A couple of weeks ago, I tweeted KIH’s founding editor and asked him who he thought was the Tar Heels’ best 3-point shooter. It’s an interesting question because for the first time in a long time the UNC basketball team has more than one go-to guy for the trifecta. With the loss of Tyler Zeller and John Henson, this year’s team is going to have to rely on something that was often a thorn in their side during the 2011-2012 season: perimeter shooting.
There has been much ado made about the new addition of Hubert Davis to the UNC coaching bench. I remember watching Davis as a kid, and I thought I knew a lot about him. I knew that he is the nephew of UNC great Walter Davis,and that he is a native North Carolinian who enjoyed a modestly successful NBA career and then of course went on to be an ESPN analyst. However, what I did not know until a commentator pointed it out recently was that Davis leads the Tar Heels all-time in 3 point shooting percentage. Perhaps even more surprising, Davis still ranks third in the NBA among the best 3-point percentage shooters of all time. He’s right behind Anthony Morrow and Steve Kerr, respectively. With Davis, a pure shooter on the sidelines, now more than ever is the time for the Tar Heels to shine from beyond the arc.
Which leaves me with the aforementioned question. Picture it. It’s Wednesday, February 13th 2013 at Cameron Indoor Stadium approximately 10:59pm EST. The Tar Heels are down 91-89 to Duke and are inbounding under their own basket with 0:03 left on the game clock. First of all, let’s assume that Roy is going for the win because Paige has fouled out of the game and both Tokoto and James have 4 fouls. Whose hands do you want the ball in behind the 3 point line?
At the beginning of the year, I would have said Hairston or Bullock. Both players made a lot of key threes last season when the Tar Heels needed it. P.J. Hairston showed the whole world the kind of range he has during the Mississippi State game in Maui. But, as far as three-pointers go, right now I think Hairston is just a little too streaky. Bullock has clearly gained from the increase in playing time he enjoyed due to last season’s injuries. Both Hairston and Bullock could easily hit the game winner and walk off Coach K court the hero for the day.
But, neither Bullock nor Hairston would be my first choice to put up a game-winning three-pointer for the Heels this season. I know it’s early, but to me, Leslie McDonald has been the most impressive among Tar Heel long-range shooters. McDonald was my first choice, and when I looked at the numbers, they backed me up. Prior to Saturday night’s game against ETSU, McDonald is shooting 50% from 3 point range. Reggie Bullock is right behind him at .487. Again, I know it’s early, but I cannot recall a time (unless it was the 2004-2005 team) that two Tar Heels were shooting almost 50% from the 3 point line. And it’s not like these guys have only taken a few shots here and there. McDonald is 17 of 34 so far and Bullock 19 of 39. In my humble opinion, McDonald is more of a pure shooter than Bullock and has benefited the most under the direction of Hubert Davis’s shooting expertise. My prediction is McDonald will not only wind up being the most improved player on this year’s team but also the go-to 3 point man when the game is on the line.