Three-point shooting dominates men’s basketball’s offense

Media Credit: Dean Whitelaw | Staff Photographer

Junior guard Maceo Jack leads returning players with at least 100 three-point shots taken.

In the offensive zone, the Colonials can be found firing from behind the arc or kicking it inside on the pick-and-roll.

When head coach Jamion Christian joined the program in March, he brought with him an offensive style focused on three-point shooting, clean passing and points in the paint – three areas the team struggled with last season. With a new crop of freshmen and transfers and senior forward Arnaldo Toro back from injury, Christian said the Colonials are positioned to turn a new offensive leaf.

Among players with at least 100 three-point shots taken, junior guard Maceo Jack leads the group of returners, shooting at a .344 clip from behind the arc. Junior guard Terry Nolan Jr. led the Colonials last season with a .349 three-point shooting percentage on 146 attempts, but he transferred out of the program in March.

The Colonials ranked No. 11 of 14 in the Atlantic 10 in three-point shooting percentage, only connecting on 196 of 631 attempts. Christian said the team has focused parts of practice on shooting, which could give players an advantage in a conference that does not attempt many three-pointers.

“Davidson’s up there pretty high, but most of the teams are around 35, 36 percent, so if we’re able to take a few more threes, like we’ve done at every stop I’ve been at, my highlights and top skills of being able to kick and spray the ball a little bit will really help us,” he said.

Christian added that the team will earn dividends on the offensive side by acting as a threat on the outside.

“It’s going to open up the floor for us, allow us to play a little bit faster, give us a lot of quick strike ability,” Christian said. “We’ll be able to go on quick runs, so that means we’ll never be out of the game.”

Last year, the Colonials only earned 588 points from behind the arc during the season, accounting for 28 percent of their total offense. At Christian’s last stop at Siena, the Saints earned 864 points from the three-point line, accounting for 40.5 percent of their total points.

Christian said passing and three-point shooting are connected because a team cannot be dangerous from beyond the arc if its passes are not crisp and frequent.

“If you’re going to be a great three-point shooting team, you’ve got to be able to pass the ball really well,” Christian said. “Guys are going to be open in small windows. Everyone’s got to be able to be all over that.”

The squad averaged 11.4 assists per game, ranking them No. 13 in the A-10. Junior guard Justin Mazzulla dished out the most helpers last season, recording 117 assists. Redshirt senior Armel Potter ranked second on the team with 57 fewer assists than Mazzulla.

Assistant coach Graham Bousley, who is in charge of leading the team’s offense, said the Colonials will mimic a “pro-style” offense, heavily using pick-and-roll and ball screens alongside big-man development.

“Typically in the past, we’ve been able to develop teams to be the No. 1 pick-and-roll team in the nation,” Bousley said. “That’s our primary focus. We’re going to ball screen 65 times a night. We’re going to be the No. 1 in hitting the big man on the pick-and-roll because we really like to develop our bigs.”

The team is looking toward Jack and sophomore forward Sloan Seymour, who transferred from Siena, to sink balls outside the arc. Jack said the team’s offense will work in tandem with its newfound mayhem-style defense to put points on the board.

“We’re going to have a lot more players on balls in the offensive sets we run,” Jack said. “It goes hand-in-hand with our mayhem-style defense. We’re going to press you up. We’re going to press a lot.”

Sophomore forward Mezie Offurum, junior forward Javier Langarica and Toro are the returning big men for the Colonials. Toro missed the remainder of the 2018-19 season with a hip injury. He nearly averaged double-digits in his seven games, averaging 10.1 points and 9.3 rebounds per game.

Offurum and Langarica tallied a combined 237 points and 202 rebounds, accounting for 11 percent of the team’s overall points and 18.1 percent of the team’s total rebounding.

Mazzulla said the team has placed a heavy focus on offense during practices, running plays and shooting from different spots on the floor.

“We review the offense mainly the majority of practices, so we put in a lot of different offenses and we execute them,” Mazzulla said. “We have our guards focus on what reads we’re supposed to be making, what shots we’re supposed to be taking and just letting it flow from there.”

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