The 3-pointer can be effective — with the right strategy

Posted Nov. 15, 2010, at 5:56 p.m.
Last modified Nov. 16, 2010, at 1:50 a.m.

The first attempt to try a 3-point shot line for high school basketball was 77 years ago in 1933. The distance tried was 30 feet. It was not successful and it would be another 54 years, during the 1987-88 season, before it was put into the rules with the distance of 19 feet, 9 inches from the center of the basket.

Popularity of the 3-point shot in the NBA and college basketball, coupled with trying to ease the congestion in the free-throw lane, were two of the major reasons the 3-pointer started in high school basketball.

Has it helped or hurt high school basketball?

It depends on your offensive philosophy of the game and your main objective as a coach, player or fan.

My strategy was that we did not want to shoot more than 25 percent of our field goal attempts as 3-pointers and our post player had to touch the ball once on the low block before we shot a 3 or any other shot except a layup.

Many basketball experts feel the 3-pointer has become a case of “Live by the 3, Die By the 3.” It’s great when it’s working, but if not, then a team is in deep trouble.

One of the biggest negatives that has hurt basketball at all levels by that 3-point arc is the elimination of the one-hand set shot. The reason for its elimination was players and coaches were afraid the players would step on the 3-point line as they stepped forward to shoot the one hand set shot, thus making it a two-point try

The one-hand set shot, last used effectively by Magic Johnson, was a very effective shot. It kept a player on the floor while shooting the shot, giving the player options to dribble or pass if the defense took away his shot.

Another negative effect of the 3-pointer is that it has led to players not being as effective inside the arc. More players want to shoot the 3. Go to a gym and see what type of shots players take the most when practicing their shooting, it’s the 3-pointer.

Another problem with excessive 3-point shooting is that missed 3-pointers often bounce far away from the rim, which helps start an opponent’s fast break and limits offensive rebounds.

In high school, players who shoot 40 percent from behind the arc are considered excellent 3-point shooters. An advantage of the 3-pointer is that a team can make 4 of 12 for 12 points (33 percent), compared to taking 6 of 18 2-pointers for 12 points and the same 33 percent.

Another positive is that if a team is shooting the 3-pointer well in a game, then it opens up the court and the inside game.

After observing the 3-point shot’s effect on the game as a coach from 1987 to 2000 and from officiating more than 4,000 games at all levels and watching more than 100 since I retired from coaching in 2000, I believe 3-point shots that come from inside to outside (player with the ball passing to a player on the block and the post player kicking the ball back to an open player) result in the highest shooting percentage for 3-pointers.

Dribble penetration into the free-throw lane and then kicking a pass out to an open player is the next highest percentage, whereas perimeter passing, shooting the ball off the dribble or shooting off screens results in the lowest shooting percentage.

One of the most important factors overlooked many times is relying on the 3-point shot during the regular season can lead to a cold-shooting night that ends a team’s postseason. Relying on the 3-pointer to win a state championship is very risky, as the law of averages says a team will have one bad shooting night in four games from long distance and, if so, that team may go home.

If coaches want to avoid this, they may want to adopt the one rule I had for my teams for shooting the 3-pointer: Our post player touched the ball before we shot a 3.

Bob Cimbollek is a retired high school basketball coach and former high school and college basketball official.

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