Help Wanted: 3-Point Shooting

CHARLOTTE, N.C. – North Carolina’s 2014-15 roster represents Roy Williams’ most balanced group since the 2011-12 season. What it lacks is perimeter firepower outside of Marcus Paige.

UNC ranked 339th out of 345 Division I programs in 3-point field goals per game (4.3) last season. The Tar Heels shot 33.6 percent from beyond the arc, which would have ranked in the 190-200 range nationally if they had made enough 3-pointers per game (5) to qualify for a NCAA ranking.

“We need to shoot it better,” Williams told reporters at the ACC’s Operation Basketball on Wednesday. “We finished third in this league and won 24 games and didn’t shoot it worth a darn.”

Paige was UNC’s primary – and in some games, only – perimeter scoring threat. The junior guard shot 38.9 percent from 3-point range, accounting for 59 percent of UNC’s makes. Leslie McDonald knocked down 31.2 percent of his attempts, although the departed guard was streaky in his effectiveness.

With McDonald gone, the returning Tar Heels not named Paige combined for 22.7 percent shooting (17-of-75) from long range last season.

UNC’s three-man freshman class doesn’t include a player tagged as a sharpshooter, although they’ve apparently shown to be capable during the first month of practice.

“Joel Berry can make a 3-point shot,” Williams said. “Justin Jackson, I think, is going to really be a good shooter before his career is over with. J.P. [Tokoto] has gotten a lot better. Marcus still needs to make a bunch of them because we’re going to have to have him shoot them.”

When asked who had been the most consistent shooter in practice aside from Paige, junior forward Brice Johnson pointed to Jackson.

“Justin’s really been knocking it down lately,” Johnson said.

Perimeter scoring is not a requirement for a deep run in March. UNC’s 2010-11 squad, stocked with Harrison Barnes and Reggie Bullock on the wing, shot 32.8 percent from 3-point range, which stands as the worst in school history.

UNC will attempt to ratchet up its scoring this season by running more and pairing a efficient post game with Paige’s All-America ability out front.

“We’re still not going to be a top-20 team in shooting the three; that’s just not the makeup of our roster,” Paige said. “… but I think Justin can knock down threes consistently. Theo [Pinson] is streaky. He’s not going to take a lot of tough threes, so the threes that he gets, he should be able to make a decent percentage. And I think Joel’s shown that he’s a capable shooter.”

Another player that Williams praised for his outside shooting ability is Stilman White, noting the redshirt sophomore could potentially be inserted in specific situations calling for a 3-point shot.

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