The three-point shot has come in for so much criticism that the basketball bureaucracy, sensitive to repeated references to the shot as a chippie, is mounting what appears to be a counterattack. In a front-page story in the Jan. 28 edition of NCAA News, rules committee chairman Dr. Edward Steitz states that the notorious shot is not really 19'9", but 21 feet. To compare the college shot with the 23'9" (except in the corners) NBA three-pointer is unfair, the article suggests, because the distance of the pro shot is measured from the backboard, not from the center of the basket as the NCAA shot is.
That argument has only one problem: It's wrong. The NBA does measure its three-pointer from the center of the hoop. If the NBA shot were measured from the backboard, it would be a 25-foot heave. So, to count for three, Dr. Steitz's J from head-on is still a full four feet shorter than Dr. J's.
This isn't the first time Steitz has tried to put a gloss on the shot that coaches have excoriated all season long and that fans, in at least one national TV call-in poll, have voted to make longer. Steitz has repeatedly said that "the coaches" supported the new shot before it was suddenly enacted last spring. In fact the rule was favored only by a majority of the few coaches who responded to a poll after experimenting with a three-point shot—a distinction Steitz doesn't usually volunteer. When the full membership of the National Association of Basketball Coaches was polled in preseason, the vote was nay on the trey by a 2-to-1 margin.
Jim Van Valkenburg of the NCAA News promises to correct Steitz's error—on the distance, not the shot—in a forthcoming issue.
GOOD NIGHT, TAJU; GOOD NIGHT, AFIS
Taju Olajuwon, a 6'1" senior center, and Afis Olajuwon, a 6'3" sophomore forward, are the top rebounder and scorer, respectively, at Houston's Marian Christian High. If the surnames, city and accomplishments sound familiar, that's because Afis and Taju are brothers of the Houston Rockets' Akeem Olajuwon.
The larger Taju not only looks like Akeem but also performs the Dream Shake, the head-fake turnaround jumper for which Akeem is known. New Mexico State, Texas Tech, Baylor and Miami—where Marian Christian grad Tito Horford plays—are intrigued by Taju's 14 points and 9.8 rebounds per game. Afis, though smaller and younger, is nastier. "I've never seen a kid that age that aggressive," says Colts coach Bob Nocton. Afis scored 25 points to Taju's 13 in Marian's 64-58 OT loss to Incarnate Word in the class 3-A state championship last week.
Taju and Afis and a non-playing brother, Akin, 21, who's studying business at Houston, live together in a townhouse in an arrangement that suggests The Waltons, Nigerian-style. Akin runs the house in accordance with the family's African customs, which means that the rules are strict, especially the one commanding respect for one's elders. One word often heard around the house is bo. No, that's not one of the brothers' nicknames; it's Yoruba dialect for dunk.
LUNCH IN LAGOS
In other news of visiting Nigerians, Akin Akin-Otiko, a 6'6" senior at Oral Roberts, let it be known that his native Lagos is less primitive than some people think: "I often would grab the nearest vine and swing through the jungle to our friendly neighborhood McDonald's."
HANSI AND JESSIE
As the Rev. Jesse Jackson might put it, you folks in the Lower 48 should just see this wonder from the tundra. He's Jessie (No Relation) Jackson, the 5'8" senior off-guard at Alaska-Anchorage who has scored in double figures in 46 straight games and is the No. 5 scorer in Division II with a 26.4-point average. "When he makes a move," says former Seawolf Ron Beach, "he makes it the way candy tastes."
Hansi Gnad is UAA's long of it to Jackson's short (but sweet) of it. A 6'10" senior from Darmstadt, West Germany, Gnad grabs 12.5 rebounds per game, many of which end up in the hands of a snowbirding Jackson at the other end. When Jackson doesn't score, Gnad (17.1 ppg) will from the low post, where his soft jumper and improving hook have earned him the notice of NBA scouts and have helped lead the Sea wolves, who were No. 1 in Division II earlier this season, to a 19-5 mark. They own wins over Washington and Texas, and three of their losses have been to Michigan, UAB and Iowa. Mush!
You've heard of the proverbial coach on the floor. Consider Memphis State's Larry Finch. He won a breakfast from one of his players by sinking a free throw while lying on his back with his head at the free throw line and his feet facing the far basket.
Then there was John Thompson, who was concerned that he was riding his young Georgetown team too hard. So he spent all of one Hoya practice flat on his back at midcourt with a pillow wedged under his head.
Finally, Michigan State's Jud Heathcote suffered a floor burn of sorts during a game against Illinois. When an errant Spartan pass found its way into his hands, Heathcote slammed the ball down in frustration. It bounced up and struck him in the schnozz.
After watching his team wilt in the second half of an 82-65 home loss to Illinois, Ohio State coach Gary Williams lowered the thermostat in St. John Arena from 74° to 68°. The cooled-down Buckeyes then proceeded to roast Michigan (95-87) and Michigan State (90-72) in back-to-back home victories.
Mike Pollio of Virginia Commonwealth could not understand why his team was 7-1 on the road but only 5-5 at home. So he stopped trying to figure it out. He checked the Rams into a local hotel and had them eat their pre-game meal there before heading to the Richmond Coliseum to play South Florida. The hosts won their ersatz road game 68-66.
Ray Gromlowicz, a 6'11" center at UNC-Charlotte, went scoreless in a 69-46 loss at UAB earlier this season. Last week he scored 19 in the 49ers' 76-63 win over the Blazers. He attributes the awakening to five visits to a hypnotist.
When the Baylor Bears get their backs up, the results are always grisly. They're 5-0 in SWC games in which one of them gets into a scuffle.
Marvin (Shamu the Killer Whale) Alexander, Memphis State's 235-pound frontcourt mammal, feigns laryngitis when TV reporters approach him for interviews. "I'm really shy in front of a camera," he says.
In Dayton's last three games, the Flyers—or should that be the Earthbounds?—have had a total of 27 shots blocked.
Harvard scored 41 points in the last 10 minutes of its 98-86 loss to Duke last week. Were the 17th-ranked Blue Devils trying to give credence to a popular Durham T-shirt slogan: HARVARD: THE DUKE OF THE NORTH?
As Army's Kevin Houston, who will probably end up as the NCAA scoring champion, marches off toward a five-year military commitment, tears aren't likely to be shed around the NBA. And that's not just because Houston's a scrawny 5'11" guard. Since 1980 only one NCAA scoring champ has made it in the pros (remember Zam Fredrick? Harry Kelly? Joe Jakubic?), while every rebounding leader but one has. The scorer who made it? Seattle's Xavier McDaniel (ex of Wichita State), who also was the rebounding champ in 1984-85.
At the risk of belaboring a point (or three), here's one Big East ref's opinion of the terrible trey: "I hate it.... The guy goes up and you say, 'Oops, where were his feet?' At least 40 percent of the calls on three-pointers are absolute guesswork."
Damari Riddick, a 6'8" center for Fairleigh Dickinson, had 87 points and 28 rebounds in three victories last week. TONY WHITE, Tennessee's 6'2" guard, made 15 of 20 shots from the floor (3 three-pointers) and 18 of 19 from the line, for a school-record 51 points in a 103-84 romp over Auburn.
SI TOP 20
1. UNLV (26-1)
2. N. CAROLINA (23-2)
3. TEMPLE (25-2)
4. INDIANA (20-2)
5. PURDUE (20-3)
6. IOWA (22-3)
7. DEPAUL (22-1)
8. PITT (21-4)
9. G'TOWN (19-4)
10. ALABAMA (19-4)
11. SYRACUSE (20-4)
12. KANSAS (19-6)
13. CLEMSON (23-2)
14. ILLINOIS (19-6)
15. TCU (20-4)
16. OKLAHOMA (19-5)
17. DUKE (20-5)
18. FLORIDA (20-6)
19. UCLA (17-5)
19.9 UMES* (1-20)
*Thanks to Maryland-Eastern Shore, Maryland-College Park is not the most hapless hyphenate in the Old Line State. The Hawks have feasted only on Division III Salisbury Steak—uh, State—this season.