College basketball is already underway, and if you haven't seen one of the pre-season tournament games you may be unaware that the three point line has been moved back this season. The three is now a 20-foot-9-inch shot--and probably should be moved back another foot or two. I hope the WIAA will follow suit and move back the line at the high school level as well--because the distance now is bad for the game.
People who have seen me play ball would be surprised by this opinion, because the three is a big part of my game. I drained four of them last night in our rec league. But the 19-foot-9-inch three pointer has been as responsible for the decline in the quality of American basketball as Michael Jordan and the "And 1 Streetball Tour". The glorification of Jordan in the 1990's brought on the age of the one-on-one game--where it was all about breaking down your man and trying to dunk over the top of him. The And 1 Tour's television popularity has led to the worst ballhandling habits in the history of the game. Kids copying the "Killer Crossover" and around the back dribbles look at you like you are from another planet when you call them for palming the ball or double dribble.
The too-short three has also changed the game significantly--but not for the positive. I was ecstatic when the three came into the game when I was in high school--because it gave us guards more value on the floor. Too bad our coach hated it and stuck with his offensive philosophy of pounding it into the post and shooting from 15 feet and in. Unfortunately, the three has completely taken over at the lower ranks of basketball--as even the big kids want to step out and drain it from long range.
I was at the dedication of the new basketball courts at the 20th Avenue YMCA last month. As soon as the ribbon was cut and the other festivities were done the kids stormed the floor to start using the baskets. Nearly every one of them stopped at the arc and started launching 'em. Even the little kids that could barely get it halfway there. They would just grab the ball and run back to the line and come up way short again. When I ref grade school tournaments on weekends you see entire teams running their offense around the three point shot--and these kids are ten or eleven years old.
I play ball with a couple of guys who went through high school before the 3-point shot was adopted--and they have beautiful mid-range games. They are deadly from 15 to 19-feet because they were never tempted to step back another couple of feet and launch a three. You hardly see anyone with that kind of game at the high school or even college level anymore--got to get that extra point from a few feet farther back.
That's why the NCAA should back the three-point shot out to 22-feet-9-inches and why the WIAA should move the arc out to about 21-feet. I doubt many coaches would encourage a lot of kids to launch it from that distance--and would reward those who can still stroke it from back there. And for the little kids--lie and tell them that free throws are worth three--we need more players who can make free throws.