ANCHORAGE, Alaska —
Indiana State’s men's basketball team did many things right during the 2012-13 season, but one thing it couldn’t get a handle on was its 3-point shooting. The Sycamores shot 32.1 percent from 3-point range, ranked 252nd in the nation.
It was going to take a lot of work to improve ISU’s percentage. So far, hard work has had its own reward.
“One of our weaknesses last year was 3-point shooting. Sometimes we'd shoot a high percentage, but sometimes we'd struggle,” ISU guard Dawon Cummings said. “This summer a lot of us took it as one of our main keys. We did a lot of shooting practice and it's starting to translate to the games.”
Is it ever.
Through four games, ISU’s 3-point shooting percentage has skyrocketed. The Sycamores have converted 51.5 percent of its 3-point attempts. As of the last statistical period undertaken by the NCAA, ISU ranked second in the nation, ranked behind fellow Missouri Valley Conference member Evansville at 52.7 percent.
The uptick in ISU’s shooting percentage is considerable, but what makes it even more impressive is the source of the shooting. That’s to say there is no single source. Its been a group effort.
Four Sycamores have 10 or more attempts from 3-point range – Dawon Cummings (18), Justin Gant (10), Khristian Smith (10) and Manny Arop (10). All have hit at least 50 percent of their attempts. Gant and Smith have converted 60 percent.
Devonte Brown, Lucas Eitel and Jake Kitchell don't have the same number of attempts, but each of them have made 50 percent.
Even Jake Odum, sometimes criticized for not having an outside touch, has made 42.9 percent.
“I have a lot of compliments for Dawon, Khristian, Manny, Odum. Those guys really worked on their jump shots this offseason and you can tell,” Eitel said.
Cummings was a case study in what ISU wanted to accomplish beyond the arc. As a junior, Cummings couldn’t consistently demonstrate his ability to shoot the three – he made more than one in a game just six times – but showed flashes of ability, such as a 5 of 6 performance against Bradley. But the inconsistency won out and he shot 29.1 percent from 3-point range last season.
The coaches knew he could shoot. It was a matter of the time he put in.
“When coach evaluated the season, one of the things he pointed out was that he knew I had a knack for shooting the ball, but I wasn't working on it as much as I needed to,” Cummings said.
“It's kind of like I was coasting. Maybe my shot was falling, so I don’t need to go to the gym today. You have to be consistent, you have to work on game situations, you have to work tired. I worked on my form to be consistent,” he added.
The result so far? Cummings has made 9 of 18 from long range.
When any team shoots well, it makes its offense very difficult to defend. The Sycamores are no different, especially since they have drivers in abundance and have also shot well at the free-throw line.
“People always knew me as a shooter and those guys were more drivers. When they're a shooter as well and you can't have a short close-out on them, that makes the team so much more dangerous,” Eitel said. “When you hit shots like that, it spaces the floor. I think it's awesome to have so many threats.”