Creighton forward Ethan Wragge came by the talent that now defines him on the court somewhat late in his basketball development.
Considered one of college's elite 3-point shooters, Wragge was strictly an inside-the-arc man until he got to high school.
“I never shot a 3-pointer in a game until I was in 10th grade,” he said.
Now, the 6-foot-7 senior rarely puts up a shot from inside the arc. He's attempted 62 shots in Creighton's first eight games this season. All but three have come from beyond the 3-point line.
He has made 30 of those 59 3-pointers (50.9 percent), and he started this week ranked 13th nationally in 3-point field goals per game and 24th in 3-point percentage.
Only one player in program history has more career 3-pointers than the 254 Wragge has heading into Sunday's game against Nebraska. Kyle Korver, who Friday night set an NBA record by making a 3-pointer in his 90th straight game, finished his Bluejay career in 2003 with 371.
Wragge said he has never gone head-to-head in a shooting competition with Korver, who returns to Omaha each summer.
“A couple of summers ago, though, he came back and played in the summer league,” Wragge said. “It was my team against his that night. We had a couple of trading punches with 3s that night but we've never had a head-to-head horse game or anything like that.
“I'd like to someday just to see where I fare with him.”
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Greg McDermott didn't coach Korver but a couple of his Northern Iowa teams had to play against him. McDermott has coached some hot shots in his day but he said Wragge, along with Doug McDermott, rank with the best of the best.
“Especially for a couple of guys that are 6-7,” Greg said. “They are as good as any player I've coached.”
Doug McDermott has a chance to finish his career right behind Korver and Wragge on Creighton's career list. Already the program's all-time leading scorer, McDermott has made 197 career 3-point shots and needs 49 to take over the No. 3 spot behind Korver and Wragge.
While Korver and McDermott were starters for most of their careers, Wragge has logged most of his minutes as a reserve. He started the last seven games of his true freshman season in 2009-10 but didn't make another start until Tuesday's victory at Long Beach State.
He has averaged 15.7 minutes in his first four seasons — he played in just nine games in the 2010-11 season before a foot injury forced him to take a medical redshirt. He also never averaged more than six shots per game in any season.
Already this season, Wragge has played an average of 24.3 minutes and taken almost eight shots per game.
“I'm out there more now,” Wragge said, “and there's more opportunities to get shots up.”
He rarely hesitates when open looks present themselves. Like Korver, Wragge is blessed with a quick release and a coach who puts few limits on him. Korver always had the green light to shoot when Dana Altman coached the Bluejays, and Greg McDermott gives Wragge similar freedom.
“There have been a few times when I've told him he could move into our area code instead of shooting it from the next area code,” the coach said. “There are times when he might take a shot that I don't like but the last thing you ever want a shooter to be is hesitant.”
Wragge also is blessed with a short memory, a quality that most great shooters possess.
“If I take a bad shot, I know I have to focus on the next shot,” he said. “That's a brand new shot. Nothing I've done in the past has any effect on my current shot. I can't think about that. I just have to let 'em fly.”
Wragge already this season has had four games, including the last three, in which he's put up at least 10 shots from the field. He made 7 of 11 in scoring 21 points in leading Creighton to a win at St. Joseph's.
He's made five 3-pointers in each of the past three games. In Creighton's loss to San Diego State eight days ago, Wragge missed all three of his first-half attempts before coming back to fuel a second-half rally by converting 5 of 8 shots from beyond the arc.
“At halftime of the San Diego State game, Coach told me not to think about the ones that I missed,” Wragge said. “He said just let them go. If you're out there thinking about your shot the whole time, you're going to be in trouble.
“That's why I think it was so important to come back and hit those shots in the second half against San Diego State. I was able to put those misses behind me and make some big shots when we needed them.”
Although he knows his legacy probably rests behind the 3-point line, Wragge considers the biggest shot he's made as a Bluejay the layup in the closing minutes of a victory at San Diego State in 2011. The Bluejays trailed by 17 points in the first half but rallied to post an 85-83 win.
That basket is one of 25 two-point field goals that Wragge has made in his career. His teammates often regard any basket he makes inside the arc with man-bites-dog reactions.
“It doesn't bother me when they give me grief,” he said, smiling. “There is a reason we try to leave the paint open, and it's for other players. Every once and a while, I can catch people off guard.
“Hey, I'm a Division I basketball player. I hope there are more things I can do than just make a 3.”