Shawn Fury, a New York-based writer who grew up in Janesville, Minn., recently released his book, “Rise and Fire.” The subtitle explains it all: “The origins, science and evolution of the jump shot — and how it transformed basketball forever.”
As the subtitle suggests, the book covers a ton of ground, years and players. In conjunction with the book’s release, I asked Fury a question, both simple and complex: Who are the three best and three worst jump shooters in Minnesota basketball history?
Fury’s picks, with his explanations:
1. Whitey Skoog/Dick Garmaker/Chuck Mencel: I’m cheating by grouping three early jump-shooting pioneers together, but each player put up big numbers for the Gophers with effective — and, more importantly, innovative — jump shots. Skoog graduated in 1951 and made several All-American squads. In 1999, John Christgau featured the Brainerd native in the book “Origins of the Jump Shot: Eight Men Who Shook the World of Basketball.”
Garmaker, who relied on a potent fadeaway jumper, starred at the U and averaged 24 points in 1955. One 1953 newspaper story about the 5-foot-10 Mencel noted how “a stabbing jump shot in which Chuck looks like he’s about to execute a backbend put him up among the [tall] goons” and also admired how he would “toss his jump from anywhere over the centerline. And sink it.” Steph Curry, meet Chuck Mencel.
2. Lou Hudson: When Hudson died in 2014, the headline in the New York Times read, “ ‘Sweet’ Lou Hudson, Jump Shot Master With the Hawks, Dies at 69.” He mastered the shot — described so perfectly by his nickname — at Minnesota, where he averaged nearly 25 per game with the Gophers in 1965.
3. Trent Tucker: Most famous for a game-winning prayer with the Knicks that he got off despite there being just 0.1 seconds left on the clock, Tucker’s accuracy with more conventional jump shots helped the Gophers to the 1982 Big Ten championship. Considering the range he displayed, his 50 percent career field goal percentage with the Gophers becomes even more impressive.
1. Doug West: This is probably unfair to a valuable role player who made 48 percent of his overall shots for the team. But West made 37 three-pointers out of 187 attempts in nine seasons with the Wolves, a 19.8 percent clip.
2. Will Avery: The Wolves took Avery with the 14th pick in 1999, and in three years he made only 33 percent of his field goals, including a 25 percent mark on three-pointers. And speaking of point guards …
3. Ricky Rubio: Rubio’s historically poor shooting doesn’t mean he’s not incredibly valuable, and fans will always hold out hope he can improve his outside shot. His passing, defense, leadership, floor game and flair make him unique. But thinking about Rubio with a jump shot makes it even more frustrating to watch him operate without one.