ACC refs need to keep an eye on how teams defend McKneely

By Jerry Ratcliffe

Photos: UVA Athletics

If Isaac McKneely had a wish going into tonight’s ACC Tournament — other than winning — it would probably be that game officials would keep a closer eye on players defending him.

McKneely, one of the premiere 3-point shooters in the country, is getting held a lot by defenders, trying to keep him from getting open for his shots. ACC officials apparently aren’t keeping a very close eye on the problem.

“I mean, I get a lot of jersey pulling,” McKneely said this week when asked about how some opponents go to extremes to prevent the sharpshooter under control. “That’s probably the thing I get the most.”

It’s not like the officials haven’t been alerted to the matter either.

“I talk to the refs about it,” McKneely said. “Sometimes I tell them to watch out for it because it happens a lot. But I think that’s just a compliment to me, is how they guard me. So we’re just trying to figure out ways to work around that and I’ve got to figure out ways to stay in the game even when I’m getting the nod like that.

“So, the jersey-tugging and stuff like that is probably just some of the stuff I go through.”

When opposing defenses focus on covering up McKneely at the 3-point arc, it impacts the rest of the floor. Teammate Reece Beekman has learned to benefit from that strategy.

“I think it actually frees up the spacing a little bit with his guy being so hooked up on him that it kind of creates lanes for me and others to go make plays,” Beekman said. “As a point guard, you still have to try to find your best guys, so I like to get them [McKneely] shots when he’s open, trying to have guys set more screens for him to get open.”

McKneely said he isn’t worried about what kind of shooting backdrop the tournament arena will offer up for the long-distance shooting, something he doesn’t give a lot of thought about.

“I try not to change anything, that’s the goal for sure,” McKneely said about the NBA arena. “The backdrop and everything is definitely different, but I like to refer to the scene from the Hoosiers movie when they walk into the big gym and they measure the nets to 10 feet, same distance as their gym back home.

“So I do my normal routine and try to keep everything the same, just go out there and shoot it like I normally do.”

Doubt that Jimmy Chitwood was having his jersey tugged constantly by defenders in that tournament, or else Coach Norman Dale would have shoved a whistle down the ref’s throat.