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Sweet Shot: The Ballad of Gabe DeVoe

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Clemson’s sharpshooter takes aim at the Kansas Jayhawks and a shining moment of his own

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-Second Round-Auburn vs Clemson Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

Gabe DeVoe is a shooter. For a moment, relinquish thoughts of his form—that smooth, sweet stroke—and consider his mindset. Watch his eyes when he squares up beyond the arc. He sees the defender, sure, but the eyes don’t linger. DeVoe doesn’t consider the man in front of him. He considers the basket, or, rather, the possibility of filling it.

On some days the basket is a mile wide in DeVoe’s eyes. You’ll recognize those days, whether you look to the box score or the court.

The box score tells the story in black and white. DeVoe shot 50% or better from three on 13 different occasions. In 11 of those 13 games, he attempted more than 5 three-pointers. In the other 2 games, he was perfect from behind the arc. Those numbers indicate high efficiency at high volume from long range.

The numbers don’t quite capture the level of freelancing Clemson’s no. 10 likes to engage in, though. Take, for example, DeVoe’s performance against Auburn in the NCAA Tournament’s round of 32. He was 6-9 on three-pointers, but to assess the excessive, delightful level of ill-advised chucking, we must go to the tape:

I know that Gabe is pulling up from the other side of the Pacific here, but you should watch the bench. Half of those guys are standing before the pass even hits DeVoe’s hands. They’ve seen this man in practice. They know what’s coming. DeVoe knows too.

Splash.

DeVoe’s maverick style was apparent earlier in the season as well. Take his crunch-time three in the Georgia Tech game:

Notice how spread the court is. DeVoe is in complete isolation, and the shot clock is ticking down. The lone Yellow Jacket assigned to him, Evan Cole, seems to think his man is going to drive. I don’t know what scouting report Cole read, but Gabe shows no mercy. He strolls up in the most casual manner. Then he steals Cole’s soul.

The crowd lets out a primal, collectvie “yeeeeeeaaaaah,” and you know the game’s outcome is a foregone conclusion.

The moment speaks to DeVoe’s appeal. He can create those moments that galvanize a crowd or set off a run. DeVoe has that heavily cliched “it” factor, that ability to take over a game with his scoring. Marcquise Reed has that ability too, but the arena just feels different when Gabe gets going. Perhaps, unfairly, Reed’s relative consistency makes his excellence an expected outcome, whereas DeVoe’s volatility gets the viewer’s pulse jumping. He’s “Bobby Buckets,” an urban legend who once lit up the scoreboards of high schools around the state of North Carolina:

DeVoe’s potential to put up points doesn’t hide the flaws in his game, of course. He’s not the most athletic player, and his ball handling sometimes leaves a lot to be desired. His passes are those of a born-and-bred shooter; he throws a high number of risky passes that result in either flashy assists or easy transition baskets for the opposition. His defensive effort is good, but his lateral quickness is somewhat lacking. That deficiency means he sometimes struggles to recover against elite guards, as shown in his matchup against Duke’s Gary Trent:

In addition to the above weaknesses, DeVoe’s freewheeling style means that his shooting lows are especially, well, low. He shot below 30% from three in 11 games. He attempted more than 5 from long range on 6 of those occasions. Those inefficient games correlate with some of Clemson’s worst performances—the Tigers dropped 4 out of the 6, including key ACC clashes with Duke, Virginia Tech, and Syracuse. When DeVoe goes cold, Clemson tends to go cold.

In the first two games of the NCAA tournament, however, DeVoe was anything but cold. He shot 64% from the field, and a hot 57% from behind the arc (on 14 attempts). He posted 22 points in each game, and he led the way in two dominant team performances.

In those two games DeVoe played some of the best, most entertaining basketball of his career. He launched threes from deep behind the line and threw nifty dimes. He played solid defense as part of a stifling team effort. Along with the rest of the Tigers, he danced his way to the Sweet 16 and never looked uncomfortable in the process.

Tonight, DeVoe and his teammates will turn their attention to the Kansas Jayhawks, the no. 1 seed in the Midwest Region. Kansas will be the favorite, and DeVoe will have to be at his best for the Tigers to match the opposition’s high-flying offense. Every member of the Jayhawks’ starting lineup can score in bunches; this is a team that regularly eclipses 80 points against quality competition. The Tigers will need to be efficient on both sides of the ball if they want to emerge victorious.

DeVoe needs to shoot and shoot well to keep the Tigers in the game. If the maverick wants to keep dancing, he must keep firing. If he can’t do so, the Tigers will likely have trouble keeping up with the potent offense of the no. 1 seed.

Clemson needs Bobby Buckets to fill up that mile-wide basket once again.