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How Travis Releford became the best shooter in the nation

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With his 5-for-5 shooting effort against Temple on Sunday, Kansas guard Travis Releford moved to the top spot nationally in the two best advanced shooting statistics.

The first is effective field goal percentage, which appropriately gives a player 1.5 times the credit for three-pointers (because they are worth 1.5 times the points compared to twos).

Advanced
Rk Player Class Season Pos School eFG%
1 Travis Releford SR 2012-13 G Kansas .727
2 Victor Oladipo JR 2012-13 G Indiana .720
3 Logan Aronhalt SR 2012-13 G Maryland .714
4 T.J. Warren FR 2012-13 F North Carolina State .714
5 Kristijan Krajina JR 2012-13 F Mount St. Mary's .712
Provided by Sports-Reference.com/CBB: View Original Table
Generated 1/8/2013.

The second is true shooting percentage, which weighs free throw shooting into the equation along with twos and threes.

Advanced
Rk Player Class Season Pos School TS%
1 Travis Releford SR 2012-13 G Kansas .756
2 Kelly Olynyk JR 2012-13 F Gonzaga .721
3 Victor Oladipo JR 2012-13 G Indiana .718
4 Nik Stauskas FR 2012-13 G Michigan .712
5 Myles Mack SO 2012-13 G Rutgers .711
Provided by Sports-Reference.com/CBB: View Original Table
Generated 1/8/2013.

It's quite a leap for the senior, who ranked 244th in eFG% and 306th in TS% a year ago.

So what has changed for Releford?

Let's take a closer look at the numbers to see where he's most improved from a year ago.

The following statistics are from Hoop-Math.com. Releford's data was missing the KU-Towson game from 2011, so I added those shots into the final total.

Releford close shots.

Releford close shots. by Jesse Newell

Releford has always been good at finishing close shots (dunks, layups and tipins), but this year, he's been on another level. Not only is he shooting more close shots this year, he's making a lot more of them, shooting a remarkable 77 percent on those tries. The senior has a knack for avoiding blocks when shooting layups in transition, and it appears he's only gotten better with that skill over time.

Releford two-point jumper.

Releford two-point jumper. by Jesse Newell

Being a high-percentage shooter isn't just about making shots; it's also about avoiding bad shots. Two-point jumpshots are statistically the worst shot a player can take, and Releford has basically eliminated this shot from his game, putting up only nine two-point jumpers this season. He's actually been well above the NCAA average on two-point Js the last two years but still hasn't felt the need to force them.

Releford three-pointers.

Releford three-pointers. by Jesse Newell

Releford has significantly increased his three-point percentage while also increasing the percentage of threes he's taken this year. Remember also that the senior started the season 0-for-11 from three, meaning he's made up ground quickly to get to 47 percent. In his last five games, Releford is 11-for-13 from three-point range (84.6 percent).

Releford free throws.

Releford free throws. by Jesse Newell

It's hard to remember this now, but Releford actually was a poor free throw shooter his first two years, making 17 of 32 free throws his freshman year (53.1 percent) and 16 of 25 his sophomore year (64 percent). Releford hasn't gotten to the line as frequently this year (as evidenced by his lower free throw rate, which compares a player's free throw attempts to his field goal attempts), but going from 65 percent to 88 percent is still a significant jump.

I wanted to end by giving Releford's shooting some historical perspective, showing KU's top eFG and TS percentages since 1998-99 — the start of Basketball-Reference's records.

Advanced
Rk Player Class Season Pos eFG%
1 Travis Releford SR 2012-13 G .727
2 Tyrel Reed JR 2009-10 G .669
3 Wayne Simien SO 2002-03 F .646
4 Mario Chalmers JR 2007-08 G .631
5 Kirk Hinrich JR 2001-02 G .631
6 Darnell Jackson SR 2007-08 F .630
7 Markieff Morris JR 2010-11 C .627
8 Jeff Boschee SR 2001-02 G .623
9 Jeff Graves SR 2003-04 F .622
10 Kirk Hinrich SO 2000-01 G .619
11 Sasha Kaun SR 2007-08 C .619
12 Nick Collison SO 2000-01 F .601
13 Marcus Morris JR 2010-11 F .601
14 Thomas Robinson SO 2010-11 F .601
15 J.R. Giddens FR 2003-04 G .599
16 Markieff Morris SO 2009-10 C .599
17 Cole Aldrich SO 2008-09 C .598
18 Kenny Gregory SR 2000-01 G/F .597
19 Nick Collison JR 2001-02 F .595
20 Brady Morningstar SR 2010-11 G .592
Advanced
Provided by Sports-Reference.com/CBB: View Original Table
Generated 1/8/2013.
Advanced
Rk Player Class Season TS%
1 Travis Releford SR 2012-13 .756
2 Tyrel Reed JR 2009-10 .682
3 Kirk Hinrich SO 2000-01 .667
4 Wayne Simien SO 2002-03 .658
5 Kirk Hinrich JR 2001-02 .657
6 Mario Chalmers JR 2007-08 .656
7 Darnell Jackson SR 2007-08 .650
8 Markieff Morris JR 2010-11 .642
9 Cole Aldrich SO 2008-09 .640
10 Jeff Boschee SR 2001-02 .638
11 Jeff Graves SR 2003-04 .632
12 Marcus Morris JR 2010-11 .625
13 Wayne Simien SR 2004-05 .616
14 Mario Chalmers SO 2006-07 .614
15 Jeff Withey JR 2011-12 .614
16 Michael Lee SO 2002-03 .612
17 Markieff Morris SO 2009-10 .612
18 Aaron Miles SR 2004-05 .611
19 Nick Collison SO 2000-01 .610
20 Ben McLemore FR 2012-13 .610
Advanced
Provided by Sports-Reference.com/CBB: View Original Table
Generated 1/8/2013.

With better shot selection, an elite ability to finish at the rim and improvements behind the line and arc, Releford has taken his shooting efficiency to a new level — one that is unmatched in recent KU history.

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