Arizona Basketball

Lauri Markkanen having historic Arizona season from 3-point range

 

The minimum requirement to be eligible for the Arizona Wildcats’ career list for 3-point shooting percentage is 100 attempts.

Freshman Lauri Markkanen will soon get there, perhaps Thursday night against Washington State.

And when he does, just like that, he will be second-best 3-point shooter in school history.

The 7-foot forward from Finland has attempted 96 shots from behind the arc, making exactly half — 48. Even if he misses his next four attempts, that will leave him at 48 percent, which would trail only Steve Kerr in school history.

Here is the current top 10 career list:

Arizona career 3-point shooting percentage.

“It’s hard to fathom someone his size shooting the percentage he is shooting currently,” Arizona coach Sean Miller said Monday. “As you know, we have a lot of basketball left. It could certainly come down. I’m only going to go on what these guys do every day in front of me (in practice), and it usually translates (to games).”

Kerr played only one college season with the 3-point line, but how he shot it as a senior was how he shot throughout his Arizona tenure and later in the NBA. He and Salim Stoudamire are unquestionably first and second in the discussion of greatest shooters in Arizona history.

After that? Hmmmm …

Sean Elliott is third on the career percentage list, having played his final three seasons with the 3-point line. Damon Stoudamire is second all-time in 3-point attempts, making slightly more than 40 percent. That’s a good combination of quality and quantity.

Brendon Lavender and Chris Mills are among those who had outstanding seasons shooting the ball — see the UA single-season 3-point percentage chart below — as did big guy Derrick Williams. As a sophomore, he nearly broke Steve Kerr’s single-season percentage record … but then he missed a 3-pointer with seven seconds in the West

Arizona single-season 3-point shooting percentage.

As for Markkanen, his shot is as effortless, as pure, as it was for Kerr and Salim Stoudamire. The difference he is nearly a foot taller than those guards.

Markkanen leads the Pac-12 in 3-point shooting and is fourth in scoring at 17.1 points per game.

“You can hold him to the standards of a 2-guard or the best shooters in our conference, and I would put him toe-to-toe with any of them,” Miller said. “He’s like the UCLA guys, you watch them shoot it, and it’s like, wow can they make shots. That’s how he is.”

But what makes him no worse than a top 10 pick in the 2017 NBA Draft is that he is a full-service 7-footer on offense. He can shoot, he can drive, he can post up.

Markkanen has made 16 of 22 3-point shots in the past four games to get to 50 percent for the season. That includes 8 of 10 during Arizona’s road sweep at USC and UCLA last week. Things are so good, he banked in a 3-point shot in the final minute to help close out the Trojans.

He had 18 points and seven rebounds in the 96-85 win at then-No. 3 UCLA on Saturday en route to earning Pac-12 Player of the Week honors and picking up the Oscar Robertson National Player of the Week award.

“He’s really good,” UCLA coach Steve Alford said after Saturday’s game.

“He looked good tape and he’s even better in person. He’s physical. I mean, he’s got great size and strength for a freshman. He’s a legit 7-foot. What I didn’t know, just watching tape, was his ability to put the ball on the floor.

“Always knew he was an elite jump-shooter, but with that size, to put the ball on the floor — he had a heck of spin move there in the second half — we hadn’t seen that kind of stuff on tape. I thought he was terrific.”

In fact, he might become the best 3-point shooter in NCAA history.

Markkanen could very well cool off from 3-point range. But, well, maybe not. The return of guard Allonzo Trier from NCAA suspension is only going to increase Markkanen’s catch-and-shoot opportunities from Trier’s drive-and-dish ability.

Another reason Markkanen shoots such a high percentage from 3 is that he doesn’t take bad shots.

“To Lauri’s credit, he’s also very unselfish and selective,” Miller said.

“He’s not irresponsible. He’s not looking to score. He pretty much takes what the defense gives. I think that also reflects his percentage; he’s a smart player, an unselfish player. When you’re smart, unselfish and you have a great skill set — and his size allows him to get clean shots off — he’s going to shoot a very good percentage.”

And be among the best in Arizona history.

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