Does UNC Have a Freshman Three-Point Curse?

isaacschade

Due to the NCAA cloud hanging over UNC, the 2015 basketball recruiting class brought in just two recruits – Luke Maye and Kenny Williams.

Maye was ranked outside the top 100 recruits in the 247 Sports composite rankings (#155), while Williams just squeezed into the top 100 (#96). Williams was a late commit (May 2) and came in with a reputation as a strong shooter.

Williams played 122 minutes over 30 games in his freshman season. He took 13 threes and famously hit just one; against Pittsburgh in Carolina’s ACC Quarterfinal match-up.

There has long been a rumor of the “freshman three-point curse” at Carolina. Is it a perceived rumor? Is it based in reality? What truth do the stats bear out?

After his 1-for-13 (7.7%) freshman season, Williams shot 142-for-405 (35.1%) from deep the rest of his Carolina career.

For at least Kenny Williams, the freshman three-point shooting curse was a very real thing.

Is the curse real for other Carolina freshmen? Let’s investigate.

THE CRITERIA

We first need to set parameters of what players will be included in the list. By nature of this being a list of freshmen three-point shooting numbers, only freshmen will be included. Carolina records trace three-pointers back to the 1986-87 season (plus the 1982-83 season), so those are the seasons that will be included. We’ll set the minimum three-point attempts at 50 in order to have a big enough sample size.

HOW MANY PLAYERS FIT THE CRITERIA?

From 1986-87 through 2019-20 (plus 1982-83) and given the above metrics, 24 different Tar Heel freshmen meet the requirements.

Broken down by coach, the numbers are as follows:

  • 14 in Roy Williams era (17 seasons)
  • 6 in Matt Doherty era (3 seasons)
  • 2 in Bill Guthridge era (3 seasons)
  • 2 in Dean Smith era (12 seasons with a three-point line)

RANKINGS

What follows is a breakdown of all 24 players under consideration, ranked according to their freshman three-point shooting percentage. After that, the players are broken down by coaching era.

Before you scroll down, make some guesses. Who do you think is number one overall? Who do you think is number one in each era? The answers may be surprising. Send me an email with your guesses: isaacschade@gmail.com. NO CHEATING!

Overall Ranking

  1. Jeff McInnis (1993-94) – 41.5% (27-65)
  2. Rashad McCants (2002-03) – 41.4% (72-174)
  3. Jason Capel (1998-99) – 41.1% (23-56)
  4. Jawad Williams (2001-02) – 38.2% (21-55)
  5. Kendall Marshall (2010-11) - 37.7% (20-53)
  6. Wayne Ellington (2006-07) - 37.1% (66-178)
  7. Joseph Forte (1999-00) – 35.9% (56-156)
  8. Raymond Felton (2002-03) – 35.8% (69-193)
  9. Ty Lawson (2006-07) - 35.6% (31-87)
  10. Danny Green (2005-06) – 35.5% (27-76)
  11. Coby White (2018-19) - 35.3% (82-232)
  12. Melvin Scott (2001-02) – 35.0% (28-80)
  13. Cole Anthony (2019-20) - 34.8% (49-141)
  14. Vince Carter (1995-96) – 34.5% (19-55)
  15. Harrison Barnes (2010-11) - 34.359% (67-195)
  16. Marcus Paige (2012-13) - 34.351% (45-131)
  17. Jackie Manuel (2001-02) – 31.4% (22-70)
  18. Bobby Frasor (2005-06) - 31.0% (27-87)
  19. Justin Jackson (2014-15) - 30.4% (28-92)
  20. Reggie Bullock (2010-11) - 29.6% (29-98)
  21. David Noel (2002-03) – 28.1% (16-57)
  22. PJ Hairston (2011-12) - 27.3% (38-139)
  23. Nassir Little (2018-19) - 26.9% (14-52)
  24. Leslie McDonald (2009-10) - 20.8% (11-53)

RANKINGS BY COACHING ERA

Roy Williams Era

  1. Kendall Marshall (2010-11) - 37.7% (20-53)
  2. Wayne Ellington (2006-07) - 37.1% (66-178)
  3. Ty Lawson (2006-07) - 35.6% (31-87)
  4. Danny Green (2005-06) – 35.5% (27-76)
  5. Coby White (2018-19) - 35.3% (82-232)
  6. Cole Anthony (2019-20) - 34.8% (49-141)
  7. Harrison Barnes (2010-11) - 34.359% (67-195)
  8. Marcus Paige (2012-13) - 34.351% (45-131)
  9. Bobby Frasor (2005-06) - 31.0% (27-87)
  10. Justin Jackson (2014-15) - 30.4% (28-92)
  11. Reggie Bullock (2010-11) - 29.6% (29-98)
  12. PJ Hairston (2011-12) - 27.3% (38-139)
  13. Nassir Little (2018-19) - 26.9% (14-52)
  14. Leslie McDonald (2009-10) - 20.8% (11-53)

Matt Doherty Era

  1. Rashad McCants (2002-03) – 41.4% (72-174)
  2. Jawad Williams (2001-02) – 38.2% (21-55)
  3. Raymond Felton (2002-03) – 35.8% (69-193)
  4. Melvin Scott (2001-02) – 35.0% (28-80)
  5. Jackie Manuel (2001-02) – 31.4% (22-70)
  6. David Noel (2002-03) – 28.1% (16-57)

Bill Guthridge Era

  1. Jason Capel (1998-99) – 41.1% (23-56)
  2. Joseph Forte (1999-00) – 35.9% (56-156)

Dean Smith Era

  1. Jeff McInnis (1993-94) – 41.5% (27-65)
  2. Vince Carter (1995-96) – 34.5% (19-55)

OBSERVATIONS

  • Jeff McInnis takes the cake, barely edging out Rashad McCants.
  • No freshman in the Roy Williams era has ever taken 50+ threes and made 40 percent or more.
  • I never would have guessed that Kendall Marshall would be the highest-ranked freshman three-point shooter of the Roy Williams era.
  • Four players from the Dean Smith / Bill Guthridge / Matt Doherty eras ranked higher than anyone from the Roy Williams era.
  • Marcus Paige is lower than I thought he would be.
  • What a great duo Wayne Ellington and Ty Lawson were.
  • It felt like Cole Anthony’s three-point efficiency was rather low this season, but in actuality he is less than a percentage point behind Coby White, and ahead of people like Harrison Barnes, Marcus Paige, Reggie Bullock, and PJ Hairston.
  • Keep in mind that several people (Joel Berry, for example) are not on this list because they didn’t have 50+ three-point attempts their freshman season.
  • The fewer number of players to make the list in the Bill Guthridge and Dean Smith eras are revelatory of how the college basketball landscape has changed through the years; both in terms of the prominent roles freshmen play and in reliance on the three-point shot.

CONCLUSIONS

If there was a freshman three-point curse in the Dean Smith / Bill Guthridge era, the numbers certainly don’t show it.

Of all four coaching eras, the Roy Williams years have the most evidence of freshmen struggling to make threes. Four of the 14 players in this era are under 30 percent and none are higher than 38 percent. At the same time, with 14 players qualifying for the list, there are more opportunities for Roy Williams freshmen to both succeed and fail.

So is there a freshman three-point curse at Carolina? Perhaps.

It’s at least safe to say that no freshman in recent years has been a dominant three-point shooter while putting up a high volume of shots. In the current era, no freshman has been consistent enough to carry the outside weight of the entire team.

Unfortunately, that will likely be the reality for the 2020-21 Tar Heels. They will heavily rely on freshmen Caleb Love, RJ Davis, Puff Johnson, and Kerwin Walton to handle the three-point load. Hopefully, one of those four can break the trend and be a consistent outside threat. 

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Comments (2)
No. 1-1
TarHeelsForLife
TarHeelsForLife

This is a crazy stat, 'No freshman in the Roy Williams era has ever taken 50+ threes and made 40 percent or more'!


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