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Longer shorts, and shots, among worst hoop trends
BY DONNIE JOHNSTON
HIGH SCHOOL and college basketball seasons are now under way, and for the next several months I’ll be watching my share of the action.
I’ve been a basketball fan since I was in high school (one year I saw almost 100 games), and I’ve noticed a number of changes in the game over the years.
First, there are the uniforms. Until the mid-1980s basketball shorts were cut, well, short. Then teams started lengthening the legs until now they look like an old pair of drawers my grandma used to have.
It this trend continues, basketball shorts will be as long as those ridiculous pants that baseball players wear, the ones where the hems are tucked under the heel spikes of their shoes.
OK, maybe players don’t want their basketball shorts as short as the ones in the 1950s, but when they get longer than the cheerleaders’ skirts, it is time to change the fashion policy.
Another basketball change occurred in the late 1980s when the 3-point shot was introduced and video games became popular. Since then, almost no one can make a 10-foot jumper.
You don’t believe me? Just watch some games. Most shots taken from 10 to 15 feet look like bricks tossed at the basket.
It used to be that almost every suburban home with kids had a basketball goal attached the front of the garage or on a pole in the driveway. We had one on the barn and dribbled on gravel.
Any time he had a few spare moments, a boy would go out and shoot hoops, sometimes for hours. Since driveways were not that big, most shots were taken from the 10- to 15-foot range, and some kids became deadly shooters.
These days, it is rare to see a basketball goal in a driveway and even rarer to see a kid out there honing his skills. Most spare moments today are spent on a cellphone or on a computer playing video games.
Then, too, coaches don’t want players taking 10-foot shots—even if they’re wide open. If they don’t shoot from 3-point range, coaches preach driving to the basket for a layup.
It always amazes me that a player will pass up an open 10-footer to get two steps closer and try to shoot with six hands in his face. Of course, if no one can hit a 10-footer
The third big change in high school basketball is the strategy of slowing the game down at the end of the half to get the last shot or at the end of the game to preserve a lead.
This all started when Phil Ford, an exceptional ball handler, was at North Carolina and Coach Dean Smith developed the strategy.
When will coaches learn that high school kids can’t slow the offense down and retain possession? Time after time, I see teams try to play for the last shot only to lose the ball and allow the other team to get the final shot.
Fifteen-, 16- and 17-year-olds have no conception of time, and they usually panic. They cannot effectively slow the ball down. It is a fact.
As for slowing the offense at the end of the game, instead of playing to win, you start playing not to lose, which is a whole different—almost defensive—mindset.
Slowing down takes a team out of its normal offensive flow, and if the other team ties or goes ahead, it is almost impossible to regain that flow again. I’ve seen it happen time after time over the years.
College coaches are often just as bad. There are very few college guards who can run an effective slow-down offense. Even Phil Ford can’t do it anymore (because he is an old man now).
There you have the three biggest changes I’ve seen in high school basketball: shorts that look like grandma’s drawers, 10-foot shots that are harder to hit than Nolan Ryan’s fastball (in his prime) and coaches who will not accept the fact that 17-year-old guards can’t slow the game down like Phil Ford (in his prime).
And I still say that there should be a federal law stating that high school coaches can’t watch college games on TV, because that’s where all this stuff comes from.