Every year a new college basketball hero arises in March. Here are some potential NBA lottery picks fans should watch out for in this NCAA tournament.
USA TODAY Sports
JACKSONVILLE – For Christmas 17 years ago, Jerry and Arden Magee bought their son Fletcher a regulation, 10-feet high basketball hoop. They set it up that day, and Fletcher, then 5 years old, stepped out to an imaginary three-point line and heaved a shot through the rim.
It was grade-A foreshadowing. “That was the beginning, and he loved it and loved it ever since,” his mom, Arden, said.
Meet the Steph Curry of this year’s NCAA Tournament: Wofford’s Fletcher Magee.
The senior shooting guard has developed into one of the best three-point shooters in NCAA history and is set to become the most prolific three-point shot maker in NCAA men’s Division I history in Thursday’s first-round game against 10th-seeded Seton Hall.
Magee is three three-pointers from passing Oakland’s Travis Bader (504) for No. 1 on the all-time three-pointers made list. Early in the season, Magee shot by Curry and mid-season, he passed J.J. Redick for the No. 2 spot.
“My goals coming into college were going to the NCAA Tournament and personally I’ve always wanted to play in the NBA,” Magee said Wednesday. “That’s the motivation to work. I didn’t want to be the leading scorer or have the most threes. It just happened as a byproduct of having big dreams.”
Following the 2017-18 season, Magee contemplated the NBA and met with Charlotte, Boston and the Los Angeles Lakers in pre-draft workouts and interviews. But he withdrew his name and returned for his senior season.
“I felt like I wasn’t ready. My game needed more improvements. I know I shot it a little bit better last season percentage-wise, but I feel this year I’ve focused more on defense and a lot of the things that can help you win games. That’s helped me prepare for the next level.”
The return was worth it. Seventh-seeded Wofford is 29-4, has won 20 consecutive games and earned the Southern Conference’s highest seed since 1979.
This season, Magee is 151-for-353 (42.8 percent) on three-pointers, and with good three-point games in the tournament, Magee also could pass Curry (162) for three-pointers made in a single season.
“I don’t know that any of us know coming in that he’s going to score 500 threes and 2,500 points,” Wofford coach Mike Young said. “His high school coach is a great coach, Chris Mayberry, at First Academy (Orlando, Florida), has been there a long time. If I had a nickel for every time I had a high school coach tell me a kid will be the hardest worker you’ve ever had, I’d have some money. I respectfully internally thought to myself, ‘Yeah, I’ve heard that again. Here we go.’
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“He is the hardest worker I’ve ever been around. … He’s an animal, and in the best way. He is the finest young man. He’s meant a lot to us, but never in a million years did I think he would be this good.”
The hard work began long before he got to Wofford. Some of the Magee stories are hard to separate fact from fiction.
Yes, he put pillows underneath the basket at home, so his parents wouldn’t hear the ball bounce off the driveway during Magee’s late-night shooting sessions. No, he didn’t shoot by candlelight one night in a gym when he supposedly couldn’t find the light switch. But yes, he did use a heat lamp one night in the gym and forgot to turn it off, burning a hole in the gym floor.
“Most of the stories are based on something true,” his mom said.
Just last week, Young told Magee he needed to rest his body. But he knew Magee wouldn’t listen. “Of course, I saw him later that night (in the gym),” Young said. “He’s down there. … He said, “I’m just shooting foul shots and lay-ups, foul shots and lay-ups, not breaking a sweat.’ ”
Growing up in Orlando, Magee began watching Redick, who played for the Magic. “I’ve followed his career,” he said. “The way he moves and gets open is about better than anyone in the world.”
Magee had a chance to talk with Redick before the season began. Given the attention paid to Redick, Magee wanted to learn, knowing teams would focus on him this season. With all the defensive pressure Magee gets, he still had an outstanding season, averaging 20.5 points and earning Southern Conference player of the year honors for the second consecutive season.
“Just learning to adapt is big,” he said. “My teammates have stepped up and had great years. Our coaches have come up with a ton of new plays and new ways to get open shots. You definitely have to be smarter with how you use your energy. You try to read defenses and not waste cuts.”
His mom is glad he returned for one more college season, too.
“I know that sounds like a cliché, but it’s just joy for me to watch him play win or lose. Obviously, I like to win. But it’s just the joy of a mother to see your child work so hard at something and succeed.
“He picked a wonderful place to be. It’s been a storybook career for him. He picked the right school. The right people were there for him.”