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Dominic Green: Birth of a Sharpshooter

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Green had a miraculous emergence as a 3-point threat as a junior after 2 lackluster seasons

NCAA Basketball: Arizona at Washington Jennifer Buchanan-USA TODAY Sports

This season’s Washington Huskies experienced a lot of both individual and team success. Now that the season is over I’ll be profiling some of the instances where the team or a Husky player accomplished a statistic that was particularly noteworthy. I’ll begin with Dominic Green’s remarkable shooting improvement.

As a sophomore, Dominic Green was one of the worst offensive players in the Pac-12. If any of you have children reading this with you I suggest you hide their eyes before I display his 2016/17 Pac-12 percentages. Ready? Green shot just 28.1% on 2-pt attempts and an abysmal 17.3% on 3-pt attempts (but he made all 4 of his free throws!). In the non-conference that year he was shooting 41.7% on 2-pt attempts and 39.6% on 3-pt attempts so it had looked like there was hope for redemption after an underwhelming freshman season (29.4% from 2, 27.7% from 3). But Green’s play in conference seemingly snuffed out that chance.

Mike Hopkins had his work cut out for him to rebuild Green into a competent player. Green was advertised as a tremendous shooter coming out of high school and if he could rediscover that stroke with his length it would give him the chance to be a highly useful 3 and D guy. I said before the season that if Hop could turn Green into an above average offensive player it would signal that he was a tremendous coach but a failure to do so wouldn’t be damning.

Through the first 10 games of the season it appeared the latter was likely. Green was 6 of 23 (26%) from deep at the conclusion of the Gonzaga game. That led to him receiving a DNP in a tight home win over Loyola Marymount. But then the Bethune-Cookman game happened.

UW blew the doors off the Wildcats early and Green got to play almost the entire 2nd half. Green seemingly couldn’t miss and just kept taking 3’s even when UW was up by 30+ points with 5 minutes to go. He set a career high with 6 three-pointers that night.

Several people were disappointed in the lack of sportsmanship showed by continuing to bomb threes early in the shot clock when UW should have been in dribble out the clock mode. I remember in the post game comments that I agreed but said if this restored Dominic Green’s confidence that I didn’t care if Bethune-Cookman had their feelings hurt. Little did I know.

Dominic once again got a DNP in the next game against Montana but was 4/5 from deep in an upset road win over USC and from that point on became an integral part of the rotation. Starting with that Bethune-Cookman game, Green shot 48.6% on 3-pointers the rest of the way. He ended up 4th in the Pac-12 in 3-pt percentage a year after finishing just 49/51 among qualified players the year before. You can call him Dominic “The Phoenix” Green after such a miraculous rise from the ashes.

That turn around is astounding and caused me to wonder whether it was unprecedented. So I did some digging. I looked for players who had shot under 30% from 3-point range on 50+ attempts for at least two consecutive seasons to start out their career who then shot better than 40% in year 3. This excluded players who had a good shooting freshman season, a bad sophomore and junior season, and then a resurgent senior year.

Green shot 27.7% on 65 attempts in his freshman year, 28% on 100 attempts as a sophomore, and finally 43.2% in year 3. Here’s the list of players pulling off a similar feat in the last decade.

Players Under 30% on 3-pointers Years 1 and 2, Over 40% in Year 3

Player School Final Year Year 1, 3pt% Year 2, 3pt% Year 3, 3pt%
Player School Final Year Year 1, 3pt% Year 2, 3pt% Year 3, 3pt%
D.J Fenner Nevada 2017 20.40% 29.70% 43.50%
Ron Curry James Madison 2015 28% 23.60% 42.20%
Reggie Jackson Boston College 2011 27.30% 29% 42%
Xavier Pollard Kent State 2016 16.90% 25.40% 40.80%
Trevor Releford Alabama 2013 27.90% 27.30% 40.70%
Phil Greene St. John's 2014 26% 22.70% 40%

It’s not completely unprecedented but it’s still pretty rare. Just about one person per year has a turnaround like Green experienced this season.

The next question is how did these players fare the next season? As a verified stats nerd I would expect that after such a significant rise that there would be regression to the mean and that most players dropped off the next year. Is that true?

From the list above, Fenner and Pollard achieved this feat as seniors and Reggie Jackson declared for the NBA Draft. That leaves 3 test cases. All three saw their numbers decline as seniors. However, all were still above average shooters. Releford shot 39.4%, Green also shot 39.4%, and Curry shot 36.3%.

As we project forward for Green next season it appears it’s unrealistic to expect him to shoot close to 50% from deep like he did in conference play. But it would also be surprising if he dropped very far below 40% on the year either. Defenses are going to be much more ready to defend Green from deep and identify him as a shooter. He likely won’t see quite as many clean looks from the corner. But “The Phoenix” will definitely still be flying next season (and yes, I’m going to try to make that stick).

Here’s a look at Green’s shot chart this season courtesy of Synergy Sports.

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