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3-point record set by Butler’s Darrin Fitzgerald is as old as the 3-point line

Butler’s Darrin Fitzgerald. Butler University photo

The NCAA adopted the 3-point line 32 years ago, and many records have been set and broken as players and coaches embraced it and cultivated new and innovative ways to integrate it into the game.

One Division I men’s basketball record set by Butler’s Darrin Fitzgerald, however, has stood the test of time: his 5.64 3-pointers per contest (158 in 28 games) has held through the succeeding 31 seasons. No other player has come close to that mark.

Fitzgerald already had been firing from 3-point distance on his way to 1,285 points in his first three seasons at Butler, the close-to-home school he chose after starring at George Washington Community High School in Indianapolis. 

Adding the 3-point arc to the court turned his senior campaign into a season for the record books.

“My initial thought was that it wasn’t a big deal because I was already shooting out that far before the line was even there,” Fitzgerald says. “I tried to make sure I was comfortable with it and shot as many 3-pointers as I could in practice, then I would go out after a two-hour practice and shoot 1,000 more 3-pointers.”

Fitzgerald also finished his career as Butler’s leader in assists (411) at the time, but coach Joe Sexson was clear that he didn’t want his 5-foot-10 floor general passing up those brand new 3-pointers.

“At one point, I turned down a 3-point shot to pass to someone closer to the bucket, and it went through his hands,” Fitzgerald recalls. “Joe Sexson took me out of the game and told me if I ever pass up another 3-point shot, he would sit me on the bench for the rest of the season — and then he told me to get back into the game.

“I was clear on what he said. I didn’t have a problem with it. I had a double green light.”

Fitzgerald’s ability to shoot off the dribble was a hallmark of his game, honed on the playgrounds of Indianapolis, where he went up during countless one-on-one showdowns against 6-foot-5 high school teammate and best friend, John Sherman Williams, who went on to be a 2,374-point scorer at Indiana State.

“I learned how to get my shot off and create space. I learned to create space with a big man on me,” Fitzgerald says.

Fitzgerald saw every defense that coaches could cook up.

“The ball was in his hands on every possession. He wasn’t afforded the opportunity to be a catch-and-shoot guy. He wasn’t coming off picks where he didn’t have the ball much, either,” former teammate Rick Donovan says. “He was using ball picks … or it was pulling up off the break or off the dribble. He had subtle moves and such a quick release that one bounce, wherever it got him, was just enough space to get his shot off.”

Donovan and Fitzgerald both describe his ability to shoot off the dribble in one-on-one situations as a precursor of the man who broke his single-season record of 158 3-pointers, Steph Curry. Curry hit 162 triples during Davidson’s run to the 2008 Elite Eight but needed eight more games (36) to hit four more than Fitzgerald did in 28.

The culmination of Fitzgerald’s hard work came as the season was winding down. On Feb. 9, 1987, against Detroit, Fitzgerald erupted for 54 points and 12 3-pointers — both Hinkle Fieldhouse records.

“In the second half, Fitz got on such a roll. I’m not sure there was anything the guy guarding him could do except tackle him to stop him from making those 3s,” Donovan recalls.

Fitzgerald concluded the year with seven games with 30 or more points as he finished with 2,019 career points, currently third in Butler history.

After graduating with his degree in public communications, Fitzgerald spent 19 years working for DaimlerChrysler and is now in his Indianapolis hometown, working for Allison Transmission. Today, his approach remains the same.

“When I go to work, just like when I went to practice, I put everything that I have into it,” Fitzgerald says. “That way, I knew I wasn’t short-changing myself. I wasn’t short-changing my teammates, or now my fellow workers, and that’s the way I look at life.”

Division I 3-Point Records
Season average per game
Player Team Season G 3FG Avg.
Darrin Fitzgerald Butler 1987 28 158 5.64
Terrence Woods Florida A&M 2003 28 139 4.96
Demon Brown Charlotte 2003 29 137 4.72
Timothy Pollard Mississippi Val. 1988 28 132 4.71
Chris Brown UC Irvine 1994 26 122 4.69
3-point field goals made in a season
Player Team Season G 3FG
Stephen Curry Davidson 2008 36 162
Darrin Fitzgerald Butler 1987 28 158
Akeem Richmond East Carolina 2014 34 155
Freddie Banks UNLV 1987 39 152
David Holston Chicago St. 2009 32 147
Travis Bader Oakland 2014 33 147
Buddy Hield Oklahoma 2016 37 147
Attempts per game
12.9 — Darrin Fitzgerald, Butler, 1987 (362 in 28 games)
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Champion magazine goes behind the headlines and beyond the scoreboards to celebrate the unique connection between Americans and college sports. Champion is published by the NCAA.