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Shooting Stars
Alexander Wolff
November 19, 1986
In this season of cosmic change, the advent of the three-point basket will have players launching shots from the college game's version of outer space
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November 19, 1986

Shooting Stars

In this season of cosmic change, the advent of the three-point basket will have players launching shots from the college game's version of outer space

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In the spirit of higher education—which is what college is supposed to be about, right?—we welcome you to the 1986-87 season. It will be one in which some baskets are worth two points, others are worth three, and no freshman can play unless he did well enough on his SAT exams. So reload your mechanical pencil, get out your calculator and get ready to punch in a few figures. To properly draw a bead on college hoops' Year of the Nerd, we're going to have to do a little arithmetic.

First, subtract all those underclassmen who went pro early, probably ensuring that their former teams won't be among the Final Four next spring in New Orleans: William Bedford (Memphis State), John Williams (LSU), Chris Washburn (N.C. State), Pearl Washington (Syracuse) and Walter Berry (St. John's).

Then subtract all those coaches—more than 60 of them—displaced by the most thorough clipboard swap in recent memory.

Finally, subtract the more than 100 casualties of NCAA Bylaw 5-1-(j): those freshmen who must sit out this season for falling short on their board scores. Anthony Pendleton (USC), Earl Duncan (Syracuse), and Terry Mills and Rumeal Robinson (Michigan) are just a few of the members of the Not-Quite-700 Club who would have made an immediate impact.

So: They took away our returning stars. They took away our incoming ones. They even took away our coaches. And now, by deigning to award three points for every shot made from a mere 19'9", they've taken away the most basic of basketball incentives—to work the ball inside for a good shot.

Who stands to benefit from this deforestation of the college basketball landscape? Why, the nerds, of course—the skinny little pencil-necked jump shooters who would be reduced to playing intramural Dungeons & Dragons if it weren't for the infernal work of their faculty advisor, Springfield College professor Edward Steitz, and his NCAA Rules Committee. Thanks to them, the Pencil Necks have their Casios at the ready, preprogrammed to multiply everything they throw up by a factor of three. We are in for a meek-shall-inherit-the-earth scenario, the likes of which the game has never seen.

The game's new shooting stars are largely on the small side. A lot of them are white. And you probably haven't heard a whole lot about most of them. So let's introduce a few. In threes, of course.

Cincinnati has Roger McClendon. Purdue, Troy Lewis. UCLA, Reggie Miller. Of Miller, Arizona State coach Steve Patterson says, "He would have averaged 40 a game with a three-pointer last season. I think half his shots came from out there."

Florida has Joe Lawrence. Wagner, Terrance Bailey. Villanova, Harold Jensen. R's been said that if the 30-second shot clock had been in use in 1984-85, Villanova never would have beaten Georgetown for the NCAA title. Perhaps. But with a shot clock and a three-pointer, 'Nova would have beaten the Hoyas with ease, thanks to Jensen's perimeter work.

Clemson has Michael Brown. North Carolina, Jeff Lebo. Cornell, John Bajusz. Bajusz rhymes with "pay us," and the two-time all-Ivy player is cash money out to 24 feet.

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