Jericole Hellems came to NC State with a reputation as a scorer.
You may not bat an eye at a guy who is only the third-best scorer in his high school’s history, but when you realize the two guys ahead of him are Bradley Beal and Jayson Tatum, that stat takes on new meaning.
Beal is in the middle of his 8th year in the NBA and is leading the Wizards in scoring, pouring in an absurd 32.8 ppg. Meanwhile, Tatum isn’t too far behind. In his 4th year with the Celtics, the 6’8 forward is averaging a career high 25.8 ppg.
At the same time, Hellems is playing in his junior year at NC State, and while he had some success over his first two seasons, nobody considered him a go-to scorer.
As odd as it might seem, the emergence of Jericole Hellems as a top scorer coincides with an exact moment. That moment occurred when NC State’s leading scorer, Devon Daniels went down with a knee injury during the Wake Forest game on January 27th.
That was when, suddenly, Hellems was thrust into the role of being NC State’s go-to guy.
Prior to Daniels’ injury, Hellems was shooting 45.5% from the field and was averaging 10.5 ppg in conference play.
Since Daniels’ injury, Hellems has not only increased his shot volume, but he’s suddenly knocking them down a much better clip. From January 28th forward, Hellems is shooting a solid 51% from the field and has upped his average to 16.2 ppg in those games.
Hellems is getting the ball in the same spots as he was before, but he’s doing more with his touches than ever before. It’s as if the pressure being put on him to score for the Wolfpack has upped his confidence, and thus, upped his performance.
The ball just looks cleaner coming off his hand. The release is quicker and he’s a much more decisive player. This all makes sense when you understand the role he played at Chaminade High School.
Hellems was to the go-to guy at Chaminade. He has a unique ability to create his shot for himself and get a decent look almost whenever he wants to. While most guys that have that ability are either extremely quick, long and tall, or super athletic, Hellems is none of those things. Yet his quick release, his footwork, and his physicality allow him to get get his openings.
Sometimes players like this struggle to transition to the ACC. In a conference where every possession matters, suddenly the shots you created for yourself in high school, may not be the shots your coach wants you to take in college. You have other talented guys as options and a few more passes may lead to an easier bucket.
However, with a guy like Hellems, when you encourage guys to get away from that style of play or when they come in and are forced to have more of a secondary role, you take away the very thing that made them special and made them stand out to you during the recruitment.
With Daniels out and NC State needing to replace his 16.5 ppg, Hellems is now back in his comfort zone. Keatts is asking Hellems to increase his shooting volume and that is bringing him right back into his wheelhouse.
What you’re seeing is a more confident player. One who isn’t questioning whether his coach wants him to take a certain shot, or whether his teammates would rather him get the ball to their featured scorer.
While there is no doubt that the Daniels injury has hurt NC State, the silver lining seems to be we’re getting to finally see the emergence of Jericole Hellems, the go-to scorer.