Predicting the Best 3-Point Shooting Big Men in College Basketball for 2014-15

Brian PedersenFeatured ColumnistAugust 20, 2014

Predicting the Best 3-Point Shooting Big Men in College Basketball for 2014-15

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    Big men who score inside are a dime a dozen, it's what they're supposed to do after all as the biggest player on the team. But guys with size who can also shoot it from outside? Well, that's a scorer of a different color.

    In college basketball, having a big man who has the ability to drain a three-pointer might be the most precious commodity there is. By being able to drain the long shot as well as produce in the paint, these unique players become a matchup nightmare that force defenses to work overtime trying to slow them down.

    None of these guys are going to be challenging any records for their three-point shooting, either in terms of efficiency or frequency, but that doesn't make them any less dangerous when they roam away from the blocks without the ball.

    The 2014-15 season will feature several players 6'8" or taller that should be a force from outside. They're listed in order of how we predict they'll fare this season, using past performance and expected role in their offense to rank them.

10. Kevon Looney, UCLA

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    Andrew Nelles/Associated Press

    Year: Freshman

    Height, weight: 6'9", 208 lbs

    UCLA lost five of its top eight scorers from the Pac-12 conference champion team that reached the Sweet 16, an exodus of graduation and early NBA departures that will make this season's Bruins team look completely different. One place UCLA loses a major amount of production is from long-range, as the players who left made more than 70 percent of the team's three-pointers.

    Kevon Looney was recruited mostly to be able to contribute to the Bruins' frontcourt from a physical standpoint by being a dominant inside scorer and rebounder, but the 5-star prospect might also be an answer for the perimeter scoring. Though he didn't make the final, Looney's ability to shoot from outside earned him a spot in the three-point contest prior to the McDonald's All-American game.

     

     

9. Tyler Harris, Providence

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    Year: Junior

    Height, weight: 6'9", 223 lbs

    2013-14 three-point shooting: 32.2% (29-of-90)

    In order for Providence to defend its Big East title from a year ago, the Friars must replace significant amounts of scoring, rebounding and outside shooting that has either graduated or transferred to other programs. Tyler Harris showed he could handle the last of those needs during his first year with the program, and should take on a much bigger role this fall.

    Harris, who sat out 2012-13 after joining Providence from North Carolina State, was fourth on the team in scoring with 11.6 points per game. While his three-point shooting percentage wasn't very high, it was good enough to keep defenders honest when they'd play too far off him on the perimeter. A notable example came during the Big East tourney, when he drained three of four threes in the semifinal win over Seton Hall.

8. Jonathan Holmes, Texas

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    Year: Senior

    Height, weight: 6'8", 240 lbs

    2013-14 three-point shooting: 33.3% (28-of-84)

    With Texas' already solid frontcourt getting better and deeper thanks to a major incoming recruit, Jonathan Holmes might be the guy that gets forced out of the paint. That won't necessarily be a bad thing, especially if Holmes is able to continue developing the improving jump shot he showed off last season.

    Holmes, who led the Longhorns in scoring at 12.8 points per game last season, shot better than 50 percent from that field. His overall percentage was brought down by his forays into perimeter shooting, which showed its best strength in the first month of 2013-14 when he made 10 of 21 threes.

    After that the outside shooting struggled, but he was still solid inside. The addition of 5-star center Myles Turner along with returning power forward Cameron Ridley should push Holmes to the 3, where he'll need to be able to hit those jump shots to provide maximum value to Texas.

7. Nate Buss, Northern Iowa

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    Year: Senior

    Height, weight: 6'9", 212 lbs

    2013-14 three-point shooting: 50.6% (42-of-83)

    Nate Buss has only started four games in three seasons with Northern Iowa, but in the past two he's been the Panthers' most valuable player off the bench by providing a burst of offense when they need it most. And thanks to his outside shooting touch, Buss managed to score in double figures on 17 occasions last year despite averaging just over 20 minutes per game.

    Buss led UNI with a .534 shooting percentage, showing his ability to score from all over and not just outside where his length helped make up for a lack of beef on his lanky frame. His team had a subpar season, going only 16-15, but when Buss was on from outside the wins outnumbered the losses.

6. Nemanja Djurisic, Georgia

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    Year: Senior

    Height, weight: 6'8", 230 lbs

    2013-14 three-point shooting: 43.2% (32-of-74)

    Georgia's frontcourt was key to the Bulldogs finishing third in the SEC last season, but graduation and off-court issues have thinned their depth up front. Thankfully, Mark Fox has a secret weapon on the bench that could dynamically change his team's offense in 2014-15.

    Nemanja Djurisic was one of Georgia's top three-point threat in 2013-14, getting more than one-third of his points from outside. He started three games, but was mostly used as a sub, and still managed to hit double figures a dozen times. That included 22 points in 21 minutes (thanks to going 3-of-3 on threes) in a win over South Carolina and a 4-for-5 outside performance in an overtime win at Missouri.

    Forward Donte' Williams graduated, while Georgia also lost forward Brandon Morris after he was dismissed from the team in July following his arrest on drug possession and distribution charges. Djurisic should be a candidate for either starting spot, and will bring an added element with his outside shooting.

5. Karl-Anthony Towns Jr., Kentucky

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    Year: Freshman

    Height, weight: 6'11", 250 lbs

    Much has been made of how loaded Kentucky's frontcourt will be in 2014-15, with a slew of blue-chip players from years past getting even bigger thanks to 5-star Karl-Anthony Towns' arrival this season. Concerns about how Towns will be able to get enough time on the court to continue developing are understandable, but if he can hit threes like he's done on his way to the Wildcats then playing time shouldn't be a problem.

    Towns made just one of his nine three-point attempts in Kentucky's six exhibition games in the Bahamas, but according to Jerry Tipton of KentuckySports.com that might have been more a matter of overeagerness than poor ability. In high school Towns was killer from outside, as video from his three-point shooting war with Andrew Wiggins during the 2013 Nike Hoops Summit shows.

4. Brandon Ashley, Arizona

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    Year: Junior

    Height, weight: 6'8", 230 lbs

    2013-14 three-point shooting: 37.9% (11-of-29)

    Before suffering a season-ending injury that completely changed Arizona's offense, Brandon Ashley was coming into his own has one of the best "stretch 4s" in college basketball. Expected to be fully healed from surgery to repair a torn foot ligament, Ashley should be again be a huge part of the Wildcats' scoring attack.

    And he'll do it both as a slasher and as a smooth outside shooter, something he was slowly becoming in 2013-14. As a freshman he only attempted three three-pointers (and made all of them) and last season he increased his attempts nearly tenfold. It was a matter of shot selection for Ashley, who during a four-game stretch in November and December he made 7-of-8 threes. 

3. Kyle Wiltjer, Gonzaga

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    Year: Junior

    Height, weight: 6'10", 230 lbs

    2012-13 three-point shooting: 36.7% (55-of-150)

    Kyle Wiltjer never really fit in with his first college Kentucky, despite being part of a heralded recruiting class in 2011 that included future first-round NBA draft picks Anthony Davis and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. He averaged just 17 minutes per game over two seasons, scoring 7.3 points per game as the Wildcats' sixth man on the ill-fated 2012-13 team that went from being defending NCAA champs to a first-round NIT casualty.

    Wiltjer sat out last season after transferring to Gonzaga, but still kept himself busy by competing for the Canadian Development Men’s National Team during the 2013 World University Games in Russia. While with that team he continued to hone his outside shooting, which was solid at Kentucky but could be even better when paired with beefy center Przemak Karnowski inside and getting feeds from guard Kevin Pangos in transition.

    Wiltjer's .390 career three-point percentage ranked 15th in Kentucky school history when he left.

2. Shawn Long, Louisiana-Lafayette

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    Bill Haber/Associated Press

    Year: Junior

    Height, weight: 6'9", 245 lbs

    2013-14 three-point shooting: 42.3% (33-of-78)

    Shawn Long was one of the nation's top rebounders last season, averaging 10.4 per game to finish 10th nationally while also scoring a healthy 18.6 points per contest in leading Louisiana-Lafayette into the NCAA tournament. But he was also the Ragin' Cajuns' third-best outside shooter, making at least one three in 21 games.

    As an undersized big man, Long often has to fight hard against taller players to get rebounds and putbacks, but he has an advantage over most of the guys that defend him because he can pull the ball out and stretch opponents' coverage. That asset will pay off when Long heads into the NBA, possibly after this season, as hot-shooting frontcourt players are coveted in the pros.

1. Frank Kaminsky, Wisconsin

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    Year: Senior

    Height, weight: 7'0", 234 lbs

    2013-14 three-point shooting: 39.8% (37-of-98)

    When it comes to Wisconsin's offensive system, the three-pointer isn't just a weapon in the arsenal, it's the biggest gun in the cache. Frank Kaminsky isn't the Badgers' best outside shooter, but he's certainly the most unique because of his acumen on the perimeter as well as in the post.

    The nickname "Frank the Tank" that he developed during his breakout junior season was more in regards to his presence down low, but where Kaminsky first got noticed in 2013-14 was through the way he could sink big long-range shots. In particular, there was the November night he sunk all six of his threes en route to a school-record 43 points in a win over North Dakota.

    Kaminsky only took a little more than 25 percent of his shots from outside last season, but he made his 37 makes count. He was 3-for-5 in the Badgers' overtime win over Arizona to reach their first Final Four in 14 years, and in a comeback win over Iowa in January he was 3-for-3 on threes in the game's first 10 minutes.

    Wisconsin had five players make at least 34 threes last year, but the most prolific of the group (school career three-point leader Ben Brust) has graduated. Look for Kaminsky to continue to be a deadly weapon from deep, maybe even more so this coming season.

     

    All recruiting information courtesy of 247Sports.com.

    Follow Brian J. Pedersen on Twitter at @realBJP.