Unlike the two-hand set, the jumper eliminates the need for tedious pattern movement to clear a player for a shot; even without outside help, the man with the ball can maneuver himself into position for a high-percentage shot. In fact, the dazzling moves of today's stars are largely the result of the freedom the jumper brought to the game.
Like Luisetti's shot, the jumper is a one-hander, which ballistics experts testify is the most accurate way to shoot a ball. But unlike Luisetti's shot, the jumper is launched from the top of the head, all the better to get it over an opponent's outstretched hands, and it is shot off a vertical leap, not a lateral one. Again the laws of ballistics apply. While Luisetti (and others who played as recently as Bob Cousy and Lenny Wilkens and used a shot similar to his) floated laterally through the air, his range and angle to the basket constantly changed. Ideally, a jumper shooter should land on the same spot from which he took off. His range and angle never change. In artillerymen's terms, the jumper provides the shooter with a "stable platform" from which to fire.
The advantages of the jumper were quickly recognized by players, and before 1960 it had become the standard outside shot throughout the country. Since then, all those year-round players have been so successful with it that even conservative coaches like Princeton's Pete Carril have come to hold the jumper in the same high regard that Henry Iba used to hold the layup. "Our offense is designed to get the open 15-foot jumper," says Sowinski.
Along with Sowinski, a goodly number of the 424 college starters who cracked the .500 barrier last season will be back and worth watching this winter. One of them is N.E. Louisiana's Calvin Natt, a 6'5" forward who is not afraid to range far from the basket and who connected on 12 of 13 shots against Georgia State last season. Others are two velvet-smooth swingmen, Winford Boynes of San Francisco and Mike Woodson of Indiana; and two superb sophomore guards, Ron Perry of Holy Cross and Kyle Macy of Kentucky.
But consideration of the most dangerous offensive players in the country, game wreckers who can destroy an opponent from just about anywhere on the floor with jump shots of unnerving accuracy, must include these five:
His first shot of the season, a rampaging slam dunk at the end of a fast break, alerted long-suffering Indiana State fans that a new era was dawning. His last shot, a twisting baseline attempt that rolled off the rim in the final seconds of a game at Houston's Hofheinz Pavilion, would, if it had fallen, have sent the Sycamores to New York for the quarterfinals of last year's NIT. In between those two field-goal attempts, Larry Bird, a player so little known outside of Terre Haute, Ind. that he can only be called basketball's secret weapon, displayed wall-to-wall talent and the finest all-round game in the country.
He ended the season as the nation's No. 3 scorer (32.8) and No. 7 rebounder (13.3), the best combined showing in those two departments since 1969, when Spencer Haywood won the rebounding title and finished fourth in scoring. Bird shot .544 from the field and .840 from the free-throw line and handed out more than four assists a game.
A 6'9" Hoosier who came by his considerable passing skills as a guard in high school, Bird enrolled at Indiana University in the fall of '74, but was scared away after one week because he felt lost among IU's 33,000 students. Back home in French Lick, Ind. (pop. 2,059), he worked on a garbage truck for a year and then sat out another season before beginning his college basketball career at Indiana State.
Because of Bird's instant orientation and unerring touch around the basket and his flair for offensive rebounding, most opponents have tried to force him outside. There he merely banged away with the same jump shot he developed in his backyard as a kid: head cocked slightly to one side like Jack Nicklaus as he prepares to hit a long drive, easy motion over the top, plenty of rotation on the ball upon release. Against Loyola of Chicago, he made 20 out of 27, but what really turned the pro scouts on to Bird was the night they came to Terre Haute to see Illinois State Center Jeff Wilkins. Instead they got an eyeful of Bird, who had 31 points at the half.