And One: Lisa McMullen, Alabama State shooting legend

Lisa McMullen. (photo courtesy of Alabama State athletics)
Lisa McMullen. (photo courtesy of Alabama State athletics) /

A volume shooter ahead of her time.

Looking at this year’s statistics through March 1, the highest volume shooters are Aari McDonald and Cierra Dillard who have each attempted 523 field goals, per Her Hoop Stats. Beyond the arc, Idaho’s Taylor Pierce leads with 285 three-pointers attempted.

But nearly 30 years ago, Lisa McMullen set shooting volume records that make those look minuscule, and the story of her college playing career is so rarely told.

McMullen played at Aliceville High School in west Alabama, where she led the Yellow Jackets to the Class 4A Semifinals in 1988 and earned 4A Player of the Year honors.

To get her team to the semifinals, McMullen put up 39 of her team’s 60 points, outscoring the opponent’s 27 points singlehandedly, all the while grabbing 10 rebounds.

She averaged 35 points per game in her final year in Aliceville and put up an impressive 44 points in her final game. Unfortunately, the rest of the team wasn’t able to produce, as they added only 10 more points combined in the loss.

More from History

“She was a team leader and not selfish,” her high school coach Shirley Eatman told the press at the close of her high school career.

She took her talents southeast to Montgomery and the historically black Alabama State University; the Lady Hornets competed in the Southwestern Athletic Conference (SWAC) in NCAA Division I.

It didn’t take long for her to earn a reputation as a scoring threat.

In her first season of competition, Alabama State travelled to Tallahassee to take on Florida A&M. Though McMullen and team trailed by 16 with under three minutes to play, they took advantage of the Rattlerettes’ turnovers, and McMullen heated up.

She knocked down three three-pointers as fans started chanting “Jordan, Jordan,” and after a teammate poured in another shot, she sank her sixth long-range shot of the night (of 10 attempts). She led with 32 points, but the late rally came up short as Florida A&M were able to hang on for a 84-80 win.

Regardless, McMullen’s strength was on full display.

“Lisa McMullen is one of the finest athletes I have ever coached,” Alabama State coach Ron Mitchell told the press following that game.

Though Alabama State struggled, McMullen kept up her hot shooting. Having started all 28 games she played, she scored 26.3 points on average, adding 6.2 rebounds, 4.3 assists, and 3.4 steals to round out an all-around set of skills.

Stunningly, she put up 778 shot attempts from the field, scoring on 273 of them (35.1%) including 98 of 291 (33.7%) from three. Though not close to the most efficient shooters in history, she found ways to get shots off consistently.

After leading the conference in scoring, steals, and three-pointers, she was named First-Team All SWAC and the SWAC Newcomer of the Year. She was fifth in scoring nationwide, earning her a Black College Sports Magazine All-America nod.

The Lady Hornets finished 10-18 overall and 7-7 in conference, and McMullen came back the following year ready to put up big numbers once again.

Named to the All-SWAC Preseason Team, McMullen had earned the respect to draw every team’s best defense.

“McMullen’s a shooter,” Florida A&M coach Claudette Farmer put it bluntly. “She’s a kid you’re always going to want to be concerned about when she gets the ball.”

But no matter. Everyone knew she wanted to shoot, but she couldn’t be stopped.

Through early January 1991 she was averaging about 30.1 points per game for a struggling Alabama State team. On the 26th of that month, she put up an NCAA record 26 three-pointers, sinking seven of them.

Though the Lady Hornets finished the season just 5-23, McMullen’s numbers are no less impressive, and the NCAA Division I record book is proof of that.

She led the country in scoring with 29.1 points per game, a mark that is still top-20 for a season all-time.  She added 6.4 rebounds, 4.4 assists, and 4.1 steals, but she set NCAA records for shooting that are still rarely even in sight for most players.

That season she put up a single-season record 863 field goal attempts, including 390 from deep. Her 13.9 three-pointers attempted is an NCAA record, and her 126 threes made is eighth all-time. But on average, no one has made as many threes as McMullen, who scored on 4.5 threes per game in 1990-1991.

She rounded out her NCAA Division I career with a record 4.0 threes made on average. She had 3.73 steals on average, a mark that is still in the top 25.

That’s an impressive career on its own, but McMullen still had a year of eligibility remaining, and she took her talent out to Oklahoma to play for Southwestern at the NAIA Division I level to close out her college playing time.

Southwestern was a national power in the NAIA game with five national titles prior to that year and the last five Oklahoma Interconference (OIC) titles.

Coach John Loftin had led the Lady Bulldogs through much of their success, and he had tremendous confidence in McMullen coming in, telling the press, “McMullen is the best guard I have ever seen.”

Lisa McMullen. (photo courtesy of Alabama State athletics)
Lisa McMullen. (photo courtesy of Alabama State athletics) /

McMullen became eligible to play in January, and it took her no time to get back in to form, notching 24 points and eight assists in her first game back.

Late in April she led her team to wins over No. 4 Southeastern — who was led at the time by future ABL and WNBA player and WNBA champion assistant coach in Seattle and now Dallas, Crystal Robinson — and East Central, averaging 27.0 points, 9.0 rebounds, 5.5 assists, and 5.5 steals, earning her NAIA Player of the Week honors.

She went on to earn First-Team All-OIC honors with an impressive stat line of 24.1 points, 5.0 rebounds, 5.1 assists, and 2.9 steals on average. Incredible to grasp that at 24.1 points, her scoring average was down, but the other parts of her game reached new heights, and that helped propel Southwestern to another solid finish.

Then ranked sixth in NAIA Division I, Southwestern ran through the OIC Tournament, taking down Southeastern in the title game.

As the story goes, McMullen was so impressive in that game — she sank a school-record nine three-pointers and scored 37 points — that Crystal Robinson, who had earlier that day been named Player of the Year, handed her award over to McMullen.

Southwestern coach Loftin summed up his star guard’s importance succinctly following the win.

“That girl can play,” he said, adding, “She came to play in the second half. She delivered us.”

Southwestern would go on to make a run in the NAIA Division I Tournament before falling to Southern Nazarene in the semifinals, and McMullen would close out her career with an NAIA All-American nod.

Though she found team success later in her career at Southwestern, McMullen’s name will stick around in the NCAA Division I record books due mostly to her ability to get shots up with consistency.

Her career 4.0 threes per game was last threatened while she was still playing at Southwestern, and noted volume shooter finished in 2018 at 3.58 per game herself. Her 4.5 threes per game in a single season is being threatened this year. Idaho’s Taylor Pierce is currently ahead of the mark, averaging 4.6 threes coming into March.