Triple Trickledown: HS Hoops Sees Three-Pointer Surge has partnered with LexisNexis to bring you this content.

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Evansville Courier & Press (Indiana)


EVANSVILLE — Boys and girls across the country have grown up watching Golden State Warriors superstar Steph Curry shimmy away from defenders and chuck up 3-pointers from previously unseen distances.

As one of the best shooters ever, Curry turns the court into a playground and serves as the face of the 3-point revolution complicating basketball.

NBA teams are attempting 31.4 threes per game, up from 20 in 2012-13. Pace also has increased, meaning more shots, but that's still an 11 percent uptick in overall attempts coming from long-range.

In college, 39 percent of shots being taken by Division I teams are 3-pointers. The year-over-year increase from this season (albeit a small sample size) compared to last is nearly an all-time high, too.

The trickle-down effect has reached high schools and below.

"I have a fifth-grade son and I have to get on him all the time about chucking threes," Princeton High School boys coach Ryan Haywood said. "They want to get in the gym and automatically get behind the 3-point line because that's what Steph Curry does and that's what they like to do."

The 3-point arc, set at 19 feet, 9 inches from the goal, has been in place since the 1987-88 high school season.

There are insufficient data to know exactly how much high school basketball has evolved, but young players, more than ever, are launching threes from well beyond the line because that's what they see on TV.

Coaches have adapted because, well, they want to win.

"In the past, it seemed like teams wanted to pound it inside and get to the free-throw line," North Posey coach Heath Howington said. "Those things are still good, but you don't see as many back-to-the-basket post players anymore."

A generation ago, kids wanted to "Be Like Mike" even though it was nearly impossible to emulate Michael Jordan because he was blessed with supreme athleticism. Meanwhile, Curry is physically unimposing and has inspired a crop of shorter boys to defy physical limitations.

That doesn't mean everyone should be hanging out along the perimeter, though.

"I think sometimes they spend more time out on the 3-point line than they do actually learning how to make a layup properly," Bosse coach Shane Burkhart said.

There's the conundrum: In this 3-point-heavy, space-and-pace era, how do coaches find the balance between allowing players to shoot where they feel comfortable without taking it too far?

Statistically, 3-pointers are more efficient than mid-range jumpers because the reward — an extra point — outweighs a slightly lower completion percentage.

Vincennes Lincoln made 12 threes against Princeton in last year's sectional. Even if the Tigers had made a jumper or layup after each of those 3-pointers, they'd still be down double digits.

"We tell our kids a step or two inside the three-point line in the worst shot in basketball," Haywood said. "We don't even want to take those shots. You'd might as well be behind the arc and make it worth three or try to get to the rim and shoot a layup."

That logic is generally accepted, especially among coaches who've been around the game for as long as the arc has been in place. It's not a universal belief, though.

Take Mehki Lairy, for example. The city's all-time career scoring leader finished his Bosse career with 2,215 points. He relied on his mid-range shot for scoring as much as 3-pointers.

"If the ball goes in, isn't that the whole purpose of the game?" Burkhart said. "A long two is a bad shot? No, it's two points and that's great. Sometimes you second guess yourself — 'If I was a foot longer ... ' — but the whole purpose is putting the ball in the goal."

Successful shooting always will come down to practice.

Steve Zeller, father of future NBA players Luke, Tyler and Cody, drew a three-point line in a parking lot in Washington as the boys were growing up. Except it wasn't regulation distance. They thought they were practicing threes, but they were merely regular jumpers.

The advent of shooting guns, which serve as an automatic rebounder before instantly returning a pass for another shot, has allowed players to practice shooting more efficiently than before.

Howington is about to start his seventh season as a head coach. In four of his first six, a North Posey player broke the program's single-season 3-point record. He determines who exactly is allowed to shoot them in a game based on how they practice.

"We want every player to extend their range as much as possible," he said. "We think it makes us tougher to guard when you put five guys on the floor who can shoot the three ... it's picking your poison."

Bosse's 6-10 junior Kiyron Powell is starting to develop a jump shot. Burkhart said he expects Powell to shoot a few 3s this season, and while he may cringe in those moments, he isn't going to hold his players back.

"I never want to tell a kid he's taking bad shots," Burkhart said. "That just screws with their confidence. We want them to have a free flow offensively."

Steph Curry and the Warriors may have popularized basketball's new blueprint, but everyone is taking part in the 3-for-all.

Contact Courier & Press sports columnist Chad Lindskog by email, [email protected], or on Twitter: @chadlindskog

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November 18, 2018


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