Video: Jerica Coley makes career-high five threes in 38-point performance at UAB

Highlights from Jerica Coley's 38-point performance in Florida International's 63-52 win at UAB on Saturday (via Conference USA).

A small group of us SB Nation bloggers have been using a shot chart app to track the shot locations of a particular volume shooter in the SEC and as I've been getting used to the app I decided to use it while watching Jerica Coley face UAB yesterday.

It just so happens that she dropped 38 on UAB in a win (boxscore), which was a good game for shot chart analysis. And I also think that seeing the shot chart for this game (in addition to extrapolating some strategic insights from the highlights above) might help to put her 12-for-35 performance in perspective.

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Observations:

  • Before you scoff at the inefficient shooting, note that she has the ball in her hands on every possession as the team's point guard and is almost always the first option (as evidenced by her 38.6% usage percentage, highest in the nation). They run her off stagger screens with the ball, off double screens without the ball, and sometimes just have her v-cut from block to wing to get the ball - everything is designed for her. And she can create decent looks out of just about any of the sets they run if she's allowed to catch the ball. She's a multi-dimensional scorer and does it for 40 minutes with the other team's best defensive foot forward.
  • And before you scoff at the notion of calling her a point guard, consider that she also has an assist rate of 31.96% (top 50 in the nation) - she's a perfectly willing passer, but in many cases she's legitimately the best scoring option on the floor. That separates her even from what Odyssey Sims - the nation's leading scorer at 30.4 PPG - is doing this season.
  • She looks just as comfortable shooting off catch-and-shoot situations as she does off the dribble, even from 3-point range. Regardless of strength of competition, you just don't see guards doing that so fluidly (without being reckless) much in women's basketball.
  • She didn't finish in the paint particularly well with her left, but she had no trouble getting into the paint with either hand and got fouled a number of times as defenders struggled to keep up with her off the dribble. She did have a tendency to pull up for a jumper after a few dribbles when using her left, but she pulls up going either direction so it didn't stand out as a "bad habit" per se.
  • It's noteworthy that she made a career-high five threes in this game because neither that nor her nine attempts (one short of tying a career-high) reflects what she has done over her career: she's a 27.9% 3-point shooter in her career, but has shown improvement shooting 31.3% this season.
  • Considering that her 3-point shooting was a career best, her struggle to actually make mid-range shots might raise concerns that she's not actually a very good shooter despite scoring a ton of points out of a ton of different situations. That's just something we can't say without more situational data from more than one game (also, notice that the one REALLY deep three was a mis-touch).
  • In addition to her passing and scoring ability, Coley is an awfully good rebounder for her height: she had six against UAB, which is about her average (6.3).
  • Defensively, FIU tends to "hide" her by not assigning her to a top perimeter scoring option.

There's a lot more to say about Coley-the-WNBA-prospect that goes beyond what we can glean from one game, but we'll get to that in a future post. For now, it bears repeating that neither mid-major prospects nor pure scorers (which Coley classifies as with all the shots she puts up) have fared well in the WNBA in recent years, which definitely works against the 5-foot-8 Coley.

For more updates on draft prospects, check out our 2014 WNBA Draft storystream.

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