Justin Dargahi has a penchant for knocking down 3-point shots.
So much so that he holds the Guinness World Record for the most 3s made from NBA range (23 feet, 9 inches) in one minute.
Firing three after three inside the Land O’ Lakes High School gymnasium, Dargahi knocked down 26 treys in 60 seconds on Jan. 4, breaking the previous set mark of 25. His feat became an official Guinness World Record in early May.
“I’ve always been the best shooter on my team in school,” said Dargahi, the head JV (Junior Varsity) coach for the Land O’ Lakes girls basketball team and former basketball player at Cambridge Christian School. “Shooting was always easy to me.”
The skill comes so easily for Dargahi that he claims he makes anywhere from 75 percent to 80 percent of 3-pointers he attempts when he’s “just shooting around for fun.”
He figures he can make about 95 percent of his free throw attempts, too.
“Anytime I was on a (school) team, I would always be the technical free-throw shooter,” said Dargahi, who began playing organized hoops at 11 years old. “I had a green light to shoot 3s most of the time. It was always like, ‘If we need a three, let’s get (Dargahi) the ball or set a screen for him.’
“In games, I would show off sometimes shooting 10 feet behind the (3-point) line,” he said.
Out of curiosity, the JV coach decided to look into some of the timed 3-point records a few years ago. When he saw some of the record totals, he realized he might have a decent chance at knocking down some of them.
“When I saw that record of 25, I was like, ‘I could get that,’” Dargahi said, with an air of confidence in his voice.
On his first attempt at the record, he nailed 18 shots.
While impressive for most, Dargahi knew he could shoot at a much higher clip.
“I had a lot of bad luck; I had one of my friends helping me, and we weren’t clicking,” Dargahi said. “It just wasn’t scripted too well.”
To better organize a record-breaking strategy, Dargahi reckoned his best chance was to enlist the help of some of his JV roster at Land O’ Lakes.
About eight or nine of his players aided Dargahi by fetching loose balls and rapidly handing them to him at the top of the three-point arc as he continually fired from deep range.
The strategy worked, as he eventually knocked down 26 shots after a January JV practice.
“It was still kind of shocking when he got it,” sophomore Land O’ Lakes JV captain Claire Valeski said.
“We were all happy and all thought he would get it, but then again, it’s one of those things that’s like the luck of the draw,” she said.
Dargahi’s shooting philosophy was fixated on conserving energy.
“If I’m not on a great pace, I would stop. If I only have five or six (made 3s) after 20 seconds, instead of consume all my energy, I would just stop,” he said.
He also uses his arms more than his legs.
Dargahi admits he wished he could’ve put the record out of reach — perhaps making 29 or 30 3-pointers — knowing full well he may have to attempt the endeavor all over again if someone surpasses his current mark of 26.
While a prolific shooter during his high school career at Cambridge Christian, Dargahi didn’t receive much interest from college coaches.
“It’s hard when you’re 6 feet to play big-time college basketball, even if you are the best shooter,” said Dargahi, a 2007 graduate of the University of South Florida (USF). “I probably should’ve practiced on other stuff like dribbling and my defense.”
Instead, Dargahi settled for playing intramurals at USF, and occasionally entered shooting contests — which he typically won.
The love of the game and high-pressure competition led him into coaching, where he said he enjoys watching his players mature and develop their skills over the course of a season.
Despite his proclivity for making shots, Dargahi said he doesn’t particularly work with his JV players on their shooting technique.
“It’s hard for me to see through their eyes, because to me, it’s so easy,” he said. “I can’t get along their thought process, so I’m probably not the best shooting teacher.”
But, that doesn’t stop him from giving his players a few tips along the way.
“I would tell people: ‘Don’t worry about your form.’ The best shooters — a lot of them have weird form,” Dargahi said, noting that former NBA great Reggie Miller would cross his arms during his 3-point attempts. “I think form is totally overrated; I think (setting your) feet is more important. Do whatever you’re comfortable with.”
Dargahi doesn’t plan to end his shooting record quest anytime soon. The Land O’ Lakes hoops coach also has his eyes set on breaking the record for most made free throws in one minute (52) and the most 3-pointers made in two minutes (44).
Published June 15, 2016