If there is one area of Sahvir Wheeler’s game that everyone would agree needs improvement, it would be his outside jump shot.
During his freshman season at Georgia in 2019-20, the 5-foot-10 point guard (who might be closer to 5-foot-8) shot a modest 32 percent from the three-point line on a mere 1.6 attempts per outing. Fast forward to his sophomore year and the numbers took a nosedive. Wheeler made just 22.5 percent of his outside looks while nearly doubling his output at 3.1 attempts per contest.
In his two full seasons as a Bulldog, spread across 57 total games, Wheeler finished as a 26.5 percent three-point shooter (34-130), a well-below average mark, and one that would classify him as a liability from that area.
He can do almost everything else on the court, though. His defensive ability, playmaking skills, and penchant for slithering into the lane are second to none are a few of the main reasons why Kentucky head coach John Calipari brought Wheeler on board. Luckily for Wheeler, he’ll have plenty of shooters surrounding him with snipers such as Dontaie Allen, C.J. Fredrick, Kellan Grady, TyTy Washington, and possibly Davion Mintz. Having teammates who can make shots from beyond the arc will help take the pressure off Wheeler to do the same, something he didn’t have the luxury of while at Georgia.
That being said, Wheeler is not even close to content with how he shot the ball the last two seasons. During Kentucky’s Father-Son Camp on Friday, he spoke with the media face-to-face for the first time and said that he expects to shoot at least 35 percent from beyond the arc this coming season.
“35-plus (percent) definitely. I expect that, and if you wanna come test it out we can have a little shootout ourselves,” Wheeler said with a smile about his three-point shot. “We’ll see what it’s really about. But I definitely expect, from three, to shoot the ball a lot better than I did last year. I’ve put in a lot of time, a lot of reps. The confidence has always been there but fixing some things mechanically. I think I’m going to have a really good year.”
Making a leap that significant in his three-point percentage will be a tall task, but not something that is out of the realm of possibility. He showed as a freshman that he could knock down nearly 1/3 of every outside look he attempted. In that season, he played alongside future No. 1 NBA Draft pick Anthony Edwards who could take the tough shots when Georgia’s offense bogged down.
This past season, without Edwards in the fold, Wheeler was left to do the dirty work himself, thus helping explain the poor mark of 22.5 percent from three as a sophomore. But it goes even deeper than that. Mechanically, Wheeler has been trying to lock down a more consistent and rhythmic motion on his jumper.
“Just having the same set point. I’m releasing the ball from the same spot every time, having consistency,” Wheeler said about what he’s improved on his long ball. “Sometimes I have a tendency to start the ball on my right side. It’s kinda hard to have consistency when you’re starting from the right side when I’m lefthanded. The ball should be lined up–hip, shoulder, follow-through–that’s the kinda things I’ve been focusing on and I’m seeing immediate results. I’ve been working hard since our last game which was Missouri back in March or whatever it was.”
Honestly, if Wheeler can become even a 30-32 percent three-point shooter for the 2021-22 season, Kentucky should be in a good spot. He simply needs to be respectable from that range so he can space the floor for the two or three shooters that will surround him. If defenders have to press up on Wheeler just a few inches more than they normally would, that’ll be enough room for him to explode and get into the paint where he shines the brightest.