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Prep Basketball's 3-Point Range Is Nationwide

December 06, 1987|JOHN RABY | Associated Press

In Palmer, Iowa, they're nuts about shooting a basketball from downtown. This season, the rest of the nation's high schools will find the joy and sorrow of playing with the 3-point shot.

"We're a little crazy. We overuse it," said Palmer Coach Alden Skinner, whose team averaged nearly 20 3-pointers a game last year, and made more than half of them.

But you can't argue with success. Palmer has won the past two small school Iowa state championships and had a 52-game winning streak entering this season.

The 3-point shot has been an option at the high school level for two years. Some states have been experimenting with it for up to five years.

Iowa was one of nine states to use the 3-point shot in the 1986-87 season. So did North and South Dakota, Idaho, Wyoming, Alaska, Montana, Connecticut and Utah.

Last spring, the rule was expanded nationwide use for boys and girls by the basketball rules committee of the National Federation of High School Athletic Associations in Kansas City, Mo. It's the same 19-foot, 9-inch distance used in college basketball.

"Everybody likes it except the coaches," said Dave Bones, a Toledo, Ohio, scout who runs a collegiate recruiting service for coaches that evaluates 3,000 high school players each year.

Palmer, where 20 of the 22 boys in school went out for basketball this year, averaged 19.8 shots from 3-point range per contest last season, making 210 of 396 3-pointers for 53 percent accuracy.

About a third of Palmer's shots this season will come from 3-point range.

"We're a very small school, and consequently, have not had a whole lot of size," Skinner said. "We play a lot of perimeter. We've been very fortunate, we've got some tremendous shooters."

"It's really an equalizer for the smaller kids and the smaller schools," Skinner said. "I disagree with a lot of the people that insist it does away with a lot of skills. Those are the same people who want the dunk."

Willie West, who has coached Crenshaw High School in Los Angeles to nine city championships and three state championships, likes the 3-point rule but doesn't expect to mold his team around it.

"We're a pressing team, and we're still going to try to do the things we try to do," he said.

West predicts the 3-point rule will help teams that don't have a tall center. But it also could give teams with the big man an added advantage because it forces defenses to spread out, giving the center more room to work.

Others argue that the rule is only as good as the coach who uses it correctly.

"Some coaches are saying they're just going to use it at the end of the game if they're behind and need to catch up, but I think that's a mistake," said Bert Jenkins, coach at Gulfport, Miss., High School, the defending state Class 5A champion.

"They have to practice it as part of their offense and use it as part of their game," he said. "I don't think they can achieve luck out of desperation."

The 3-point rule will magnify bad coaching, Bones said.

"The teams that are not disciplined teams now are going to take bad 22-foot shots rather than bad 17-foot shots," he said.

The rule also will force changes in defense, said Jenkins, who is nearing his 800th coaching victory.

"It may cause teams to extend their defenses out a little bit or go more to a man-to-man," he said. "Some of the teams that are sitting back in their zones are going to have to do something different now."

In Indiana, where small schools play big schools and only one champion is crowned in basketball, 76 percent of coaches felt high schools weren't ready for the 3-point shot.

"They're not sure 19-9 is the correct distance," said Bill Stearman, coach at the 2,040-student Columbus, Ind., North High School and a former member of the national federation rules committee.

The small school-big school matchup "gives the little schools the opportunity to upset the big school. They talk about that in little communities for the next 10 years," Stearman said.

Thus, the 3-point shot is a disadvantage to smaller schools, he said.

"The little schools normally have to gamble on the outside shot," he said. "If they can get through a game where the big school isn't hitting on the 3-point shot, fine.

"As a coach at a big school, I'm going to take advantage of it."

The new rule also will add a dimension to college recruiting.

"I can see that coaches are taking their fifth recruit as a guard with great range," Bones said.

"Last year, they discovered the 3-point rule has opened a lot of avenues. No one wants to get caught without a 3-point expert. There's a real movement toward that."

Bones also sees the 3-point shot sparking a comeback in the one-hand set shot.

"Some of the kids don't have the strength to shoot the jumper from outside," he said.

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