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Jemarl Baker, newcomers pacing Arizona’s improved 3-point shooting

arizona-wildcats-basketball-3-point-shooter-jemarl-baker-gettings-smith-hazzard-line Jacob Snow-USA TODAY Sports

Defense is already one area the Arizona Wildcats have made massive strides this season. The same can be said for their 3-point shooting.

Through four games, the Wildcats are shooting 43.6 percent from distance, exactly 10 percent better than they shot from outside last season, which was their worst 3-point shooting year under Sean Miller.

All those offseason additions are paying off. Here’s how the new guys are shooting the trey:

  • Jemarl Baker Jr. — 8 for 15 (.553)
  • Nico Mannion — 7 for 14 (.500)
  • Stone Gettings — 4 for 5 (.800)
  • Josh Green — 5 for 15 (.333)
  • Max Hazzard — 4 for 14 (.286)

The only returner who has taken a notable number of 3s is Dylan Smith, who is a solid 5 for 10.

Baker, Mannion, Smith and Gettings are obviously going to regress at some point—those averages simply aren’t sustainable—while Hazzard is bound to catch some fire, given his career percentages. Green will likely finish around where he is now, give or a take a few percentage marks.

Still, even when the dust settles, Miller thinks this can be the best shooting team he has ever had. His best so far was the 2010-11 squad, which shot 39.7 percent from 3, the 10th-best mark in the country.

“When we caught fire, we had a lot of guys coming in off the bench that shot a pretty high percent,” Miller said. “Kevin Parrom, Jamelle Horne, Brendon Lavender, Jordin Mayes in his freshman year, and then Derrick (Williams). But I would say that our firepower from 3, you can really feel it in transition. It’s something that’s not always easy for the defense to deal with this year.”

It is interesting that Miller mentioned the shooters off the bench because that is how this team is configured too, with Baker, Gettings, and Hazzard all being reserves, capable of providing instant offense.

Contrary to popular belief, Arizona has generally been a good 3-point shooting team under Miller, making 36 percent or more of its 3s every year except his first season (2009-10) and last season. The Wildcats just tend to be selective, ranking near the bottom of the country in 3-point rate, the number of 3s per field goal attempt.

Arizona ranks 266th (of 353) in that category this season, so not much has changed in that regard, despite the 3-point line being moved back to the international distance and the team being proficient from that range.

“I haven’t really paid a lot of close attention,” Miller said of the new 3-point line. “I’m sure that once we get through the entire month of November, there may be some statistics or analytics that would be something worth looking at. For our team, we have a pretty skilled team on the perimeter, so I think those guys can all shoot the ball, maybe we don’t feel it as much.”

Baker catching fire

Miller has repeated that Baker is still getting up to speed after missing several preseason practices due to a hip issue, but has noticed he has been moving better the last couple games.

Baker agreed but gave a different reason for his hot shooting.

“I think it’s the rhythm of playing a few games, just getting comfortable within the team and where I can get shots and where to be aggressive and things like that,” said Baker, who shot 31 percent from 3 at Kentucky. “I think it’s just everybody getting comfortable with each other. We’ve been playing well the last few games. We just have to continue it and continue to work on it in practice, and we all have to continue to be aggressive and just keep confidence in ourselves.”

Baker has also done a good job as the backup point guard, sporting a 13 to 1 assist-to-turnover ratio. Fellow transfer Max Hazzard has 12 assists and zero turnovers.

Finding someone to spell Mannion was a big question after Brandon Williams was lost for the season, but so far those two have answered the bell.

“Very seldom do you sub perimeter players in like that and they play long stretches without any turnovers,” Miller said after the win vs. New Mexico State. “It was really good to see.”