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Home » Midrange Mash: Lobo leads league in scoring thanks to ‘lost art’
University of New Mexico guard Jamal Mashburn, Jr. shoots his signature midrange jumper over Western New Mexico’s Isaiah Lewis during their game in December. (Adolphe Pierre-Louis/Journal)
From the day he arrived at UNM, Jamal Mashburn Jr. was incarcerated. He has worked, prepared and set an example for an emerging recovery program.
It’s a work ethic inherent in him from a young age that has helped establish him as one of the nation’s top midrange shooters in a time when it’s a lost art form.
When the Journal recently asked second-grader Lobo how his consistent high-teens, who scored most of the season, went to an incendiary stretch of 20 or more in seven of the last eight games heading into Friday’s showdown in the pit Fools had risen in the Air Force, Mashburn gave a rare short reply.
“Nothing has changed,” Mashburn said. “That’s pretty much all I have to say about it. Nothing has changed.”
The proud shooting guard, who since moving from Minnesota has been nothing but outspoken, accommodating and affable with the media, apparently didn’t care. It indicated he’d been playing so well lately, but at the core of his mind was the suggestion that he hadn’t worked hard enough early in the season.
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“No,” Pitino said Thursday after a moment’s thought, echoing his star shooting guard’s response on whether a change could explain the scoring explosion that included a career-high 33 points against Nevada on Monday in Reno.
“Frankly, his approach is the same. I think he’s so meticulous about his daily work and that gives him great confidence. … (when he has an off-game) he has the confidence to just go right back to it because he believes so much in his preparation. So I think nothing has changed. (And) I think he’s an assassin with that midrange.
Pitino is not the only one who thinks so.
One opponent coach after another has commented on Mashburn’s ability to consistently rise above defenders – often exactly where they expected it to – and land a shot that has mostly faded from the game.
With apologies to the old-school crowd, modern thinking – and the numbers back it up – is that the best shots based on a combination of their value and likelihood of scoring are: free throws, 2-pointers on the edge , and catch and shoot 3-pointers.
Anything else doesn’t give teams the point value worth risking their low percentage results.
But Mashburn got his coach to believe in a simple counterargument: the really best shot is always the one that goes in.
“The midrange is a lost art in today’s game,” Mashburn said. “It’s a forgotten art. I mean it’s an open shot if you can perfect it because the defenders are at your mercy. You have to (try) to get it to help (defenders) and then I stop so fast it’s hard to guard.
“It’s been like that my whole career actually … ever since I started — training in that area (of the court).”
Thanks to this work, “Midrange Mash” averages a best 19.3 points in the league and 22.5 in league play – almost three points more than the second-best scorer, Omari Moore of San Jose State (19.6).
According to CBBAnalytics.com short chart data analyzed by the Journal, Mashburn shot 156 midrange 2s (defined as any off-lane shot but within the 3-point arc). The second-highest number of attempts among the top 25 scorers at Mountain West is Jarod Lucas of Nevada at 70.
As for the midrange 2s, who have a national average of 35.2%, Mashburn shoots 43.6% and has made 68 of them — 38 more than anyone else in the league.
“If he’s shooting a high percentage, I won’t be stubborn,” Pitino said. “Analytically, a lot of people, especially in the NBA, say that the 3-point shot is (so important) because you get a lot of offensive rebounds. It just depends on the guy. With Mash, he has the freedom to do that. …I haven’t seen a guy that’s that good at it.”
middle class in context
Jamal Mashburn Jr. has shot 86 more midrange 2s — defined by off-lane field goal attempts but within the 3-point arc — than any of the other top 25 scorers at Mountain West. He’s made 30 more than the next closest player on this list. His 43.6% shooting clip on midrange 2s is among the best in the nation for any player shooting such a large number of such shots.
Among Mountain West’s top 25 scorers:
• Midrange 2s attempts 1. Jamal Mashburn, Jr., UNM – 156 2. Jarod Lucas, Nev. – 70 3. Elijah Harkless, UNLV-58 4. Isaiah Stevens, CSU – 57 5. Matt Bradley, SDSU – 52 • Midrange 2s made 1. Jamal Mashburn, Jr., UNM – 68 2. Jarod Lucas, Nev. – 30 3. Kenan Blackshear, Nev. – 25 4. Elijah Harkless, UNLV – 24 5. Isaiah Stevens, CSU – 20 • Midrange 2s FG% (min. 2.0 attempts/game) 1. Kenan Blackshear, Nevada – 53.2% 2. Jamal Mashburn, Jr., UNM – 43.6% 3. Jarod Lucas, Nevada – 42.9% 4. Elijah Harkless, UNLV – 41.4% 5. Marcus Shaver, Jr., Boise State – 36.6% * Division I average – 35.2% SOURCE: CBBAnalytics.com CLICK TO ENLARGE