COLLEGE STATION — The ball mimicked the crowd — seemingly holding its breath — when Texas A&M guard Acie Law let fly with a long jump shot in the final seconds of a game earlier this month at Big 12 power Kansas.
The shot dropped. The ball had hardly rotated in the hush, adding drama to an already dramatic instant.
But it's not just in theatrical moments that Law's jumper doesn't spin. It's on drives to the basket. Free throws. During shootarounds. In the driveway.
You name it — Law simply shoots a knuckleball, and he can't put his finger on why. A&M coach Billy Gillispie, however, believes it's because the left-handed Law uses his right thumb.
"He shoots it and puts his thumb in there, and that takes the spin off of the ball," Gillispie said. "It doesn't change the flight of the ball. It changes the spin."
Law, whose league-leading Aggies (21-3, 9-1 Big 12) host Texas Tech (15-10, 4-6) tonight in Reed Arena, said he has always shot what amounts to a pitched horseshoe.
"I can't explain it," Law said. "Coach G. has his own theories on what he believes is wrong with it. But as long as it's going in the hole, it's fine."
It's done that plenty for Law, who's developed into a likely NBA draft selection of late. Law has taken over games in the second half against Tech, Oklahoma, Iowa State and KU.
"He controls his team," Jayhawks guard Russell Robinson said after Law's 3-pointer lifted A&M to a victory. "We had (the Aggies) put away for a while, but he brought 'em right back."
Law scored 10 of A&M's final 13 points in the Aggies' comeback victory in Lawrence, Kan., on Feb. 3, giving the Big 12 South its first victory in 32 tries in Allen Fieldhouse — and Law league player of the week honors.
Law leads the sixth-ranked Aggies with 16.6 points per game. He's shooting 50.9 percent from the field, including 45.8 percent from the 3-point line. That's why Gillispie doesn't want Law to change a thing — knuckleball or not.
"It doesn't matter to me," Gillispie said. "We weren't going to change something, just because of the spin of the ball."
Gillispie's philosophy hasn't always been that way. While Law's high school coaches never tried changing his shot, Gillispie did. Briefly. The coach had Law tape his right thumb against his right hand, and told Law to shoot the ball that way (left-handed) for a practice.
"It didn't work," Law said, smiling.
Now, Gillispie cites the likes of former Boston Celtics standout Sam Jones and former Spurs star George Gervin as reasons not to mess with Law's delivery.
"Jones was one of the greatest shooters the game has ever had, and he shot with his left foot forward while watching the flight of the ball, which is a cardinal sin," Gillispie said. "There were a lot of guys who had different looking shots, but they were great shooters, and it was because of repetition and other factors — and usually, their follow-through was fantastic.
"Gervin had his elbow pointed out so far to the right — and he was pretty decent."
Law's funny shot might have stemmed from the fact he switched shooting hands in junior high after breaking his right hand during practice. He now shoots with either hand, but primarily with his left from long distance.
His knuckleball in high school caused some college recruiters to shy away, despite the fact he averaged 20 points per game in district play his senior year at Dallas Kimball and led his team to the state title game as a junior. Then-A&M coach Melvin Watkins signed Law, however, something Gillispie is grateful for today.
"There are a lot of guys and great players in history at the college and pro level who somebody might have thought, 'Well, he's not perfectly correct in his form, so he can't play,'" Gillispie said. "But that's just not the case."
And, in Law's case, he has developed into a top-notch pro prospect.
"When (scouts) look at the numbers and things, they see the real deal, instead of watching the rotation on the ball," Gillispie said. "Beauty is in the eye of the beholder."