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Tribe's Burchfield dialed in from long distance

  • Flashing his form
    Flashing his form  Senior guard Connor Burchfield takes a 3-point shot over a defender from Hofstra. Burchfield is third in the nation in percentage of 3-point shots made this season, despite having attempted substantially more than the two players ahead of him. He led the country in 3-point percentage 2015-16.  Jim Agnew
  • Driving the lane
    Driving the lane  It's not his favorite thing to do, but give him an opening and Connor Burchfield will take the ball to the basket.  Jim Agnew
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William & Mary senior guard Connor Burchfield’s ascent to the top of the NCAA statistical ladder was launched from the family driveway.

When Burchfield was 8 or 9, he received what he called a basketball “kit” for Christmas. Included was the distance one had to shoot from to make a 3-point basket. Young Burchfield went to the driveway of the family home in Concord, North Carolina, and started drawing that line in chalk. When the chalk grew faint, he pulled out the spray paint.

“I’m not sure if the measurements were official,” he said, “but it gave me a reference. I’ve always enjoyed shooting from beyond that 3-point line.”

Among college players, almost no one has done it better this season.

Burchfield led the nation in 3-point shooting percentage in 2015-16, and he's at it again. Entering this week's Colonial Athletic Association contests against Charleston and the Gold Rush game Saturday against Delaware, the Tribe’s senior guard has made 71 of 135 shots from 20 feet 9 inches or longer. That's 52.6 percent, best in the nation according to how the NCAA tracks such statistics.

{{youtube:medium:center|rGOAMvRjZAo, Knocking down 3-pointers}}

Give Mama Burchfield an assist in her son’s development as a marksman.

“She always got on me for dribbling inside the house,” he said a bit sheepishly. “She made me go outside. I remember turning the lights on and shooting out in the driveway late at night … A lot of it started out on that driveway.”

Of course, Burchfield spends much of his time these days inside Kaplan Arena. During a recent casual shoot-around, he drained 41 shots in a row. Surely a personal best? Not even close. Burchfield once hit 81 straight 3s during a similar session.

That’s right: 81.

“I shoot 3s pretty well,” he understated

And when it counted, there have been nights Burchfield burned the competition like kindling. Against Marshall this season, Burchfield converted a school-record 10 3-pointers in 12 attempts. Against Delaware two years ago, Burchfield hit six 3-pointers in the first half alone.

With five regular-season games and the CAA tournament left to play, it’s almost a certainty that Burchfield will make more 3-pointers this season than the 90 he collected in the previous three seasons combined.

That, said Coach Tony Shaver, tapping his chest, touches him deeply.

“For three years he’s been a really important part of our team but as a role player,” Shaver said. “It wasn’t a role he wanted to play. He wanted to play more. He thought he was better, just like every young guy.

“But unlike many today, he stuck it out. He realized the value of an education at William & Mary. He’s been loyal to his teammates. He’s been loyal to our program, and I’m so thrilled that he’s being rewarded for that loyalty and for that effort to just stick to it and do it the right way. You can’t find a more valuable member of our team.”

{{youtube:medium:center|vzQwCxSIdK0, Burchfield in action}}

Burchfield acknowledges that he wasn’t always comfortable in his seat on the bench. But instead of sulking, he took the time to study sharp shooters Marcus Thornton ’15 and Daniel Dixon ’17, what they did to get open and how they moved within the flow of the offense.

When Dixon graduated last spring, Burchfield sensed that his time had come, and he wasn’t about to let it pass.

“We have a lot of great shooters, but there was a hole, a void,” he said. “I was pretty confident entering this year that I could be the one to fill that void.”

Burchfield’s barometer for how effective a night he’s going to have doesn’t come in warmups, no matter how well he’s shooting. The game has to have started.

“After you make one or two shots, the rim starts to look a little bit bigger,” he said. “You start hunting your shot a little more, take longer 3s, whatever it is. Once I see the first one or two going in, I start to feel hot.”

Burchfield, Shaver said, is anything but obsessed with his lofty perch among the nation’s shooters.

“When he comes to practice, you don’t know whether he’s scored 30 or three 3 the day before,” he said. “He’s going to give you the same effort every day, have that same look on his face, every day. I don’t think it’s the most important thing to him, but it certainly is a source of pride.”