Chase for 180: So far, so good for Virginia’s Justin Anderson

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The “Chase for 180″ is back for a second year, and for those who may not be familiar with the project it’s our attempt to identify some of the best shooters in America. But what makes one an “elite shooter?” For some it’s merely the ability to knock down perimeter shots at a high rate, but that isn’t the case for all players. High-level shooting requires proficiency from three, the field overall, and from the foul line. 

“180” refers to the resulting number when adding a player’s field goal, three-point and free throw percentages, with the best shooters either approaching or surpassing that mark. 50 percent or better from the field overall, 40 percent or better from three and 90 percent or better from the foul line. This achievement has occurred more often in college basketball than it has in the NBA, where just six players (Steve Nash did it in four different seasons) have done it in the history of the league. 

This season we’ll update this list weekly, with players also needing to qualify to be ranked by the NCAA in each of the three percentage categories in order to be considered. In order to qualify to be ranked a player needs to have played in at least 75 percent of his team’s games and have averaged: 

  • five or more field goal attempts per game;
  • two or more three-point attempts per game;
  • 2.5 or more free throw attempts per game.

To read prior installments of the Chase for 180, click here

Despite returning three starters from a team that won 30 games, an ACC title, and made the program’s first Sweet 16 appearance since 1995, Virginia had some important questions to answer in advance of the 2014-15 season. Chief among those questions was how they would account for the loss of Joe Harris (12.0 ppg), who despite seeing his role within the Virginia offense change some was still the team’s second-leading scorer in 2013-14. Without Harris the Cavaliers were left with one double-digit scorer, Malcolm Brogdon, meaning that at least one of their supplementary offensive pieces from a season ago would need to step forward if Tony Bennett’s team is to defend its ACC crown.

Enter Justin Anderson, who in each of his first two seasons was a valuable reserve and won ACC Sixth Man of the Year honors in 2013-14. While the Montrose Christian product may not be considered a “lights out” shooter, the strides he’s made offensively are a major reason why Virginia is currently 9-0 and ranked sixth nationally.

After shooting 40.7% from the field and 29.4% from beyond the arc in 2013-14, Anderson’s gotten off to a hot start in 2014-15. Currently shooting 57.0% from the field and 58.8% from beyond the arc, Anderson’s more than doubled his scoring average from a season ago (7.8 ppg) to 15.8 points per game. Thus far Anderson’s reached double figures in eight of Virginia’s nine games, and while he managed to do so on 15 occasions last season Anderson’s been far more efficient this season.

According to Kenpom.com Anderson’s effective field goal and true shooting percentages have jumped substantially, with the former going from 47.0% to 68.6% and the latter from 51.6% to 70.8%. As a result Anderson’s offensive rating has gone from 100.9 to 135.2, but it is early in the season. That leads to the question that was asked in our weekly National Player of the Year rankings: can Anderson sustain this level of production?

Obviously things are going to get tougher for Anderson and the Cavaliers when they get into ACC play. However what needs to be considered are the team’s willingness to work for quality looks regardless of who takes the shot (Brogdon and Anthony Gill are also averaging double figures, and Mike Tobey isn’t far off at 8.4 ppg), and Anderson not taking the increased opportunities as a license to fire away from the perimeter indiscriminately (39.8% of his shots this year have been taken at the rim per hoop-math.com, compared to 30.5% last year).

The percentages for Anderson are likely to change as the season wears on. But given the fact that thus far he’s been a more efficient player in terms of the shots he’s taking, Anderson has the ability (and talent) to ensure that any decrease isn’t too drastic.

50-40-90 Club

1. Marcus Marshall (Missouri State)
56.0% FG, 57.1% 3PT, 93.5% FT = 206.6

One of the best scorers and all-around shooters in the Missouri Valley Conference, Marshall’s scored 18 points or more in five of the seven games he’s played in this season.

He’s Really Close 

2. Tyler Haws (BYU)
49.7%, 43.4%, 90.1% = 183.2

Haws was in part of the “50-40-90 Club” in the last installment, and the concern for BYU is how long they’ll be without him thanks to the ankle injury suffered over the weekend.

Nine More “180” Players

1. Sean Sellers (Ball State)
51.7%, 62.5%, 89.3% = 203.5

December hasn’t been as kind to Sellers as November was, as he’s shot 38.9% from the field in three games, but the three-point shooting (3-for-5) has remained solid.

2.  Marc Loving (Ohio State) 
54.9%, 53.8%, 87.5% = 196.2

The sophomore’s been quiet over the last two games for the Buckeyes, scoring a total of eight points on 1-for-5 shooting from the field (6-for-6 FT, however).

3. Justin Anderson (Virginia)
57.0%, 58.8%, 80.0% = 195.8

4. Austin Richie (Western Michigan)
52.8%, 56.8%, 84.4% = 194.0

In two games this month Richie’s shooting 9-for-19 from the field, 7-for-13 from beyond the arc and 7-for-8 from the foul line, averaging 16.0 points per game.

5. Derrick Marks (Boise State)
51.8%, 53.3%, 85.2% = 190.3

With Anthony Drmic struggling with back problems, a more efficient Marks has stepped forward for the Broncos.

6. Alec Peters (Valparaiso)
53.2%, 50.0%, 86.1% = 189.3

After struggling in a loss to New Mexico (4-for-14 FG) the sophomore bounced back in a three-point win over Ball State on Saturday, scoring 23 points (7-for-16 FG, 3-for-8 3PT, 6-for-6 FT) and grabbing ten rebounds.

7. Milton Doyle (Loyola-IL)
58.2%, 63.6%, 66.0 = 187.8

While the free throw percentage can use some work, keep in mind that Doyle (15.6 ppg) is playing with a torn labrum in his right (shooting) shoulder.

8. Atif Russell (Pepperdine)
52.1%, 55.0%, 80.0% = 187.1

Russell (9.6 ppg) isn’t among the three Waves averaging double figures, but his play is one of the reasons why Pepperdine is off to a 7-2 start.

9. Corey Hawkins (UC Davis)
52.5%, 54.2%, 79.5% = 186.2

Already one of the Big West’s best shooters, the senior has improved his percentages across the board from last season and he’s also scored 18 points or more in six of the 7-1 Aggies’ eight games.

Kentucky moves scrimmage to Eastern Kentucky for flood relief

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LEXINGTON, Ky. — Kentucky will play its annual Blue-White men’s basketball scrimmage in Eastern Kentucky to benefit victims of the devastating summer floods.

The school announced that the Oct. 22 event at Appalachian Wireless Arena in Pikeville will feature a pregame Fan Fest. Ticket proceeds will go through Team Eastern Kentucky Flood Relief.

Wildcat players will also participate in a community service activity with local organizations in the relief effort.

Kentucky coach John Calipari said the team was excited to play for Eastern Kentucky fans and added, “We hope we can provide a temporary escape with basketball and community engagement.”

The scrimmage traditionally is held at Rupp Arena. It will occur eight days after its Big Blue Madness public workout at Rupp.

Kentucky’s Tionna Herron recovering from open-heart surgery

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LEXINGTON, Ky. — Kentucky coach Kyra Elzy says freshman Tionna Herron is recovering from open-heart surgery to correct a structural abnormality.

The 6-foot-4 post player learned of her condition after arriving at school in June and received other opinions before surgery was recommended. Senior trainer Courtney Jones said in a release that Herron underwent surgery Aug. 24 at Texas Children’s Hospital in Houston and is recovering at home in DeSoto, Texas.

Elzy said Herron “is the definition of a warrior” and all are grateful to be on the other side of the player’s surgery. Herron is expected back on campus early next month and will continue rehabilitation until she’s cleared to return to normal activity.

“Her will and determination to eventually return to the court is inspiring, and it’s that `game-on’ attitude that is what makes her such a perfect fit in our program,” Elzy said in a release. “We are so thrilled for Tionna’s return to our locker room; it’s not the same without our full team together.”

Herron committed to Kentucky during last fall’s early signing period, rated as a four-star prospect and a top-70 player in last year’s class. Kentucky won last year’s Southeastern Conference Tournament and reached the NCAA Tournament’s first round.

Emoni Bates charged with 2 felonies

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SUPERIOR TOWNSHIP, Mich — Emoni Bates, a former basketball prodigy who transferred to Eastern Michigan from Memphis, was charged with two felonies after police found a gun in a car during a traffic stop.

The 18-year-old Bates failed to stop at an intersection Sunday night and a search turned up the weapon, said Derrick Jackson, a spokesman for the Washtenaw County sheriff’s office.

Defense attorney Steve Haney told The Associated Press that the vehicle and the gun didn’t belong to Bates.

“I hope people can reserve judgment and understand there’s a presumption of innocence,” Haney said. “This was not his vehicle. This was not his gun. … We’re still gathering facts, too.”

Bates was charged with carrying a concealed weapon and altering identification marks on a firearm. He was released after his lawyer entered a not guilty plea. Bates’ next court hearing is Oct. 6.

“This is his first brush with the law,” Haney said in court. “He poses no threat or risk to society.”

Less than a month ago, the 6-foot-9 Bates transferred to Eastern Michigan to play for his hometown Eagles. Bates averaged nearly 10 points a game last season as a freshman at Memphis, where he enrolled after reclassifying to skip a year of high school and join the class of 2021.

“We are aware of a situation involving one of our student athletes,” EMU spokesman Greg Steiner said. “We are working to gather more details and will have further comment when more information is available.”

Bates was the first sophomore to win the Gatorade national player of the year award in high school basketball in 2020, beating out Cade Cunningham and Evan Mobley. Detroit drafted Cunningham No. 1 overall last year, two spots before Cleveland took Mobley in the 2021 NBA draft.

Bates committed to playing for Tom Izzo at Michigan State two years ago, later de-committed and signed with Memphis. Bates played in 18 games for the Tigers, who finished 22-11 under Penny Hardaway. Bates missed much of the season with a back injury before appearing in Memphis’ two NCAA Tournament games.

In 2019, as a high school freshman, the slender and skilled guard led Ypsilanti Lincoln to a state title and was named Michigan’s Division 1 Player of the Year by The Associated Press. His sophomore season was cut short by the pandemic and he attended Ypsi Prep Academy as a junior, his final year of high school.

UConn to pay Kevin Ollie another $3.9 million over firing

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STORRS, Conn. — UConn announced Thursday it has agreed to pay former men’s basketball coach Kevin Ollie another $3.9 million to settle discrimination claims surrounding his 2018 firing.

The money is in addition to the more than $11.1 million in back salary Ollie has already been paid after an arbitrator ruled in January that he was improperly fired under the school’s agreement with its professor’s union.

“I am grateful that we were able to reach agreement,” Ollie said in a statement Thursday. “My time at UConn as a student-athlete and coach is something I will always cherish. I am pleased that this matter is now fully and finally resolved.”

Ollie, a former UConn point guard who guided the Huskies to a 127-79 record and the 2014 national championship in six seasons as head coach, was let go after two losing seasons. UConn also stopped paying him under his contract, citing numerous NCAA violations in terminating the deal.

In 2019, the NCAA placed UConn on probation for two years and Ollie was sanctioned individually for violations, which the NCAA found occurred between 2013 and 2018. Ollie’s attorneys, Jacques Parenteau and William Madsen, accused UConn of making false claims to the NCAA for the purpose of firing Ollie “with cause.”

The school had argued that Ollie’s transgressions were serious and that his individual contract superseded those union protections.

Ollie’s lawyers had argued that white coaches, including Hall-of-Famers Jim Calhoun and women’s coach Geno Auriemma, had also committed NCAA violations, without being fired, and indicated they were planning to file a federal civil rights lawsuit.

The school and Ollie said in a joint statement Thursday they were settling “to avoid further costly and protracted litigation.”

Both sides declined to comment further.

Ollie, who faced three years of restrictions from the NCAA on becoming a college basketball coach again, is currently coaching for Overtime Elite, a league that prepares top prospects who are not attending college for the pros.

Dream’s McDonald returning to Arizona to coach under Barnes

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TUCSON, Ariz. — Atlanta Dream guard Aari McDonald is returning to Arizona to work under coach Adia Barnes.

The school announced that McDonald will serve as director of recruiting operations while continuing to fulfill her WNBA commitments. She will oversee all recruiting logistics, assist with on-campus visits, manage recruit information and social media content at Arizona.

McDonald was one of the best players in Arizona history after transferring from Washington as a sophomore. She was an All-American and the Pac-12 player of the year in 2020-21, leading the Wildcats to the national championship game, which they lost to Stanford.

McDonald broke Barnes’ single-season scoring record and had the highest career scoring average in school history before being selected by the Dream with the third overall pick of the 2021 WNBA draft.