TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – A year ago, PJ Savoy was shooting 3-pointers for a small junior college in Sheridan, Wyo., a town of about 20,000 people that sits 20 miles south of the Montana border.
So it would have been easy to forgive Savoy had he been tempted to stop and take a moment on Tuesday evening, when he checked in midway through the first half of Florida State’s win over Duke.
After all, he was wearing a garnet and gold Florida State jersey, and playing in front of a crowd of nearly 12,000 people. And the opposing team, now searching for ways to defend him, was from one of the iconic programs in college basketball.
That’s an awfully long way from Sheridan College in Wyoming.
“It’s just a surreal thing,” Savoy said, “when you get in there and realize that you’re living your dream.”
With his sweet shooting stroke and unshakeable confidence, Savoy might have FSU coach Leonard Hamilton pinching himself.
Despite averaging just 9.4 minutes per game, Savoy has carved a role for himself as the Seminoles’ sharpshooter: His 22 3-pointers made are the second-most on the team (behind only Dwayne Bacon’s 27) and his .440 percentage from range is the best among Seminoles with at least 20 attempts.
Savoy’s 3-point percentage and 3-pointers per game (2.4) would each rank among the top 10 of the ACC if he had met the minimum attempts requirement.
“I mean, he’s razor sharp,” Hamilton said. “He’s into the game. He’s not anxious. He’s a cool customer.”
How else to explain the way Savoy entered Tuesday’s game – cold – with 7:39 to go in the first half and just seconds later drained a 3-pointer that erased an early deficit.
Or how, two possessions later, he was at it again, knocking down a trey that gave the Seminoles their largest lead of the first half and brought the sell-out crowd to its feet.
“Come in and shoot, come in and score – that’s his role,” sophomore forward Terance Mann said. “For anyone else, it would be tough. But for him it’s not. He stays ready, he stays warm. He knows when his number is called, he’s going to go in there and score.”
And that’s about all he does. Of Savoy’s 55 field-goal attempts this season, 50 have come from 3-point range.
Savoy credits his shooting touch to his father, former UNLV standout Patrick Savoy. Growing in Las Vegas, Nev., Savoy says his father always had a basketball in hand and – despite temperatures that often climbed above 100 degrees – was never too busy to shoot hoops in the driveway.
“It really starts from way back, when I was little, me and my dad outside on the old basketball hoop,” Savoy said. “My dad just made sure everything was right, form was right, so that when I do have the opportunity to shoot, most of the time it goes in.”
Although he grew up playing a more well-rounded brand of basketball, Savoy first realized his potential as an outside shooter in the ninth grade.
He had made his high school’s varsity basketball team, but, at 5-foot-10, Savoy quickly learned he needed to find a way to separate himself from the taller players on the floor.
“I couldn’t really drive between all the big guys,” Savoy said. “So I started shooting a lot.”
He hasn’t stopped since.
Which could come in handy on Saturday, when the Seminoles visit a North Carolina team that ranks 95th nationally in 3-point percentage defense.
FSU, ranked ninth in the country, is looking for a school-record 12th straight win and its fifth victory over a ranked opponent this season.
“My coaches are always in my ear – ‘Let’s put the sniper in. let’s put the sharpshooter in,’” Hamilton said.
“And he has not disappointed us one time.”