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Best free throw shooters in men’s college basketball history

They’re called “free throws” but not everyone takes advantage of the “free” points. The national average for free-throw percentage was 70.8 percent in the 2019-20 men’s college basketball season. The very best free-throw shooters, however, will take full advantage every time they’re fouled.

Here are the best free-throw shooters in NCAA DI men’s basketball history, from a single-game, single-season and career perspective.

The following stats come from the official 2019-20 NCAA record book.

Most free throws made

Rich Clarkson/NCAA Photos via Getty Images "Pistol" Pete Maravich shoots against Auburn in a 1968 game.

Most in a game: 30 — Pete Maravich, LSU (above); Ben Woodside, North Dakota State
Most in a season: 355 —Frank Selvy, Furman
Most in a four-year career: 982 — Tyler Hansbrough, North Carolina
Most in a three-year career: 893 — Pete Maravich, LSU

Most consecutive free throws made

Most consecutive free throws made in a game: 24 — Arlen Clark, Oklahoma State
Most consecutive free throws made in a season: 73 — Gary Buchanan, Villanova
Most consecutive free throws made in a career: 85 — Darnell Archey, Butler

Here are the players with the 10 highest single-season free-throw percentages in men’s college basketball history, based on qualifiers for the annual free-throw championship.

1. Blake Ahearn, Missouri State

Season: 2004
Free-throw percentage: 97.5 percent
FT-FTA: 117-120

There’s the “Freshman 15” and then there’s whatever you want to call Ahearn’s record-breaking freshman season at the free-throw line. He got to the line roughly 3.5 times per game as a freshman and he missed just three free throws all year, giving him an NCAA-best 97.5 free-throw percentage. He was more than just a free-throw shooter, too. Ahearn averaged double-digit points in all four years of college, including a career-high 16.2 points per game as a junior.

While Ahearn’s free-throw percentage actually decreased every year (97.5 percent to 94.7 to 93.6 to a still-impressive 92.5 percent), his 3-point shooting clip reached 46.5 percent as a senior, which is about as impressive as a free-throw percentage in the mid-90s. 

2. Derek Raivio, Gonzaga

Season: 2007
Free-throw percentage: 96.1 percent
FT-FTA: 148-154

Raivio’s free-throw percentage was always respectable, starting at 83.3 percent as a freshman, and even as his role with Gonzaga grew, so did his make percentage at the line. As a senior, when he averaged 18 points in 36.3 minutes per game, he nearly joined the exclusive 50/40/90 club  after shooting 45 percent from the field, 40.9 percent from 3-point range and 96.1 percent at the charity stripe. On average, he took 4.5 free throws per game as a senior and made 4.4 per game.

3. Craig Collins, Penn State

Season: 1985
Free-throw percentage: 95.9 percent
FT-FTA: 94-98

How long ago was Collins’s college playing career?

As a freshman at Penn State, the Nittany Lions were an independent men’s basketball program. As a sophomore, he played in the Atlantic 10. He never played with a 3-point line in college.

But what Collins did play with was an incredible free-throw accuracy as a senior, when he made 94 of 98 attempts. The amazing part is that Collins’s historic free-throw shooting sort of came out of nowhere. He was just 4-for-10 from the line as a freshman, 20-for-28 (.714) as a sophomore and then 76-for-88 (.864) as a junior.

So each of his college seasons, Collins’s free-throw shooting took a big step forward.

Here’s what United Press International had to say about Collins’s record back in the day.

“Penn State’s Craig Collins set an NCAA single-season free-throw accuracy record Wednesday night when he hit his only attempt in a 78-64 loss to Duquesne in the Atlantic 10 Conference tournament,” the UPI reported. “Collins, a 6-foot-5 senior from Swarthmore, Pa., finished the season 94-of-98 from the free-throw line for a 95.9  percent average, bettering the mark set by UCLA’s Rod Foster in 1982. Foster hit 95-of-100 for 95 percent. Collins recorded streaks of 32, 24, 18 and 16 consecutive free throws this year.”

4. Phil Forte III, Oklahoma State

Season: 2017
Free-throw percentage: 95.5 percent
FT-FTA: 76-88

Forte is the most recent addition to this list of the top 10 single-season free-throw percentages in men’s college basketball history. As a fifth-year senior in the 2016-17 season, Forte, who was an 88.3 percent free-throw shooter in his career, had an improvement of nearly 10 percentage points from the previous season as he made 76-of-88 free throws, or 95.5 percent.

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5. J.J. Redick, Duke

Duke Athletics Duke's J.J. Redick

Season: 2004
Free-throw percentage: 95.3 percent
FT-FTA: 143-150

Redick is maybe the most famous great free-throw shooter. Redick was a McDonald’s All-American, then the 2006 consensus National Player of the Year at Duke and he just finished his 15th season in the NBA. He was a 91.2 percent free-throw shooter in his career, including three seasons over 91 percent, but his best free-throw percentage came in the 2003-04 season as a sophomore when he made 143 of 150 attempts.

6. Steve Drabyn, Belmont

Season: 2003
Free-throw percentage: 95.1 percent
FT-FTA: 78-82

Under former coach Rick Byrd, Belmont was no stranger to efficient shooting. The Bruins ranked in the top three in the country in 2-point field goal percentage in each of Byrd’s final seven seasons, as well as in the top 15 nationally in free-throw percentage in 2001, 2002 and 2017.

Steve Drabyn was on those 2001 and 2002 teams, then the following season in 2002-03, he put his name in the NCAA record book with a 78-of-82 free-throw shooting performance on the season, good for 95.1 percent. That season, Drabyn was extremely efficient from almost anywhere on the floor, as he made 66.7 percent of his 2-point attempts and 43.3 percent of his 7.2 3-point attempts per game.

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7. Donald Sims, Appalachian State

Appalachian State Athletics Donald Sims of Appalachian State.

Season: 2010
Free-throw percentage: 95.1 percent
FT-FTA: 175-184

Donald Sims left Appalachian State as the program’s all-time leading scorer with 2,185 points after averaging more than 20 points per game as a junior and senior.

Roughly a quarter of his career points – 545, to be exact – came at the free-throw line, where he averaged five attempts per game as a junior and he made 4.7 of them, on average.

8. Rod Foster, UCLA

Season: 1982
Free-throw percentage: 95.0 percent
FT-FTA: 95-100

Rod Foster was a productive college player who averaged in double figures in all four years of his career, finishing his time in Westwood with 1,365 career points, and at his best, he produced one of the best free-throw shooting seasons ever. As a junior for the Bruins in the 1981-82 season, Foster made 95 of 100 free-throw attempts, making the math quick and easy, and really impressive: 95 percent free-throw shooting.

9. Clay McKnight, Pacific

Season: 2000
Free-throw percentage: 94.9 percent
FT-FTA: 74-78

In his first season of college at UC Irvine, Clay McKnight averaged just 5.2 points per game and he was just an average free-throw shooter, making 15-of-21 attempts, or 71.4 percent. After transferring to Pacific, McKnight, then a fifth-year senior, averaged 14.3 points per game and made 94.9 percent of his attempts at the stripe.

10. Matt Logie, Lehigh

Season: 2003
Free-throw percentage: 94.8 percent
FT-FTA: 91-96

In his sophomore through senior seasons, Logie was a consistent scorer averaging 14 or 15 points per game, and his free-throw shooting was just as consistent — 91.7 percent in 2001, 92.5 percent in 2002 and then a historic 94.8 percent in 2003. He missed just five free throws all season as a senior.

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