Entering Saturday’s game against Western Michigan, Zavier Simpson had mustered just five made three-pointers on the season.
He left Crisler with three more on the stat sheet, all crucial in the 70-62 escape against the Broncos.
He currently sinks just under 30 percent of his treys, which is up about a percentage point from last season. While more a push shot than a true jumper, it appears to be a repeatable and comfortable shooting stroke for the junior point guard.
Turning him into a consistent deep threat may be too tall an order for John Beilein. With that said, he’s transformed non-shooters into lethal weapons from behind the arc throughout his 12 years in Ann Arbor.
The early improvements were incremental.
Manny Harris, guard, 2008 to 2009
2008: 31.8 percent (42-of-132)
2009: 32.7 percent (52-of-159)
Total rise: plus one percentage point
It’s worth noting that Harris dipped in production in the 2010 season (down to 30.8 percent).
DeShawn Sims, forward, 2008 to 2009
2008: 30.3 percent (43-of-142)
2009: 31.7 percent (26-of-82)
Total rise: plus 1.4
Again, worth mentioning that his percentage dipped to 28.4 percent in 2010.
Darius Morris, point guard, 2010 to 2011
2010: 17.9 percent (7-of-39)
2011: 25 percent (16-of-64)
Total rise: plus 7.1
Zack Novak, wing, 2010 to 2012
2010: 30.6 percent (44-of-144)
2011: 38.5 percent (65-of-169)
2012: 40.9 percent (52-of-127)
Total rise over three seasons: plus 10.3
In the early Beilein era, Novak showed the most improvement as a shooter. From him onwards, players developed their strokes more rapidly.
Trey Burke, point guard, 2012 to 2013
2012: 34.8 percent (57-of-164)
2013: 38.4 percent (76-of-198)
Total rise: plus 3.6
Tim Hardaway Jr., guard, 2012 to 2013
2012: 28.3 percent (53-of-187)
2013: 37.4 percent (73-of-195)
Total rise: plus 9.1
Hardaway actually had to reform his shot, as his percentage dipped from his freshman to sophomore seasons.
He’s now connecting on 36 percent of his deep bombs for the New York Knicks. He averages over 21 points a game.
Caris LeVert, guard, 2013 to 2014
2013: 30.2 percent (13-of-43)
2014: 40.8 percent (60-of-147)
Total rise: plus 10.6
Injuries shortened his 2015 and 2016 campaigns. He shot 38 percent and 45 percent in those seasons, respectively.
Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman, guard, 2015 to 2018
2015: 29.3 percent (12-of-41)
2016: 36.1 percent (30-of-83)
2017: 37.8 percent (42-of-111)
2018: 36.6 percent (70-of-191)
Total rise over four seasons: plus 7.3
While his percentage dipped in his senior season, it stayed mostly steady amidst far more volume.
Two other players in D.J. Wilson and Moritz Wagner also skyrocketed into healthy three-point rates in their careers. However, their respective sample sizes were so low at the beginning, that it’s not exactly fair to count them.
In three seasons, Simpson has gone from an 26.3 percent at incredibly low volume to a 29 percent rate through 11 games this season.
This is typically the year a Beilein guard would dramatically improve their shot. Will Simpson be one of those players, or is he restricted to role of facilitator and defensive stopper?