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George McCloud, a three point pioneer

The three-pointer has gone from gimmick to a staple to the NBA. The youth of today are modeling their games after sharp shooters like Steph Curry and James Harden. Just look at the below charts illustrated below with the average three pointers attempted and made per game year by year in the NBA. Its growth has been exponential.

Basketball-Reference.com
Basketball-Reference.com

I remember growing up and being hounded to be efficient and take good looks. That’s the NBA I grew up watching. Remember when Jordan hit six three’s in the first half against Portland in the 1996 finals? That was just insane. And it still is an amazing feat, but we will likely see that again. Remember when 3 point shooting specialists averaged less than five threes in a game? Steph and James have been doing that since their fourth season.

The shot has changed to be a volume shot, because it has become more efficient. As I was looking through the most three pointers taken in a season, I recognized most of the names… excluding George McCloud. Who has to be the most unlikely person on this list (but would I have guess Eric Gordon or Kemba Walker? probably not..)

Basketball-Reference.com

George McCloud had a bumpy ride to the NBA, but his college story forecasts how he got on the above list. McCloud college game splits can be found here, but per the Nolefan.org:

With an unusual switch from forward to point guard, McCloud became one of the finest players in FSU basketball history…After posting only average numbers is his first two seasons, McCloud, a 6’6″ native of Daytona Beach, Florida, would blossom his junior season and become one of the nation’s top scorers leading the Seminoles to back-to-back NCAA Tournament appearances. McCloud was twice named to the All-Metro Conference team and earning Most Valuable Player honors as a senior following the 1988-89 season. George would finish his career as the Seminoles’ second all-time leading scorer and as a finalist for the John Wooden Award which recognizes the nation’s top player. A lottery pick by the NBA’s Indiana Pacers, McCloud enjoyed several outstanding seasons with the Pacers and currently continues his professional career.

I love this story. Shows how basketball has evolved. It wasn’t until 1986 that the NCAA universally recognized the three point line, which was McCloud’s sophomore year, the year he just became a point guard. McCloud embraced his role change and a relatively new rule. McCloud’s college stats on the 3-pointer can be seen below.

SeasonYear3PA3PMGamesAvg. Per Game
85-86Freshman00300
*86-87Sophomore4514301.5
87-88Junior15972305.3
88-89Senior262115308.73

*Transition to point guard, NCAA universally recognizes the 3-point line

In his individual NCAA game logs, you can see that slowly gets comfortable with taking more three point attempts. His Junior year, McCloud only attempted 10 or more three pointers in a game just three times. His senior year he did it 11 times. He was good at it too. After shooting 31% his Sophomore year, he shot 45% and 43% for his Junior and Senior years respectively.

McCloud bounced around after being drafted 7th in the draft, but in his fifth year, he made the most of his opportunity with Dallas. It was his best year (on a not very good team). He was third on the team in scoring at 18.9 and averaged almost nine three point attempts a game, hitting just under 38%. He shot a whopping 20 3-pointers coming off the bench on March 5, 1996 in a win over the New Jersey Nets. But, it was just a flash in the pan. He never had another season like it.

Next time you see Russell Westbrook shoot 20 threes in a game, remember, George McCloud did it first. George McCloud, the three-point pioneer.

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