AMHERST, N.Y. (WIVB) — Paige Emborsky has found the comforts of home brought out the best in her basketball game on her way to the postseason promised land.
The top 3-point shooter in all of NCAA basketball, Emborsky is the leading scorer for the Daemen women’s team making its third consecutive appearance in the Division II tournament. The Newfane native who was an NJCAA All-American for Niagara County Community College is making her first NCAA trip with the Wildcats, having transferred back to Western New York from Abilene Christian in Texas for her fifth college season.
“This is why we play,” said Emborsky, embracing the madness of March that eluded her in two Division I seasons. “It’s one of the main reasons I came to Daemen, because I knew this was a championship program and we would have the opportunity to play deep in the postseason.”
Emborsky’s accuracy from beyond the arc this season is a big reason Daemen (20-4) repeated as East Coast Conference champions, and the gaudy figure is almost unheard of at this level of the game. Emborsky has made 63 of 105 attempts from long range, an even 60%, the best across all divisions in NCAA men’s and women’s basketball.
Entering Daemen’s opening round game Friday against Jefferson in Worcester, Massachusetts, Emborsky’s shooting range has put her in record-setting position. The Division II mark is 56.3% set by North Dakota’s Durene Heisler in 1990. The only NCAA player to shoot 60% over a full season is Ellen Thompson from Division III Rhodes in 1989.
A scion of the Niland-Beilein basketball clan, Emborsky has always been an excellent outside shooter. She scored nearly 1,500 points in high school, mostly from the perimeter, and more than 1,000 at NCCC, where she ranked second in the country making 42% from 3-point territory. Endless hours of practice with the automated rebounding machines at Abilene Christian made Emborsky even more confident in her distance shooting.
Training over the summer with Daemen teammate Gabby McDuffie, a Buffalo native who also starred for NCCC, Emborsky settled for no worse than 80% shooting on unguarded 3-pointers. Her goal was to shoot 40% or better in every game this season, and she achieved that in all but one, when she hit 37%. She matched a Daemen record making eight 3-pointers in one contest.
“Shooting comes natural to me,” Emborsky said. “I’m very confident in my shot and all the work I put in. I’m not surprised I’m shooting a high percentage, but I am impressed with 60%.”
Daemen coach Jenepher Banker shook her head in disbelief when trying to recall another player who shot 60% from long range over a full season.
“Never,” said Banker, a former Canisius College assistant who coached Grand Island High School to a string of sectional championships. “Paige is money. But the other thing about Paige is she doesn’t take bad shots. Her overall skill is amazing, but she’s also smart enough to know what’s a good shot.”
Eschewing low-percentage looks, Emborsky said “all the shots that I take are from a teammate making an extra pass or transition stuff we work on to get open shots. I’m not taking any contested, quick ones.”
Experience playing in Daemen’s Lumsden Gymnasium in past summer leagues has aided Emborsky. She made better than 65% of her 3-point attempts in 12 games at Lumsden, where the Wildcats went unbeaten on campus and cut down the nets after last Sunday’s championship victory.
“I love playing at Lumsden, I love shooting at Lumsden,” Emborsky said. “The backboards are close to the wall. It’s bright in there. It feels natural to shoot.”
Living at home in Newfane, and having dozens of family members and friends in the crowd also has had a positive effect. “Being back in my house has made me more comfortable and I think that’s helped me play better,” Emborsky said.
While pursuing her master’s degree in leadership and innovation, Emborsky is looking to get into the family business. She hopes to be a graduate assistant coach for Deamen next season.
Meantime, Emborsky has augmented her knowledge of the sport by getting certified as a basketball official and working a handful of middle school games this season.
“It’s been interesting to see and understand the game from a difference perspective as a player,” Emborsky said. “My ultimate goal is to be a coach, but anything that keeps me around the game is what I want to do. I come from a basketball family. It’s embedded in us.”
“I was looking at schools back home to transfer because I knew how important it was to play my last year in front of my family,” Emborsky added. “I realized how much I missed that, and I wanted to be able to experience that for my fifth year. Being able to play in front of them again is special and it motivates me to keep having fun and keep this going as far as long as we can.”
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