Unknown Superstar Fletcher Magee Is Most Unstoppable, Lethal Shooter in CBB

Kerry Miller@@kerrancejamesCollege Basketball National AnalystDecember 14, 2017

Fletcher Magee
Fletcher MageePhoto courtesy of Mark Olencki (Wofford College)

Editor's note: Fletcher MaGee's unbelievable scoring display continued on Wednesday night as he put up 27 points on 10-of-23 shooting to lead Wofford to a huge upset over No. 5 North Carolina 79-75. It's the type of performance and victory that will finally put MaGee into the national spotlight he deserves.

"I've been doing this for 33 years, and I have never seen anything quite like this."

Wofford head coach Mike Young has had the privilege of watching Fletcher Magee play college basketball for the past three seasons. He has seen Magee working his tail off morning, noon and night, drenched in sweat on a daily basis to become the shooter that he is today.

And even Young sometimes can't find the words to describe the play of his junior shooting guard from Orlando, Florida.

"You get in your little fishbowl, and you're kind of oblivious to all things around you except your team and your next game," Young told Bleacher Report. "But our athletic department sent something out on social media the other day about his offensive numbers through 10 games. So help me God, I had to sit down to try to digest what I was looking at."

Join the club, Coach.

These numbers are incomprehensible.

Magee is shooting 54.9 percent from three-point range and has averaged 4.7 made triples per game. No one in the past 25 years has come anywhere close to that combination of efficiency and volume. Even if we decrease those numbers to 46.8 and 3.6, respectively, it has only been done seven times in the past quarter-century—the last of which came in 2007-08.

Magee shoots over Georgia Tech's Moses Wright
Magee shoots over Georgia Tech's Moses WrightMark Olencki (Wofford College)

He is averaging 24.3 points per game and has a true-shooting percentage of 75.2 while attempting 8.5 triples per game. To put that TS% in proper context, Buddy Hield's mark when he won the Wooden Award was 66.5. Doug McDermott's best season in that category was 67.8 percent. And Stephen Currywhom we'll discuss more latermaxed out at 64.0.

Just for good measure, Magee is also a perfect 32-of-32 from the free-throw line. (His true shooting percentage would be in the 80s if he were getting to the line more than 2.7 times per game.) But 32 straight freebies is nothing close to his personal record in practice.

"So, I've made 144 free throws in a row," Magee told Bleacher Report. "Threes, I've only made 29 in a row. That's the most. I'm normally moving around, though. I think I could probably make more, but I don't really work out like that."

What's the secret to becoming arguably the most lethal shooter in college basketball history?

Hard work.

Repetition.

And YouTube.

"I have watched a lot of J.J. Redick film on YouTube," said Magee. "Seeing how he reads things and seeing how he gets open. LeBron [James] is my favorite player, but I've definitely studied Redick's game the most."

Cue up just about any Wofford possession and it's easy to see the similarities between the little-known Terrier and the former Blue Devil who ranks No. 2 in career made three-pointers in collegiate basketball.

Magee is constantly moving, and his teammates are always ready to set back screens and pindowns to help him get open. He'll often start a possession on one of the low blocks before darting around multiple picks to find an inch of space on the perimeter at the opposite elbow. And just like Redick, that inch of space is all he needs, because Magee can catch, spin (in either direction) and shoot in the blink of an eye.

You practice like you play, and it's readily apparent from his fluidity and accuracy that the hours upon hours Magee spends working on these moves are paying off.

"It's not just standing around and shooting it," Magee said. "I'll practice coming off a screen this way a certain number of times, practice coming off a screen another way a certain number of times. Shots from my left hand, shots dribbling from my right hand. And I'll imagine there's a defender in my face when I'm shooting and I have to change my arc, just to try to make every shot as game-like as I can."

"I have never, one time, discouraged a shot from him," Young said. "Every shot that he takes looks like a quality shot. He's balanced, even when he's off balance, because he practices all of those shots in preparation for those moments."

One of those big moments came on Dec. 6 against Georgia Tech.

Magee had been hot all night. He had drained seven three-pointers and scored 33 of Wofford's 60 points. No teammate had scored more than eight points. So with the game tied in the final seconds, everyone in the building knew who was taking the shot. Curtis Haywood II was aggressively guarding Magee several feet beyond the three-point arc.

It didn't matter. He took one crossover dribble, squared his shoulders and nailed the game-winner, finishing with eight made threes and tying his career high with 36 points.

Mark Olencki (Wofford College)

The best part of that clip isn't the shot, the fans going wild or the dejected look on the face of every Yellow Jacket. It's the fact that the play-by-play announcer didn't even sound surprised. Jason Patterson called that 26-foot, last-second three-pointer like he would have called a layup midway through the first half, because that's just how commonplace Magee's incredible shots have become over the last three years.

"This is not something where he's just playing well and he's had a couple of good weeks," Young said. "He works like a dog to be a great player, and he is being rewarded for the work that he puts in. He is an immensely talented young man."

We've already compared Magee to Redick, but there's another three-point legend who needs to be mentioned.

It was one decade ago that Curry's rise to superstardom began. He had put in countless hours of hard work long before the 2007-08 college basketball season, but that's when the unheralded recruit from a no-name school in the Southern Conference became a must-watch spectacle. With help from a four-game run in the 2008 NCAA tournament, Curry set the NCAA record for made three-pointers in a season, draining 162 of them.

That record is in danger of being broken by another young man from the SoCon.

Curry averaged 4.5 made triples per game when he set that mark, but Magee is averaging 4.6 through his first 10 games. And unlike at a Duke or a Kentucky where you should expect some regression to the mean once conference games begin, SoCon play might actually boost Magee's numbers. Two games each against Samford, The Citadel and VMI would help any scorer's point total, and Western Carolina, East Tennessee State and Mercer have each had a lot of difficulty defending the deep ball this year.

Based on his previous two seasons, it's not that shocking to see Magee on pace to make history. He shot 47.9 percent from three-point range as a freshman. After an offseason with a couple of ankle sprains and groin pulls that kept him from consistently working out, he came back as a sophomore and "only" shot 42.3 percent from downtown.

This summer, there were no injuries. When he went back home to Orlando, Magee played pickup with a lot of professionals. And they always played with the NBA three-point line, which helped improve the range of a shot that was already killer.

"When I came back to college in the fall, the line just felt closer," Magee said. "It felt like I could shoot it off a little bit and it would still go in because I was used to shooting it from a little farther distance."

So, how do you guard a guy who is always moving, who can stroke it from well beyond the three-point line and who is unselfish enough to get his teammates involved if you focus too much attention on him?

His coach is thrilled that's not his problem.

"I'm glad I don't have to consider defending Fletcher," Young said. "That would cause me to lie awake at night."

And while coaches lose sleep over the impossible task of slowing down Magee, he's probably in the gym in the middle of the night, draining another 100 buckets over imaginary defenders.

                                   

All quotes obtained firsthand. Statistics courtesy of Sports Reference.

Kerry Miller covers college basketball and college football for Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter @kerrancejames.

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