Cupid. Artemis. Robin Hood. Katniss Everdeen. Jamal Murray. Great archers, all of them.
Murray has yet to hit his target in the heart and make her fall in love, or kill an opponent in the “Hunger Games.” Instead, Murray, a freshman guard for Kentucky, regularly takes deadly aim with a basketball nearly 21 feet from the basket. This season, Murray averaged 3.1 3-pointers per game, making them at a rate of 40.8 percent. When he makes the long-distance shot, he mimes shooting an arrow with a bow.
If Murray is William Tell, the apple atop a distant head is his teammate E.J. Floreal. Murray will shoot his arrow toward the bench, and Floreal is most often hit. Floreal will pantomime the shot to the chest, sometimes falling into the arms of his teammates.
But Murray’s marksmanship will next be seen in the NBA. He is expected to be a lottery pick in the June draft. On Saturday in Des Moines, Iowa, Murray and his merry men in blue were unseated by Indiana’s star point guard Yogi Ferrell, as the fifth-seeded Hoosiers knocked off fourth-seeded Kentucky 73-67, setting up an NCAA Tournament Sweet-16 confrontation Friday in Philadelphia against top-seeded North Carolina.
Also an adept 3-point shooter, shooting 41.9 percent from deep, Ferrell, too, has taken to shooting an imaginary bow and arrow when he sinks a 3-pointer. In Thursday’s opening-round East Region victory against Chattanooga, his three sisters in the stands shot arrows his way — benign ones, presumably — after he sank shots from deep.
Before Saturday’s game, Floreal had archly accused Ferrell of “copying” Murray, but Ferrell insisted his inspiration came from Wesley Matthews of the NBA’s Dallas Mavericks.
“I saw him do that first,” Ferrell said, noting that Matthews had played for Indiana’s coach, Tom Crean, at Marquette.
It should also be noted that Fernando Rodney, a pitcher for the San Diego Padres, has been doing a similar move for several years after making a save: He arcs his aim upward, pulls an arrow from a shoulder quiver and loads his bow before letting loose. The Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt has for even longer struck a pose interpreted by some as an archer preparing to shoot.
Michael Gbinije, a senior forward for Syracuse who shoots 41 percent from behind the arc, said he had been doing the archery move since the beginning of the season after seeing an NBA player — he could not remember which one — do it in the course of a Brooklyn Nets game.
“I thought it was pretty cool, and I decided to put it in,” he said, adding, “It gets the bench going, gets the energy going for the team.”
On another sharpshooting squad, Notre Dame, which fended off Stephen F. Austin on Sunday, Chad Holtz and Rex Pflueger have been known to do the gesture from the bench.
Big men, who often have more limited shooting ranges than guards, seem to tolerate the fanfare.
“It’s cool to me,” said Syracuse’s DaJuan Coleman of Gbinije. “As long as he keeps making 3s, he can do whatever he wants, right?”
Nigel Hayes, a junior at Wisconsin, said he appreciates what others do — “those are cool celebrations” — but that he did not indulge.
“Kobe doesn’t do them,” Hayes said, referring to the Los Angeles Lakers star Kobe Bryant, “so I don’t feel the need to.”