Marty Heede of Cal State Los Angeles says his eyes nearly popped out when he first heard about the NCAA's new three-point-shot rule for men's basketball teams for the 1986-87 season.
Heede, a 6-5 senior who is nicknamed "Zone Buster" because of his superb outside shooting, was surprised to learn the three-point line was only 19 feet, 9 inches from the basket.
"I couldn't believe it when I found out how close it was," Heede recalled. "That's like a regular shot for me."
While coaches and players agree the three-point line may be too close, they also like the rule that was adopted at the NCAA meeting last spring. The women's teams are expected to vote on the rule after this season.
"I think it's a good rule and the game will be better because of it," Occidental Coach Bill Westphal said. "It may take time to get used to it, but I like it."
"I think it's a good rule," Cal State Los Angeles Coach Jim Newman said. "It's good for basketball and it's good for the fans. In every sport I think there should be a home-run sort of reward, and I think this is doing that."
Although it may be too early to tell, coaches believe it eventually will alter their strategy.
"I feel, No. 1, it opens up the inside game," Cal Poly Pomona Coach George Fisher said. "If you have a guy who can hit from out there, you have to respect him. We'll probably use more new defenses because we will want to play the shooters closer. That will open it up under the basket."
Added Westphal: "If you pack heavily in the key, you're going to leave a lot of room open on the outside."
The three-point shot is expected to have its greatest impact in the waning minutes of a game.
"It can really make a difference in a close game," Fisher said. "You know the line, 'It ain't over until it's over.' With this, you better believe it."
You will not have to remind Newman, who remembers his team's exhibition against the Japanese national team last year in which the shot was in effect.
"We were leading by 10 points and then they hit three (three-pointers) in a row and it was suddenly a one-point game," Newman said. "With this, the turnabout can come quickly."
Westphal, who calls the three-point basket a "momentum swinger," got a firsthand lesson when he watched Grand Canyon of Arizona play Master's of Newhall last week. The teams combined for 29 three-point baskets in the game that Grand Canyon won, 101-86.
"It should increase the scores a bit and maybe decrease the shooting percentages a little," Westphal said. "I think you'll see more scores in the 90s."
Westphal also believes it is not as difficult a shot as he had expected. "They say most people will hit about one out of three, but I think a lot of people will be able to hit one out of two. That can make a big difference."
Heede, who likes to shoot in the 20-to-22-foot range, agrees that it is not a difficult shot.
"It's pretty close to the basket," Heede said. "It's not like the NBA three-pointer. It's 19-9 and that's not as far. I'd say the NBA line (23 feet from the basket) is a lot harder. It's just two feet or so longer, but that's a big difference."
That is a big reason why Fisher has made the three-point shot part of daily practice. His players take 50 three-point shots before each practice.
"We have two guys (guards Bill Dobbs and Darron Suttle) who can hit it and I'm trying to find others," Fisher said. "It's part of our offense. I'd rather see a guy shoot from the line and get three than shoot from 18 (feet) and get two."
Heede says Newman has given him the green light to take the shot.
"He hasn't held me back at all," Heede said. "He knows I can hit it from out there."
Likewise, Westphal has given 6-6 swingman Jeff Lowe the go-ahead to try the three-pointer. "He shoots it so effortlessly," Westphal said. "I think that's a key for this kind of shot."
But Newman is worried that some of his players will want to take the three-point shot too often.
"I think the hardest thing to do is get the kids not to shoot it," Newman said. "We had a kid who was an All-American last year who shot it (against Japan) and he kept trying for it the whole game and didn't hit one.
"We won't work for it, but if we're in a position to shoot it we will. We know what we're capable of hitting, and if it's a normal shot, OK. I just don't want it to get out of hand."
With Heede and Sheldon Borson, a sophomore guard from Rowland High who shoots well from the outside, that does not figure to be a problem for Newman.
"We're fortunate to have a couple of guys that can hit it," Newman said. "But I'm sure a lot of other teams do, too."