How Rutgers can improve from three-point range even without Cam Spencer
Last season, Rutgers shot 32.1% from three-point range as a team, which ranked just 285th nationally. While that was down from 33.9% from the year before following the departures of high volume shooters behind the arc in Ron Harper Jr. (39.8%) and Geo Baker (33.1%), the addition of Cam Spencer produced the best single season shooting performance in years. Spencer shot 43.4% from deep, making 72 of 166 attempts. He tied the program’s most accurate three-point shooter of all-time, Donnell Lumpkin, for the fifth highest single season shooting percentage.
With the news that Spencer is no longer on next season’s roster, the void from three is significant. Every Rutgers player combined minus Spencer shot just 27.9% from behind the arc as a team. This is a major concern for a team that didn’t win a game against a high major opponent when they allowed more than 65 points last season.
Paul Mulcahy shot a respectable 37.0% from three but his decision on whether to return is still looming. He also led Rutgers in the 2020-2021 season with a 39.3% mark from behind the arc as a freshman. For his career, Mulcahy is shooting 36.4% from three on 209 attempts. His volume could certainly increase next season if he does return.
Aundre Hyatt is a high volume shooter and did make some big three’s last season. However, he only shot 30.6% on 147 attempts. He was a streaky shooter throughout the season, but his fearlessness from behind the arc is valuable. In two seasons at Rutgers, Hyatt averages 29.7% from deep on 195 attempts.
The development jump in year two for Derek Simpson will be in part tied to his efficiency on the offensive end. Part of that is improved from three, where he made just 13 of 60 attempts for 21.7% as a freshman.
Rutgers is also losing Caleb McConnell, who was valuable in many ways but shot just 20.3% from three last season on 63 attempts.
The good news is that UMass transfer Noah Fernandes is now in the fold for next season. He is shooting 376% from three in his career. Last season, Fernandes was shooting 45.2% on 42 attempts from deep before his season was cut short due to injury. The two previous seasons for UMass, Fernandes took over 120 attempts both years and shot 39.3% and 36.0% respectively. His consistency from three is a much needed addition for Rutgers.
Another promising development is the addition of Gavin Griffiths. The high 4-star and Top 35 recruit is one of the best shooters nationally in the 2023 recruiting class. On3 recruiting analyst Jamie Shaw recently said of Griffiths, “At 6-7, Gavin Griffiths is one of the best shooters in the 2023 cycle. He’s not just a feet set guy. Pulls up off bounce from 30, knocks in the middie, & attacks close outs.”
While patience will be needed with the freshman, it seems likely he will have an opportunity next season to help fill the void behind the arc left by Spencer. His shooting touch, strong mechanics and confidence give hope he can make a big impact from three right away.
Of course, Rutgers needs to add another guard from the transfer portal to replace Spencer. However, it won’t be easy to plug and play a guard who can shoot at the level that Spencer did. Finding a shooter who has been consistent from behind the arc throughout their career would be a welcomed addition.
Losing Spencer is damaging to Rutgers and his departure will be felt most notably from three-point range. An elite high major shooter is not easily replaceable. However, Steve Pikiell and the staff have added two good shooters in Fernandes and Griffiths. If they can add another 35%+ career three-point shooter from the transfer portal, Rutgers will have more quality options from deep than they had last season.
Griffiths will likely be getting more minutes now than he would have and Fernandes is bringing consistency. If Mulcahy returns, who should shoot at a higher volume if he does, would give Pikiell three reliable shooters from deep. The biggest question marks are whether Simpson and Hyatt can improve their efficiency, as well as who they acquire from the portal? If even two of those three players can provide some level of consistency from behind the arc, the ceiling would be raised for Rutgers from three-point range. That is incredibly important for the offense to take a significant step forward next season, even without Spencer.
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May 20, 2023 at 9:41 am
Thanks for the analysis and insights on the potential for next season. Could this be a case of addition by subtraction in bringing in a speedy guard with a three-point shot to replace the crafty but slow streaky three-point shooting guard?
May 20, 2023 at 12:10 pm
Is there a chance that Fernandes proves as valuable next season as Cam did this last year? Sure. Could Pikiell find a transfer who can shoot at a similar percentage as Cam? I guess. However, the idea/hope was that RU would FINALLY have the ability to really spread the floor with Fernandes which would make it difficult for defenses to guard both Cam and Griffiths. To have three legit shooters on the floor. If RU didn’t have enough NIL money to lure Cam back, what makes you think that they will be able to entice someone just as talented? Also, go back and think through all of the games that RU doesn’t win if Cam hadn’t been in uniform. Almost dismissing him as a “slow streaky three-point shooting guard” is tough. Cam was a far better defender than we anticipated and as Aaron stated in his podcast he was a great team guy. Cam will be sorely missed.
May 21, 2023 at 4:26 pm
Let’s not kid ourselves, this is a body blow of a loss. Cam was a very efficient player on both ends of the floor.
May 21, 2023 at 10:47 pm
I’ve said multiple times in my coverage since Spencer left that he was the most efficient offensive player of the Pikiell era and it’s a major blow. Just think Rutgers does have a shot to have more depth shooting the three next season if certain guys develop.
May 22, 2023 at 3:30 pm
Aaron in his comments on Griffiths said in part…..”His shooting touch, strong mechanics and confidence give hope he can make a big impact from three right away”. For me, emphasis on the word “mechanics”. Add to that the adjective “consistent” to mechanics. Some are born shooters, but most solid perimeter shooters know that good shooting mechanics include footwork, hand placement on the “catch & shoot” in addition to proper shot release mechanics. PM has the capability to be a good perimeter shooter when he applies those mechanics consistently, but he needs to add confidence (like back in his high school days). Griffiths, from what I’ve observed on tape, already possesses all the right attributes and I’ll bet he’s worked on those mechanics methodically and for some time. Add Fernandes & Simpson (scorers) to the mix and you can make up for Spencer’s point production. What is not so easy to replace is his movement without the ball, his basketball IQ and his ability on defense to get in the passing lane to create turnovers. Losing that plus Cliff, if he doesn’t return, creates real problems.