Ann Arbor — Michigan coach John Beilein’s teams have never been shy about letting it fly from beyond the arc.
But with Moritz Wagner, Duncan Robinson and Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman — the team’s top 3-point shooters last season — all gone, the Wolverines will look to other sources to get the long-range attack off the ground this year.
Enter redshirt junior wing Charles Matthews, who is aiming to become a more effective 3-point threat after withdrawing from the NBA Draft and returning to Michigan for his third season.
After all, that was the most common piece of feedback Matthews received during the pre-draft process and his workouts with the Boston Celtics, Denver Nuggets and New York Knicks.
“The one thing they really focused on me was for my 3-point percentage to go up,” Matthews said after Thursday’s practice. “There's such a premium on 3-point shooting thanks to the (Golden State) Warriors.
“You've got to be able to evolve with the game. The game has become so spread out and I've got to develop my 3-point shot even more.”
The Wolverines ranked sixth in the nation in attempted 3-pointers (1,011) and 11th in made 3-pointers (361) last season. Robinson (78 made 3s), Abdur-Rahkman (73) and Wagner (63) each shot at least 37 percent from downtown and accounted for nearly 60 percent of Michigan’s 3-point production.
Matthews, on the other hand, shot 31.8 percent from beyond the arc, which ranked the second-lowest among seven Wolverines with at least 50 3-point attempts, made at least two 3-pointers in the same game just eight times, and averaged less than one made 3-pointer in the 30.1 minutes he played per game.
Still, Matthews’ 34 made 3-pointers is the second-most of all the returning players from last year’s national runner-up squad, trailing only sophomore guard Jordan Poole (40).
While there might be an uptick in his total 3-point numbers across the board this season — roughly three-quarters of his 414 field-goal attempts last season were inside the arc — the main emphasis is on becoming more dependable and efficient.
“I'm not going to come in here and try to turn into (Warriors sharpshooter) Klay Thompson,” Matthews said. “I know who I am as a player, but being able to knock down that shot consistently will help me out a lot.”
Of course, 3-point shooting hasn’t been Matthews’ sole focus this offseason. He also has plenty of room to grow as a ball handler (team-high two turnovers per game) and at the free-throw line (55.8 percent).
Matthews likely heard the same thing a time or two during his NBA workouts, a process he said Beilein was supportive throughout — even while Beilein was in talks with the Detroit Pistons — and didn’t force him to rush his decision.
“I feel like it was very beneficial for me and my mindset returning, helping me learn exactly what's wanted of me and what I need to do to become a better player,” Matthews said. “I feel next year around that time I'll be more polished and ready for everything that's coming my way.”
But until then, Matthews has his sights set on improving his draft stock all while becoming a leader and helping Michigan reach the national championship game for a second straight season.
“That's a big source of motivation. To get that far and not win it, it left a sour taste in all these guys’ mouths, including myself,” Matthews said. “We definitely want to get back to Monday night and we’re going to do everything we can to get back there.”
Even if it means Matthews has to step up his outside game.