Once Jonathan Laurent saw his first three-point shot rattle around the rim and drop through the net late in the first half, he was locked in.
“It’s just seeing one going in that helped the confidence go up,” Laurent said. “I’ve been making shots in practice, making shots in the offseason, getting in the gym a lot more. So just seeing one go in just clicked it up.”
The 6-foot-6, 216-pound forward sank all three of his attempts from behind the arc on his way to a team-high 15 points Sunday in Rutgers’ 87-66 rout of Drexel at the Rutgers Athletic Center. He shot 75 percent from the field on a 6-for-8 clip.
“Coaches all want me to be aggressive,” said Laurent, who added five rebounds and an assist in 27 minutes. “So it’s just, I got the opportunity to drop the first one I seen and I went for it.”
As a freshman last year, Laurent made just six shots from three-point range on 25 attempts in 27 games.
From the Drexel game alone, he is already halfway there.
Laurent credited first-year Rutgers coach Steve Pikiell, who initiated the urgency for Laurent to expand his game with a sharper outside shot.
“Coach (Steve) Pikiell came in and he told me this,” Laurent said. “‘Last year, you get to the basket. If you start making those (outside) shots, everything will be easier for you.’ So (Pikiell) just tweaked my form and helped me out on some of the things I was doing wrong. I just started making more shots after he helped me on what I needed help with.”
Laurent drained all three of his treys from the corner, where he said Rutgers practices its outside shots the most.
As Laurent led the way from three-point land, senior center C.J. Gettys said the deep threat kept Drexel honest and opened things up in the post for Rutgers. The Scarlet Knights benefited directly with 42 points in the paint.
“Jon was able to stretch the floor for us,” said Gettys, who had 13 points and nine rebounds. “We started off early going inside. We were successful and the guys were kind of slapping down on us, making it a little harder in the post and Jonathan stretched it out and they had to honor him out there on the three-point line.
“That was a big key for us, got Jonathan’s confidence up. We need him to keep that going. We need him to knock down big shots for us later in the season.”
Junior guard Nigel Johnson, who tied Laurent for the team-high total of 15 points and added a trey of his own, echoed those sentiments.
“What we do is we’re a team that thrives on confidence,” said Johnson, who dished out seven assists and grabbed six rebounds off the bench. “When somebody’s hitting, we just keep giving it to them.
“Every timeout we had, I go up to (Laurent) and I’m just like, ‘I’m going to keep looking for you, just keep shooting it.’ And he kept shooting it, he kept hitting. So it was definitely good for us, a good confidence boost for him and hopefully we can carry it onto the next game.”
With size and depth on its side, Rutgers has more balance. Laurent knows he can add to that with the newest wrinkle in his game.
“I feel like (the outside shot) does open up things for me and my teammates,” Laurent said. “Especially for me, I like to get to the basket. Start hitting shots, I can drive the lane, kick out. And if I bounce past one of my bigs, just get everybody involved.”