Teams seek boost by hoist­ing more 3s

Baltimore Sun Sunday - - NEWS -

bas­ket­ball’s re­liance on the 3-pointer, which has been borne out by statis­tics. Ac­cord­ing to num­bers pro­vided by the NCAA, the av­er­age num­ber of 3-point shots at­tempted has grown from 9.2 in 1987 — the first year the 3-point arc was in­stalled — to 21.9 in 2018, which is an all-time high.

The trend was per­haps the least sur­pris­ing news to area Di­vi­sion I coaches like Mor­gan State’s Todd Boze­man.

“I think the game is just pro­gress­ing,” he said. “When you put the 3-point line in, you want more. Do you want 2 or do you want 3? Coaches say the worst shot is a long 2. So you might as well back up and take the 3.”

The num­ber of 3-point shots hoisted in the NCAA mir­rors the pat­tern in the NBA, which is av­er­ag­ing 31.1 3-point at­tempts in 2018-19 — a num­ber that is an all-time high and mas­sively dwarfs the 2.8 tries in 1979-80 when the 3-point line was in­tro­duced.

“There’s only one way to win in the NBA, and that’s to make shots,” Tow­son coach Pat Sk­erry said. “I think in col­lege, you can win shoot­ing 3s, you can win press­ing. You saw Carolina win the cham­pi­onship a cou­ple years ago by shoot­ing very few 3s and beat­ing you up on the glass. I think the beauty of col­lege bas­ket­ball is you can win in dif­fer­ent ways. In the NBA, there’s only one way. The War­riors are go­ing to win — even though I’m a Celtics fan — as long as they’re healthy be­cause they have the most guys who can make shots. In col­lege, there’s a lot of ways to win.”

Loy­ola Mary­land sopho­more guard Isa­iah Hart said he be­gan to no­tice a shift in play­ers’ pref­er­ence to shoot 3-point­ers dur­ing his fresh­man year at White­field Academy in Ge­or­gia in 2013-14.

“That’s when the 3-point shot be­came re­ally spe­cial,” he re­called. “It was less about go­ing in­side and play­ing out­side. Now it’s about ev­ery­body play­ing out­side and stretch­ing the floor.”

Pro­grams are con­stantly search­ing for re­cruits who can shoot 3-point­ers, ac­cord­ing to new Mount St. Mary’s coach Dan En­gel­stad.

“For us in the re­cruit­ing process, that’s some­thing we look for be­cause to be able to stretch it just opens up the floor for guys that can drive it and get it in there,” he said. “So in­stead of just one through three be­ing able to shoot, one through five has be­come a premium.”

Shoot­ing 3-point­ers is not an ex­er­cise in fu­til­ity. In ad­di­tion to try­ing to outscore the op­po­nent, a team that can make its long-range shots can force the de­fense to ex­tend it­self, which can open up the in­te­rior for higher-per­cent­age at­tempts like layups and dunks.

But Mor­gan State se­nior guard Martez Cameron said a team can’t lean solely on 3-point­ers. “You need at least one in­side pres­ence be­cause you can’t just live out­side,” he said. “You’ve got to go in­side some­times and make a de­fense col­lapse to open up those out­side shots.”

While col­lege bas­ket­ball teams av­er­aged an all-time-best 7.7 3-point­ers in 2018, the av­er­age per­cent­age made of 35.2 trails the all-time high of 38.4 per­cent in 1987.

UMBC coach Ryan Odom said de­fenses are more mind­ful of of­fenses run­ning plays to open up 3-point shoot­ers.

“I think na­tion­ally teams are uti­liz­ing [the 3-point shot] more, but I also think that de­fenses are fo­cus­ing on tak­ing it away,” he said. “So we’ve faced that. In two years, we’re known as a good 3-point shoot­ing team. So nat­u­rally, teams get out there and they con­test it more.”

Real-life ex­am­ples like the Golden State War­riors’ trio of Steph Curry, Kevin Du­rant and Klay Thomp­son and the Hous­ton Rock­ets’ James Har­den will con­tinue to in­spire col­lege bas­ket­ball play­ers to work on their long-range shoot­ing. Sher­burne is one player who said he won’t de­vi­ate from his game, which in­cludes a ca­reer-high 187 3-point at­tempts last sea­son.

“I’ll still shoot 3s,” said Sher­burne, who is the sec­ond player in Retriev­ers his­tory to sink more than 60 3-point­ers in each of his first three years. “If that means I get to shoot more, that’s great.”

KEN­NETH K. LAM/BAL­TI­MORE SUN

UMBC’s Joe Sher­burne, right, shoots a 3-pointer last sea­son over Cop­pin State’s Adam Traore. Sher­burne helped the Retriev­ers earn a stun­ning NCAA tour­na­ment win.

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