Archive for Sunday, March 7, 1999

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March 7, 1999

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Bill Mayer column for 3-7-99

Whatever happened to honest-to-gosh all-around shooters?

When will people who can poke home basketballs from the 8-to 15-foot range return to college to bail out extremist teams, like, maybe, Kansas?

Jayhawk Paul Pierce now of the Boston Celtics could ignite formidable rallies with those shorter pokes from spots inside the three-point arc. Raef LaFrentz of the Denver Nuggets had the kind of shorter range that Eric Chenowith struggles so hard to emulate.

Billy Thomas, a senior in 1987-98, was noted for this three-point gunnery but too often was more a luxury than a mainstay because of inconsistency. It was when Billy in his final year began to vary his scoring scope, by getting farther inside the 19-foot, 9-inch circle, that he really did the team maximum good. He also displayed better defensive skills.

You could live with Thomas' three-point offerings but you also could die with them. Kansas did that at critical times, you might remember.

Watch highlight scenes on telecasts and year-end videos and what do you see? There are the dunks, the alley-oops, the spectacular, twisting drives to the hoop, you know the drill -- and the three-point pokes, anywhere from three-quarter court to just outside the line.

Think of last year's Valparaiso heroics in the NCAA tournament, where the coach's son forked in the winning bucket. We saw that over and over and over again. It goes on game after game.

Who emerged as a hero of the recent Iowa State upset of Kansas? Marcus Fizer, on a slam after a good inside feed. Inside, outside, too seldom in between for highlight films.

How many times do we see the summaries featuring really good all-around shooters who win or take control of games by non-extremist tactics? Like cruising around lackadaisical perimeter defenders, pulling up outside shot-blockers camped in the paint and poking in about a 10- to 12-footer.

KU's Ryan Robertson and Jeff Boschee, for all their three-point potential, should have been doing a lot more of that all this season. They have the touch and the skills to make it work, just as Billy Thomas learned, though a bit too late.

KU got hurt all this season because it too seldom had anyone who demanded the ball at crunch time.

Boschee is supposed to be a go-to kid, but he's a freshman who still made costly rookie errors. How much more effective could Boschee, Robertson and Marlon London have been if they'd concentrated more on all-around scoring and less on trey production? Quit forever looking down for the trey-line and play solid basketball, kids. Get the shots where they are.

Watch those high school all-star games we'll soon be dosed by. A kid who can handle the ball, shoot mid-range and distribute to open performers, inside and out, is lost in the shuffle. What you get is a batch of hot-doggers who want to show off dunk skills or downtown gunnery. Forget trying to run a team-oriented offense. You slam it short or fire it long; to hell with the other dimensions of the offensive court.

Remember before three-point mania and the emphasis on Dr. Dunkenstein when guys like Purdue's Ricky Mount, Indiana's Steve Alford, LSU's Pete Maravich, Indiana State's Larry Bird and Michigan State's Magic Johnson were famed and acclaimed for how long and hard they worked on their shooting? How many kids do you see anymore in the driveways, on playground courts and in the gyms taking shot after shot after shot from 15 feet on in? No wonder free-throwing has gone to hell. Too few give a damn about being good shooters of any kind.

When college coaches like Rick Pitino, as the Kentucky tutor, run their offensive schemes on the three-point shot or in-the-paint attempts, what chance has a kid with a steady touch inside the arc and just beyond the paint have?

You can see why coaches think so much about three-point scorers. You lose or get scared to death the way Roy Williams' Jayhawks have done of late and you get hypnotized. Oklahoma State had a 33-6 point spread on treys in that overtime thriller after KU seemed to have it in the bank. KU was lucky to win. There was the Iowa State debacle -- seven treys for the Cyclones, two for Kansas, a fatal 21-6 gap in a 52-50 game.

If the Jayhawks and a lot of other teams focused more on the in-between area of the offensive court, couldn't the scoring improve substantially? Maybe newcomer Luke Axtell and his freshman compadres next year will add some needed variety to the scene.

Pretty important, but will it happen in today's stifling atmosphere of long-or-short?

  • Would guess it's some Nike-type designer who came up with it, but they can burn those out-of-place labels so many schools, including KU, have at their jersey necklines just below the chin. They're like center bows you find on a lot of brassieres, and not nearly as attractive. But it's trendy, and schools are at the mercy of whoever is paying them for endorsement; it won't stop until the money-changers say so.
  • Here's another complaint about those floppy shorts most basketball teams have anymore. Somebody ought to check out the Eudora High girls' pants and try to emulate them, or go back to the ones Jerod Haase wore as a Jayhawk.

-- Bill Mayer's phone message number is 832-7147. His e-mail address is bmayer@ljworld.com.

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