On any list describing almost everything connected to this season of men's college basketball, you are sure to find Stephen Curry’s name. This 6'2″ junior that led Davidson within a basket of reaching the 2008 Final Four, is a son of one of the best shooters in NBA history, Dell Curry.
And the son is widely recognized as the best shooter in the nation. There is no question he deserves that label, but Curry is mostly known as ”only” a pure shooter. But Curry is much more talented than that label indicants.
Many sports types have used the label as ” pure shooter” as an extremely broad description for skinny players who or don’t—or can’t—dunk on a regular basis. Yet, their influence on the game is undeniable.
In recent years, those with the skills to be classified as “pure shooters” have been in high demand. As teams are looking for every advantage, the three-point line has become more and more important, and teams are designing offenses around those skill players.
Duke alumni, and current Orlando Magic bench warmer, J.J. Redick wore the badge proudly like few others in recent history. He wore it straight to the top of the All-Time ACC Scoring List and multiple Player of the Year Awards his senior season.
Yet, he did have an ability—be it a rather limited ability—to put the ball on the floor and then pull up from mid-range. But his best weapon was the “catch and shoot” off of screens, drawing fouls and getting to the foul line.
Their ability to shoot the ball from nearly anywhere on the court is where the comparisons end for Redick and Curry.
After losing senior point guard Jason Richards, Curry was asked to handle the ball and initiate the offense. In his first five games running the offense, Curry is averaging 7.8 assists and 35 points per game.
Granted, this is only the beginning of the season, but it shows he is capable. Remember, we have seen it before in very important games played in March against the best teams in the country.
Since Bobby Knight has joined ESPN and does commentary on a regular basis, he has made a couple statements that I actually agree with—really. In Monday's game with Syracuse and Florida, Knight made a comment about how the “pump-fake is the greatest offense weapon”.
Why would he say that, and why does it matter in this article?
If you are a defender and your assignment is Curry, your suicide mission is to limit his looks from deep. So every time Curry even looks in the vicinity of the basket, you are off your feet and swatting like you are engulfed by killer bees.
Now Curry can do two things: If he hasn’t used his dribble, he can calmly dribble to an open shot. Or if he has picked-up his dribble he can: try to get the shot off or stay on the floor a split second, rise-up into the your flailing body and then go the foul line where he is shooting 91 percent. Easy points.
Of Curry’s 175 points he has scored this season, 40 of them are free-throws. His scoring average drops to a mortal-like 27 ppg if you take those 40 points away.
In Redick’s career at Duke he made a total of 652 free throws, only missing 64 combined. If you take away those free throw, Redick’s career scoring averages goes from 19.9 to 15.1 per game.
Ultimately, each player is unique and both Redick and Curry are deadly from distance. But they did find other ways to score and Curry is even more lethal because he has the ball in his hands and defenders become his personal puppet.
Other “Pure shooters”
Tyrese Rice, senior point guard from Boston College, is not afraid to pull the trigger from deep. Yet last season, of the 462 shots he took only 32 percent were threes and he averaged 21 ppg, 5 apg and shot 85 percent from the foul line.
Even more impressive than his shot is Rice’s ability to get past defenders, get into the lane and make tough shots in traffic.
Kyle McAlarney, senior shooting guard from Notre Dame, get’s his feet set and his shot off quicker than anyone else outside of Curry. Through the first five games of his senior season, McAlarney averages 17 points, 4 assists, 3 rebounds per game and is shooting 50 percent from three point range and 100 percent from the foul line.
He has handles the ball more than most off guards and has a 2.33:1 assist to turnover ratio.
Wayne Ellington, a junior shooting guard from UNC, is smooth. Every aspect of his game flows nicely to the next. Ellington is a good athlete who is able to stop on a dime, pull up and drain his shot.
This season, he is shooting 44 percent from distance and his scoring has dipped from 16.6 to 13.5. The scoring average will go back up when he plays more minutes in meaningful games.
Curtis Jerrells, senior point guard from Baylor, took 387 shots last season and only 43 percent were from three point distance. He is a solid ball handler, aggressive and with a quick first step. He is currently averaging 17 points, 7 assists, 3 rebound and shooting 44 percent from distance.
Jon Scheyer, junior shooting guard from Duke, came to Durham right after Redick and was quickly compared to him, even became known as the “poor mans JJ”. He averages 37 percent from distance and shoots 89 percent from the foul line.
In Scheyer’s freshmen year, three pointers made-up 59 percent of his total shot attempt. This season they make up only 32 percent and his scoring average is up from 12.2 to 12.5.
Pure Shooters until Proven Otherwise
A.J. Abrams, senior guard from Texas, is a streaky shooter with a quick release. Every season, his scoring average has increased while maintaining career averages of 88 percent from the foul line and 41 percent from distance.
Against Notre Dame Abrams shot nine for 27 from the field and five for 17 from deep. But managed to hit clutch shots to make the game close.
Robert Vadan, senior guard/forward from UAB, is another volume scorer who shot 355 three-pointers out of a total of 539 shot attempts.
He is stronger and bigger than most “pure shooters”, at 6'5″ and 205 pounds, and is not the most athletic player. Vadon still pulls down seven rebounds per game along with 19 ppg.
Blake Hoffarber, sophomore guard from Minnesota, is best known for hitting heroic shots in big games. Seventy-five percent of his shot attempts as a freshmen were from three point distance.
He did manage to shot 44 percent from the field and 43 percent from the behind the arc. He is a consistent shooter and who is also averaging five rebounds per game.