ALBANY — During Tuesday’s overtime period against Holy Cross, University at Albany men’s basketball head coach Will Brown shouted at Devonte Campbell, displeased with the choice the senior had made.
“He passed up a 3 in rhythm to make an extra pass,” Brown explained after his team’s 69-65 loss. “Unselfish play, but I thought he had a good shot in rhythm.”
And Brown wanted him to take it, which says a ton about how far Campbell has come since the end of last season in his development as a shooter.
“Teams stopped guarding him late in the year,” Brown said.
With good reason. After making 33.3 percent of his 3-point attempts as a sophomore, Campbell only made 14.0 percent of his attempts from downtown as a junior. Along with his poor shooting percentage, Campbell lost the confidence to take the open shots he needed to take for the Great Danes to maintain their spacing.
After an offseason spent refining his mechanics through hours of studying footage and working on his shot, Campbell has shown through the Great Danes’ 2-3 start an improved long-range jumper. He has made 6 of 11 attempts from 3 this season, and made a career-high three 3s in UAlbany’s loss to Holy Cross — a game in which Campbell forced overtime with a 3 in the final 10 seconds.
With his next made 3, Campbell will match his total from last season.
“It’s nice to see an improvement,” said Campbell, UAlbany’s top defensive player. “I’m going to keep shooting when I have open shots.”
Campbell and the UAlbany coaching staff didn’t wait long to address his shooting woes after last season ended. Campbell credited video work done with assistant coach Jerrad Knotts for pinpointing what was wrong with his shot — “He was pulling the ball back behind his head too much last year,” Brown said — before he got to work fixing it through repetition in the spring, summer and fall.
“It’s funny when you think about it,” Campbell said. “I still put up the same amount of shots, still [was] in the gym last year as much as I am now. It just wasn’t falling.”
All the offseason work he did, though, refining his shooting technique left him a more confident player when this season started. That confidence, Brown said, is what has made the largest difference for Campbell.
“Shooting is confidence. You can put all the work in the gym, you can change the mechanics, you make shots in practice in the gym on your own,” Brown said. “But until you see the ball go through the net when the lights are on and people are in the seats, it’s a whole [different] ball game.”
Campbell is averaging a career-high 11.0 points per game heading into Friday’s game at Milwaukee. He has never averaged more than 7.0 points per game during his UAlbany career.
“He just spent hours and hours shooting. He still does it,” Brown said. “Now he’s reaping the benefits of it.”
That allows UAlbany to keep its senior leader on the floor as much as possible, which is critical for a squad that needs his defensive ability and versatility. Brown said the change in Campbell’s game is one he had hoped to see on a personal level, too.
“When you put in the work that Devonte has put in,” Brown said, “as a coach you desperately want that kid to succeed because he deserves to succeed because he’s putting in the time, he’s putting in the work.”