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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