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story.lead_photo.caption Westside Eagle Observer/RANDY MOLL Jessica Bookout, a Gravette High School junior guard, shoots under the basket during play against Greenland High School on Nov. 28, 2017, at Lion Fieldhouse in Gravette.

GRAVETTE -- Jessica Bookout stood near the 3-point line as she moved the basketball slightly above and to the right of her head during a recent game, then she quickly let the ball fly toward the basket.

The Gravette junior's shooting style is definitely unique when it is compared to the way most area high school basketball players shoot. Her delivery, however, remains a work in progress and it's something she has worked to improve before the season ever started.

"Coach (Will) Pittman and coach (Kayla) Shortt have been helping me with my shot a lot," Bookout said. "I kind of have a wacky-looking shot, so I nailed down and started working on it.

"I was left-handed, and my dad taught me how to do everything right-handed. I kind of got mixed up from there, and the past few years coach Pittman has helped me with my forearm. It's a little weird form, but it works."

While Bookout's release, particularly on her 3-point attempts, looks odd, her form is much better now than what it was when her coaches began working with her. Pittman said it was a matter of her making that switch from using her right hand.

"Her arm was more bent," Pittman. "Her elbow was out a lot, and she had trouble with full extension. I know a lot of that had to do with not being naturally a right-handed kid. She had a lot of trouble fully extending that arm out, but she does now. It's also a lot quicker than it used to be."

Bookout's change to being right-handed was not limited to basketball, which she began when she was still in the pee-wee ranks. She said her dad also wanted her to be right-handed when she played softball, as well as when she participated in rodeo, where right-handers have a noted advantage in roping over southpaws, and the only thing she now does left-handed is write.

When Bookout isn't playing or practicing basketball, she's working on her rodeo skills, where she competes in barrel racing, pole bending and goat tying. She's been involved in competitive rodeo in Arkansas and Oklahoma for about six years and has won championship saddles in all three categories.

"I've grown up around horses my whole life," she said. "The first time I did competitive rodeo, it was a rush. The adrenalin starts pumping. If I get nervous, I just have to get focused, then go out and do what you know to do. Anytime I come home from basketball, I go out to practice and ride."

The aggressive nature Bookout displays when she competes in rodeos often comes out during basketball, as well. Pittman noticed it last season when she came off the bench and provided good minutes during games.

He knew her role would expand this season with improvement during the offseason, and that she has done. She gives the Lady Lions somebody who isn't afraid to slash inside and attack the basket, and she can go inside and play some at the post since Gravette doesn't have a lot of size.

"She needed to work on her ball handling, and she needed to work on her defense," Pittman said. "She did that, and that helped her break into our starting lineup this year. I think she feels more comfortable with her defense and more comfortable handling the ball.

"She very seldom will get the ball taken from her this year because she's strong. I think part of that has to do with her participating in rodeo and working so hard in the weight room. I think those go hand in hand."

At A Glance


SCHOOL Gravette

CLASS Junior


NOTABLE Moved into the Lady Lions' starting lineup this season after providing good minutes last year as a reserve. ... Was born left-handed, but was taught by her father to use her right hand in order to play basketball, softball and participate in rodeo. ... Has been competing in rodeo for six years and has won saddles in all three of her events: barrel racing, pole bending and goat tying. She's pursuing an all-around title this year.

Sports on 02/07/2018

Print Headline: Gravette's Bookout continues working for her shot

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