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Cleaning Up At The Line

The best returning ACC free throw shooters

NCAA Basketball: Duke at Wake Forest
Feb 25, 2020; Winston-Salem, North Carolina, USA; Duke Blue Devils forward Wendell Moore Jr. (0) shoots a free throw during the second half against the Wake Forest Demon Deacons at Lawrence Joel Veterans Memorial Coliseum. 
Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

Official statistics are, as we’ve been known to point out, circumscribed in their applicability. By imposing necessary but ultimately arbitrary criteria for inclusion, they tend to minimize the role played by those who make the most of limited opportunity.

The outlook for the upcoming season is typical. Five of the ACC’s nine most accurate returning free throw shooters did not attempt 2.5 foul shots per game in 2020 and so failed to qualify among the official leaders.

The official leader, Syracuse sophomore Joe Girard III, hit at a .894 clip (84-94). Girard was only the third freshman to officially pace the ACC in free throw accuracy, after Georgia Tech’s Mark Price in 1983 (.877, 93-106)) and Duke’s JJ Redick (.919, 102-111) in 2003. Very impressive.

Noting past achievements gives a good idea of how much, how well, or simply how returning players are likely to contribute in 2021.

Take the case of Virginia Tech sophomore Jalen Cone, a playmaker from Watertown, North Carolina, who shadowed Girard under the statistical radar for ACC leadership in foul shooting.

To the naked eye Cone was just another sub-six foot, substitute guard making waves in the conference last year, along with 5-7 Chris Lykes of Miami and 5-9 Kihai Clark of UVa.

Cone started only three games and averaged just 18.4 minutes. He tried more threes than twos, hit an impressive .457 from the bonusphere, and averaged 8.0 points overall, fourth-best among the Hokies. He tried a foul shot every 4.2 minutes played.

We’ll surely see more of Cone this coming season; in 2020 he was seventh in minutes played on his team while leading the squad in shooting efficiency from the free throw and 3-point lines.

Four of the ACC’s top seven returning free throw shooters will now be sophomores: Cone, Girard, Isaiah Wong of Miami, and Duke’s Wendell Moore

Top 2020 Free Throw Accuracy Among Returning ACC Players
(Minimum 300 Minutes Played, One Conversion Per Appearance)
FT% FT-FTA Player, School Official Rank Class
.894 84-94 Joe Girard III, SU 1 So
.886 31-35 Jalen Cone, VT x So.
.876 78-89 Kihei Clark, V 2 Jr.
.833 45-54 Dane Goodwin, ND x Jr.
.829 63-76 Isaiah Wong, UM x So.
.814 70-86 Chris Lykes, UM 5 Sr.
.806 54-67 Wendell Moore, D x So.