How Travis Releford became the best shooter in the nation
With his 5-for-5 shooting effort against Temple on Sunday, Kansas guard Travis Releford moved to the top spot nationally in the two best advanced shooting statistics.
The first is effective field goal percentage, which appropriately gives a player 1.5 times the credit for three-pointers (because they are worth 1.5 times the points compared to twos).
|4||T.J. Warren||FR||2012-13||F||North Carolina State||.714|
|5||Kristijan Krajina||JR||2012-13||F||Mount St. Mary's||.712|
The second is true shooting percentage, which weighs free throw shooting into the equation along with twos and threes.
It's quite a leap for the senior, who ranked 244th in eFG% and 306th in TS% a year ago.
So what has changed for Releford?
Let's take a closer look at the numbers to see where he's most improved from a year ago.
The following statistics are from Hoop-Math.com. Releford's data was missing the KU-Towson game from 2011, so I added those shots into the final total.
Releford has always been good at finishing close shots (dunks, layups and tipins), but this year, he's been on another level. Not only is he shooting more close shots this year, he's making a lot more of them, shooting a remarkable 77 percent on those tries. The senior has a knack for avoiding blocks when shooting layups in transition, and it appears he's only gotten better with that skill over time.
Being a high-percentage shooter isn't just about making shots; it's also about avoiding bad shots. Two-point jumpshots are statistically the worst shot a player can take, and Releford has basically eliminated this shot from his game, putting up only nine two-point jumpers this season. He's actually been well above the NCAA average on two-point Js the last two years but still hasn't felt the need to force them.
Releford has significantly increased his three-point percentage while also increasing the percentage of threes he's taken this year. Remember also that the senior started the season 0-for-11 from three, meaning he's made up ground quickly to get to 47 percent. In his last five games, Releford is 11-for-13 from three-point range (84.6 percent).
It's hard to remember this now, but Releford actually was a poor free throw shooter his first two years, making 17 of 32 free throws his freshman year (53.1 percent) and 16 of 25 his sophomore year (64 percent). Releford hasn't gotten to the line as frequently this year (as evidenced by his lower free throw rate, which compares a player's free throw attempts to his field goal attempts), but going from 65 percent to 88 percent is still a significant jump.
I wanted to end by giving Releford's shooting some historical perspective, showing KU's top eFG and TS percentages since 1998-99 — the start of Basketball-Reference's records.
With better shot selection, an elite ability to finish at the rim and improvements behind the line and arc, Releford has taken his shooting efficiency to a new level — one that is unmatched in recent KU history.