DeVante' Jones' 3-point shooting prowess a pleasant surprise for Michigan

James Hawkins
The Detroit News

If preseason predictions were tallied about which Wolverine would be leading Michigan in 3-point shooting percentage at the beginning of February, odds are grad transfer guard DeVante’ Jones wouldn’t have garnered most of the votes.

After all, Jones arrived in Ann Arbor as a 33.4% career 3-point shooter. He shot better than 35% from beyond the arc just once in his three years at Coastal Carolina. While his outside shot was adequate, his strong suit was scoring near the basket.

But heading into Tuesday night’s game against Nebraska, Jones is shooting a career-best 41.7% from 3-point range, a mark that is tops on the team ahead of fifth-year senior guard Eli Brooks (37.7%) and freshman forward Caleb Houstan (36.8%).

He’s making deep shots at a high clip, but he’s not taking them at the same rate as Brooks and Houstan. While the Wolverines don’t necessarily want Jones hunting his own shot, they also don’t want him to be shy about pulling the long-range trigger.

Through 18 games, Michigan grad transfer guard DeVante' Jones (12) is shooting a career-high 41.7% from 3-point range.

“We'd love for him to be able to take 3-point shots in the flow of the game,” assistant coach Howard Eisley said Monday. “I think he had some shots against Michigan State that he passed up from the 3-point line. We definitely need him to be aggressive.”

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Jones is going through a similar experience fellow grad transfer guard Mike Smith did last season. He doesn’t need to carry the offensive load like he did during his time at Coastal Carolina. He doesn’t need to put up a bunch of shots to put his team in a position to succeed. He doesn’t need to be the go-to scorer because he’s surrounded by more talent than ever before.

Rather, he’s able to pick and choose his spots. And as his volume has gone down, his numbers have gone up.

“We always felt he was capable,” Eisley said of Jones’ 3-point shooting. “His strength is he's always been able to score and get downhill. But I think playing with Hunter (Dickinson) and some of our other bigs has really created opportunities for him at the 3-point line and the way teams were guarding him earlier in the year by going under our screens opened up opportunities for him to shoot behind the screen.”

The key is for Jones to keep taking advantage of those chances, which hasn’t happened at times. He’s attempted less than two 3-pointers in eight of Michigan’s 18 games. And in half of those contests, he didn’t even fire off a long-range shot.

For the season, he’s 15-for-36 from 3-point range. He’s made at least one deep ball in nine games and has drained multiple 3s three times. After a rough start to the season — he made just four 3-pointers over the first 10 games — he’s shooting 55% from beyond the arc (11-for-20) since Dec. 18.

Yet, his 3-point totals are half of what Brooks (29-for-77) and Houstan (32-for-87) have posted over the first three months of the season.

“I'm just taking what the defense gives me,” Jones said after last week’s win over Northwestern. “I know I’m passing up on a lot of shots, but I feel like I'm trying to pass up my shot for an even better shot. As a point guard, that's what I'm trying to do for this team.

“I know I've got a lot of great shooters around me. Whenever I've got time to shoot the shot, I'm shooting it with confidence and that's what I've been doing recently.”

When asked if Jones has turned out to be the player he imagined when recruiting him last offseason, coach Juwan Howard rattled off several attributes that he saw in him. A skilled guard. A playmaker. A strong rebounder. An active and disruptive defender.

But the 3-point shooting? That’s been better than envisioned.

“What we've got is a special player that is trying to learn a system and it takes time,” Howard said last week. “I love his attitude, his work ethic, and the character that he's shown throughout the year so far. I just see that DeVante’ has been getting better and better game after game.”

Twitter: @jamesbhawkins