Wofford’s unorthodox sharp-shooter makes bad look good


JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — His name sounds like a fictional lead character straight out of a Hollywood movie script.

Fletcher Magee.

His game comes straight out of who-knows-where?

His 3-point shot sometimes looks like it’s coming straight from Mars.

Everyone remembers their first encounter with the Wofford sharp-shooting guard who authors perhaps the most unorthodox shooting style ever for a great shooter — often pirouetting in mid-air and releasing shots that look like heaves but rip through the nets like darts to a bull’s-eye at a rate that ranks second in the nation from long distance.

After Wofford had just ambushed Seton Hall with a barrage of 3-pointers — seven of them coming from Magee — in Thursday’s NCAA Tournament first-round win, Pirates players sounded somewhere between dumbfounded and awestruck at what Magee had just done to them. They looked like they’d just seen a ghost.

“He has an awkward shot, but he knows how to get it up and make it go in,’’ Seton Hall’s Myles Cale said. “Be ready for him to make some noise in the NCAA Tournament.’’

He already has.

Next up for Magee and No. 7 seed Wofford is No. 2 seed Kentucky in Saturday’s second round at the VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena. For Wofford, which is riding a nation-best 21-game winning streak, its plan is to make Kentucky remember its first encounter with Magee the way Seton Hall and so many others have — with heads shaking in disbelief.

“The first time I saw Fletcher shoot I was very, very confused about what he was doing,’’ Wofford forward Cameron Jackson told The Post Friday. “I was like, ‘Who is this guy and why is he shooting that way?’ I was not very happy about the shots he was taking. But they started falling very early and very often, so that quickly changed.

“Now I understand why he is shooting that way. They don’t look great to the outside eye, but they are practiced. Those of us who know him and know the work he puts in understand that 99 percent of the shots he takes are good shots no matter how they look.’’

Wofford coach Mike Young will never forget his first Magee encounter.

“It was at an AAU game at Peach Jam in Augusta, Georgia … and that shot goes back over his head and away it goes and it looks a bit unorthodox,’’ Young said. “But damn, the thing goes in. And then he does it again and it goes in.’’

Kentucky coach John Calipari, who’s known as much for his hyperbole as he is for his one-and-done recruits, took keen notice of what Magee did to Seton Hall.

“I don’t think he shoots one shot that he doesn’t think he’s making,’’ Calipari said. “Is it a bad shot? Maybe you think so, but in his mind, he doesn’t [think so]. And you know who else doesn’t think it’s a bad shot? His coach.’’

Magee’s magic is as much about God-given talent as it is about a work ethic that has become legend.

“Most of the time I work out is during normal hours during the day, but there have been times where I’ve played bad on a road trip and after we drove back that night I went and shot for a couple hours — ’til 1 or 2 in the morning,’’ Magee said Friday.

There’s a story about Magee, while in high school in Orlando, going to practice his shot by himself, not being able to turn the gym lights and shooting for two hours by candlelight. He forgot to blow out the candle before he left and the next morning there was a burnt spot on the gym floor from the melted wax.

“It’s just who he is,’’ Young said. “He wants to play basketball for a long, long time, and he thinks the deck’s stacked against him a little bit, because of his size [6-foot-4]. If it doesn’t happen [getting to the NBA], it’s not going to be because hasn’t worked his ass off.’’

Where does the drive come from?

“When you have big dreams, you have to work hard to get there,’’ Magee said. “Your work ethic has to match your goal. Those two things have to align for you to be a great player.’’

What’s the “big dream?’’

“I’ve always, growing up, wanted to play in the NBA,’’ he said. “That’s helped inspire me to work hard.’’

Where does his supreme shooting confidence come from?

“From what you do in practice when the lights aren’t on,’’ he said. “What you do in that time is going to come out in the times when the lights are on.’’

If Wofford is going to turn the lights out on Kentucky, Magee likely will be the player who flips the switch … or blows out the candle.