SPORTS: Prep basketball preview . . . is the 3-pointer bad for kids?

Greg Glasser was a senior at Spanaway when the 3-point line was first introduced to high school basketball in 1987.

The first thing he did when he heard the news:

Get a roll of athletic tape, tape down a line 19 feet, 9 inches away from the hoop and start firing away.

Fast forward 23 years later, and now the Sequim High School boys coach is trying to get his fifth-grade son to resist the same urge.

“The team that he is playing on, they are all trying to chuck the ball up from there,” Glasser said.

As Glasser’s assistant, Larry Hill, said, “Anytime you put a line on the floor that’s going to be the challenge,”

Indeed, outside of the dunk, the most popular shot in basketball these days is the 3-pointer.

Regardless of age, whenever a player wanders into a gym to play, they are far more likely to start launching bombs from behind the arc than do anything else.

Its siren song is simply too sweet.

“If you open the gym and the let kids go . . . the first shot 80 percent of the kids will take is a 3-point shot,” Forks boys coach Scott Justus said. “That’s exactly what they do.

“It’s almost like let’s just take that line off the floor.”

Justus’ sentiment is one that isn’t completely off base for some old-school coaches.

For the biggest casualty of the 3-point line is something many of them hold near and dear: the midrange jump shot.

With kids so focused on either shooting from distance or driving to the hoop, the 12- and 15-foot jumper has fallen into the margins.

Players spend much of their formative years (fifth through eighth grades) hoisting shots from deep.

As a result, they develop bad habits with their technique that negatively affect anything shot inside that range.

“I really believe that keeping kids within their range has a huge effect on their technique,” said Hill, who wrote his thesis on the art of the jump shot.

“I would never let [my son] Evan shoot the ball outside of 15 feet until he was an eighth-grader. By the time he got to high school [he could shoot well behind the line].”

That being said, Hill conceded, “Nick Camporini wanted to shoot nothing but 3s [when he was younger]. And now he can shoot from distance, too.”

Therein lies the other problem, because coaches aren’t completely innocent in this whole thing either.

Three-point specialists like Camporini are highly valued.

Coaches know how much the 3-point shot can change the tenor of a game, and they want that weapon as much as anyone.

So if a player can knock that shot down with some consistency, he’ll often be given carte blanche to shoot from the outside.

In fact, many coaches now teach a “3 or in the key” philosophy; one that encourages players to either fire it up from distance or get into the lane for a layup or contact.

The threat of the 3-pointer has also led coaches to put defensive pressure on the ball a lot more than 30 or even 15 years ago, opening up the lane to drivers and discouraging them from taking a 16-foot shot.

Thus, it isn’t all that uncommon for high school teams to shoot upwards of 18 to 25 3s in a game with almost everything else in or around the paint.

“The 3-point shot really opened the lanes up,” said Hill, who has been involved as a coach with Sequim basketball since 1977. “It did exactly what they hoped it would.

“When that happened, that 12 to 17 foot range shot just became an unacceptable attempt. It took coaches a while and kids a while to figure that out, but it was gradual.”

Still, there are times when that shot presents itself.

The short corner (a 16-foot baseline shot) is often one of the weaker spots in zone defense.

Teams that run the traditional flex also get a lot of good looks on the elbows (an area extended from each side of the free throw line).

Yet those shots are often the hardest for players to make.

“Sometimes that’s the toughest shot in basketball,” Port Angeles coach Wes Armstrong said.

If only there were a line there. Maybe then it would change.

It seemed to have worked with the outside shot.

“Kids shoot the ball at distance far better than they used to,” Hill said.

“Just in our scrimmage the other night we had eight different kids who hit a 3.

“That would have been unheard of 30 years ago.”

________

Sports writer Matt Schubert can be reached at 360-417-3526 or at matt.schubert@peninsuladailynews.com.

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