.”

During the fourth quarter Townsville’s starting point guard, Mitch Norton, encountered some foul trouble of his own.  Norton would eventually foul out, opening the door for Maynard and his late-game heroics.

“I was just trying to stay connected as much as possible – I knew that when I got my chance to come back in I needed to be ready,” Maynard told Downtown.

“When Norto picked up his fourth foul I started thinking ‘righto, it’s probably going to be my time here in a minute’. Then he picked up his fifth and, well, it was like I’d been in the game the whole time.”

Maynard made the move from Cairns to Townsville during the offseason after requesting that the Taipans release him from his contract. He appeared in 16 games for the minor premiers last season before breaking his thumb in early January and missing the remainder of the season.

Frustrated with his position in the depth chart, Maynard sought greater playing opportunities elsewhere.

“That is what I had in mind,” Maynard said when asked about the move. “It’s what I was counted on to do at college and that’s the kind of player I like to think of myself as so it’s nice to see it pay off.”

As for his wild tongue-out celebration, Maynard said that was completely in-the-moment.

“Yeah, I was pretty excited so I just let that happen.”

 

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