Among the most notable aspects of St. Louis University’s open basketball practices this week was the rate at which soft, uncontested 3-pointers dropped through the rim.
As usual, many were followed by hoots from teammates. The success rate was possibly not any more significant than any other college team in the country, but was accentuated by a comment from coach Travis Ford.
“The strength of this team is shooting,” he said. “We can shoot it from a lot of different spots, and we’ve got the best point guard in the country (Yuri Collins) to find them.”
Shooting is that one skill players work on throughout the offseason, trying to further master an already proven attribute or create an offensive threat that has been lacking.
Roommates Gibson Jimerson and Collins reflect those two sides. Jimerson’s summer regimen in 2021 helped him make 42% of his 3-pointers last season. Collins’ efforts led to a dramatic improvement, to 36.2%.
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There might be a lot of intricacies to work out as a team in coming months, but the Billikens hope to be able to rely on shooting, among other things, to make them competitive on their upcoming European tour.
But shooting alone, without pressure, is one thing. How will they fare under pressure? The Billikens scrimmaged Friday at Chaifetz Arena in front of a few hundred fans and were far from mid-season form. But they certainly weren’t afraid to shoot the 3, connecting on nine of 29 (unofficially).
As of now, the plan is for a high volume of 3s come November.
“Absolutely. We probably need to get up 26 to 28 3s a game at least,” Ford said. “You’re talking about elite shooters. I think there will be more of an emphasis than any year I’ve been here. I haven’t decided but there will be almost a quota on how may we need to get off.
“It’s still a long way before we play our first game, and we’ll get a feel for it. But we could certainly have a lineup out there with the best point guard and three of the most elite shooters in the country around a good post player.”
SLU made 36.9% of its 3-pointers last season to rank 35th in the country. However, the Billikens made an average of 6.7 per game, which was 244th nationally. They refused to rely on the long ball.
When Ford talks about SLU’s strength being shooting, he doesn’t just mean beyond the arc. Javonte Perkins, who missed last season becasue of a knee injury suffered in an exhibition game, is one of the best mid-range shooters in the country, a skill that Jimerson also has improved. Center Francis Okoro is accurate in the middle, ranking third in the Atlantic 10 Conference, at 58.9%.
“Obviously, when (Perkins) went down he took a lot of 3s,” Jimerson said. “I’m hoping to get more attempts. I had to take a little different role last year, but I think we’ll see the attempts go up. It will be integrated into the offense out of our base stuff.”
Seven players attempted 3s in the scrimmage and that was without the availability of Collins and Sincere Parker (illnesses) and Perkins, who missed the scrimmage as a precaution.
The addition of Perkins to the lineup in November adds a player who made 36.3% of his 3s in 2020-21. Parker made 40.4% for Moberly Area College. Fred Thatch Jr. and Terrence Hargrove Jr. also have been solid perimeter shooters at times and freshmen Nick Kramer and Larry Hughes were excellent shooters in high school.
The absence of three key players forced Ford to get creative with things as SLU scrimmaged with 10 players. Ford said he tried to teach the available players an offense 20 minutes before practice started to make things easier.
Perkins participated in the early practice drills before sitting out the scrimmage as he returns from a torn ACL.
“We’re trying not to overdo it,” Ford said this week about Perkins. “He’s ready to go but it’s going to be a process. We had a 20-minute scrimmage (last week) and he was incredible. He still wasn’t moving the way he will in two, three, four weeks, but he’s not supposed to be yet.”