Jim Woodard, the Taft High basketball coach, confronts the 3-point rule head-on this weekend. Woodard takes his team into the L.A. Games tournament where Valley-area teams get their first exposure to the new rule today.
But Woodard doesn't expect the 3-point shot to figure much into his team's 1 p.m. game against Irvine at Crenshaw High in the opening round of the 128-team tournament. Woodard has yet to incorporate the 3-point shot into his team's offense, and his players have only worked on it informally on their own. Still, the new rule will keep him busy this weekend.
"We've got a junior varsity summer league starting next week and I haven't marked the floor with the tape yet. I've got to do that this weekend," he said.
The 3-point shot may have arrived, but area coaches and players may not be ready for it yet.
The basketball rules committee of the National Federation of High School Athletic Assns. voted in March to put the rule into effect for the 1987-88 season. Shots made behind the 19-foot, 9-inch line, the same distance as in college basketball, now will count for three points.
All high school gyms will need a paint job this summer in preparation for the new rule, which may be the only brush most Valley coaches will have with the shot this summer.
L.A. Games organizers, who claim their tournament is the largest of its kind in the nation, have trumpeted the arrival of the 3-point shot. Valley players and coaches, despite their enthusiasm for the rule, are taking a quieter approach.
"We're not doing anything special," Woodard said. "I'm in favor of it and it's exciting, but I don't think it'll have a huge impact. It's not a long shot for college players, but high school players who can shoot at 15 or 16 feet aren't so good at 20."
Two teams that figure to benefit from the rule are Cleveland and Simi Valley, two of the Valley's top teams last season. Cleveland was 20-4 and reached the City Section 4-A final last season before losing to Fairfax, 86-58. The Cavaliers feature a small, quick lineup, including guards Michael Gray and Damon Greer, who figure to wander into 3-point country.
Four starters return to Simi Valley, which was 26-2 a year ago and advanced to the quarterfinals of the Southern Section 4-A playoffs. Butch Hawking, a 6-0 guard who averaged 10 points a game last season, hit the gym as soon as the 3-point line was painted on the gym floor.
"Every time I work out I'm working on the shot, off the pass, off the dribble," Hawking said. "I've been preparing myself for the summer, knowing it's going to be a big part of our game."
A hot Hawking hitting from the outside figures to open up the middle for 6-10 center Don MacLean, the Southern Section 4-A Player of the Year.
"Teams can't clog the middle and we definitely have guys who can shoot it," Hawking said. Even MacLean figures he'll take his share of shots once the season starts. But neither Simi Valley player thinks the rule will play a major factor in the L.A. Games.
Simi Valley plays Marshall at Carson at 4 p.m. Saturday.
"We had a scrimmage today and probably only eight 3-point shots were taken the whole time," MacLean said Thursday. "I don't think at this point during the summer the shot will be used much unless it comes down to last the second of a game."
Said Hawking: "We've been practicing a couple months and haven't put much emphasis on it. We have no designed plays for it. I don't think it'll be a factor until mid-summer or late summer when our team gets used to it."
At Cleveland, which plays Santa Ana Valley at Hamilton at 10 a.m., Coach Bob Braswell didn't even tape the floor until this week.
"Basically, we haven't done anything for it," said Gray, a 6-0 guard who averaged 13 points last season. "We haven't set up any plays and in the spring league we played in, it didn't matter much. Some teams might live and die by it. We'd rather get layups all day than set up our offense."
Still, the line presents a temptation.
"Everyone gets the urge, me especially," Gray said. "You see the tape on floor and you start backing up."