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Edmond Sumner and the Semaj Jumpshot Conundrum

In many ways the game of Edmond Sumner resembles that of Semaj Christon. That’s not always a good thing.

NCAA Basketball: Xavier at Georgetown Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

Edmond Sumner is an unholy kind of fast. He’s the kind of fast that kind of makes you want to try to guard him once just so you could, briefly, see it up close. In the open court, or anywhere where he can get an uncontested first step, he’s simply impossible to stay in front of for any length of time. Semaj Christon, now with the OKC Thunder, was also fast. Christon never had the speed that Sumner has been blessed with, but no Xavier player ever has. What the players do share in common is a real difficuly knocking down jumpers.

The numbers:

Neither Christon nor Sumner is much of a jump shooter. (It’s worth noting here that Ed goes left far, far better than Semaj did, though that’s not the point at hand). for comparison purposes we’ll look at each of their second full seasons in Xavier blue. This year, Edmond is on pace to lift roughly 132 jumpers. Semaj in his second year put up 193. Part of the disparity there is due to Christon’s 25.9% of shots taken while on the floor, where Ed only takes 20.6%. Christon took 227 shots at the rim, where Sumner is on pace for 163.

The issue:

Neither of the players at hand is great spot up shooter. From behind the arc in his sophomore year, Semaj shot 38% in only 49 attempts. As the year went on, he greatly focused on picking his spots. In only four games did he make multiple threes and in games where he was forced to take three or more, he only made 33%. Only 11% of his attempts came from deep. Far more, 34.3%, came as two point jumpers, where he shot a very poor 35%. Semaj’s game was to get to the rim. When forced to pull up, he just wasn’t as good.

Sumner’s numbers are different, but reflect the same pattern. 19% of Ed’s shots this year have come from deep, where he’s shooting only 28.6%. Only 24.8% of his shots come as two point jumpers, where his 40% is actually third on the team. Where Sumner is different, and where that left hand comes into play, is in getting to the rim. Christon neither got to rim as much nor finished there as well as Sumner’s 61.5%

Is it really a problem?

It is very tempting to look at Christon playing in the NBA now or Ed’s 28/8/6 on his birthday and say that maybe this is finding a problem just for the sake of one. Maybe that’s true, and maybe this is more just showing the similarities between the players. However, there are times when the inability to jumpshoot has, and will, hurt both players.

You may recall last year when Bronson Koenig was able to get into position to flop because he knew, with the game on the line, Sumner didn’t trust his jumper. In both of Xavier’s losses this year the other team has sagged off Ed and made him shoot from deep. He’s responded by going 2-7 in those games and seeing a commensurate drop in his rate at the rim because of the added traffic. Another thing that a player sitting off Sumner does is cut down on open passing lanes. It’s striking that games in which Sumner attempts the most threes, he also turns the ball over more. In games in which Ed turns the ball over four or more times, he’s only 2-15 from behind the arc. When his man isn’t forced to step to him, there are more hands in the way to deflect passes.

Both of these guys have been and will be great players for Xavier. Both are very quick, very active guards who finish well at the rim. Their similarities don’t end there though. An inability to consistently make jumpers sent Christon on an odyssey through Europe and the D-League before making back to the Thunder. Sumner’s issues haven’t kept him from being (very) effective at times, but he to has seen the problems that come with not knocking down shots. To make the leap to truly elite, a consistent jumper is a prerequisite.