Despite his idle attitude, the somewhat sulky young man pictured here is not just goofing off during a practice session. He is a pioneer participant in a drastic experiment to speed up basketball, an active player in a game last week between the jayvees of the Colorado School of Mines and the Colorado State College freshmen in which hockey's penalty box was substituted for basketball's traditional free throw.
Alone of all major U.S. sports, basketball was conceived and developed within living memory with a set of basic rules which have remained relatively unchanged. Those rules are now the subject of a serious study by a special committee of the NCAA whose chairman, Colorado State Coach John Bunn, helped stage last week's game.
The trouble, if trouble there is, has been too rapid growth. When the late Dr. James Naismith nailed his now famous peach baskets to the balcony of a YMCA gym in 1891, he created a benign monster that rivaled Jack's beanstalk. Within half a century his new game was being played by more than 20 million enthusiasts all over the world. The major change, as Naismith himself pointed out, was in the players. As time passed, their perfected strategies, speed, skill and accuracy advanced far beyond the confines of the rules to the detriment, some thought, of the game itself. One rule held suspect by many was the time-consuming privilege of free shots as a penalty for fouling.
Last week's game was the result of a deep conviction on the part of Fritz Brennecke, athletic director at CSM, that the free shot has turned basketball into nothing but "a long parade back and forth between one free-throw line and the other." Determined to find a way out of this treadmill, he persuaded Bunn to help him try a game using the penalty box instead. The results were interesting but scarcely conclusive. For one thing, neither team had developed any new tactics to cope with the possibility of being caught shy of players. When either team found itself two men short, it tended to freeze the ball in mid-court and wait it out. With one man short, the State players tended to try for long shots and devil take the rebounds, while the Mines boys tended to drive in right under the opponents' basket. This worked fine as long as they hung onto the ball. When they lost it, they were helpless.
In the end Mines won by a close 74-70, which proved, if nothing else, that the new rules didn't drastically reduce scores. Brennecke seemed satisfied with the test. Researcher Bunn called it inconclusive. All that one player could do was gasp: "I'm too out of breath to talk about it."