The ongoing debate comparing high school basketball teams and basketball players always makes for interesting discussion. Having played high school and college basketball in the 1950s and coached in all five decades since then and officiated through the same period, I can make some legitimate comparisons.
There is no question the players/teams of today are more athletic, play a more physical game, are usually stronger, healthier and quicker, but usually do not have strong fundamental skills which develop high basketball IQs. That asset enabled great basketball decisions by the players/teams of yesteryear.
Most of those players/teams played the game from the shoulders up, while most of today’s play the game from the shoulders down. Most of past players thought and then reacted, while most of today’s players react and then think afterward.
The problem for today’s players is that most of them, their parents, their coaches, their fans and their relatives watch too many NBA and Division I college basketball games on TV. Many believe that is the way the game is played today — an athletic track meet.
The rules for these NBA and college games are also more geared to athletic play and skill and are different than for high school.
The trouble is, Maine high school players do not possess the athletic abilities to play the physical, athletic game they see on TV. If they try to play like college and NBA players, they will have poor fundamental skills, low basketball IQs and poor basketball decision-making skills.
Talented, athletic basketball players rely more on their ability instead of the basic fundamental skills which develop high basketball IQs to make great decisions.
When high school players try to emulate these athletic players, the following things usually result: many turnovers, out-of-control play and rough, physical play.
Would the teams of yesteryear be able to compete with the teams of today? Let me use my 16 years of coaching in Eastern Maine Class B to prove my point.
The 1969 Orono Red Riots, the 1973 Orono Red Riots, the 1974 Camden-Rockport Windjammers, the 1975 Foxcroft Ponies, the 1992 Rockland Tigers and the 1993 John Bapst Crusaders would be able to compete. All of these teams won state titles and were undefeated.
Who would win these matchups of past teams against present isn’t important. It is what style would win.
How would the less athletic teams of the past that had size, and based their game on strong fundamentals, do against present teams that rely more on a physical style of play?
Today’s players with their physical style of play, quickness and strength would not be able to overcome the past teams that played with great fundamental basketball skills.
Another factor determining this outcome would be how the game would be called by the officials. The way the game is allowed to be played today by some officials, the contact rule could be the deciding factor. The game could be a basketball brawl, it could be a bully ball or it could be basketball.
I prefer brains over brawn in all levels of play, high school through the NBA — which could actually now stand for Not Basketball Anymore.