"Dominique," Mark Fothergill shouted. "Dominique Wilkins could do it. Or the Doctor, for sure."
This was in the Maryland dressing room the other night where, after the second game of the season, the Terrapins finally were smiling. They were in lively debate over whether anyone on the planet every so often could make a total mockery of a major rules change in college basketball.
Specifically, will somebody sometime soon score a three-point layup? Might one of those swing men with springs for thighs charge downcourt on a breakaway, launch himself just outside that three-point line and soar far enough to finger-roll the ball into the basket? Could Ralph Sampson or Pat Ewing get a three-point dunk from 19 feet?
The only requirement for three points, after all, is that your body starts outside that arc, and doesn't hit the floor again until the ball is released. Players have been flying for a generation now, ever since Elgin Baylor, the Wilbur Wright of basketball, showed that was possible.
"Might just try it," Adrian Branch said.
Before the shot clock runs out on this column, an idea in the on-court experimental stage that would reward what every coach preaches--defense--with three points will be explored. First, some thoughts about the twin beasts of college basketball: the shot clock and three-point play. And why Lefty Driesell was pacing the floor after a 21-point victory.
Except in the Southeastern Conference, where it never clicks off, the shot clock is vastly overrated as an innovation. All it means in every other conference tinkering with the sport is that teams can stall only about a tenth of the game instead of about a half.
Until the Atlantic Coast Conference took stallball to the ultimate absurdity last season, most teams played keepaway only in the final several minutes of the game, anyway. They still will have to try only 36 minutes in the ACC and Atlantic Ten, 35 in the Big East.
Fans adore the three-pointer. Coaches will love it and loathe it, depending on how the game ended, for the shot can take teams out of a game as quickly as it can get them back in.
The other night against Temple, for instance, the buzz near courtside was that George Washington had started shooting from long range much too soon, that a few safe shots for two points would be better than those risky longshots.
What Temple wanted--bad GW shots--it was getting. All of a sudden, however, Colonial missiles got on target; Temple needed a free throw in the final few seconds to break a tie and win.
The three-point shot means many teams will start games playing basketball backward. Instead of being obsessed with working the ball inside, they will let their small men pop some three-pointers and hope enough drop to extend the defense.
Guys, my father still has a mean two-hand set shot--and some eligibility left. (Couldn't you see some of those sharpie recruiters if the game regressed that far: "Hi there, gramps, want a BMW?")
Driesell already has enough gunners. What he needs, desperately, is a pilot: someone to guide the team, to keep all those leapers and shooters going the same direction. It's been a long time--Brad Davis in the mid-'70s, in fact--since there was a turtle who could shoot and pass, distribute the ball, defend and run the break.
Gotta bring your eyes down from those big rascals, Lefthander. Point guards are important, too.
Steve Rivers is Maryland's quarterback of the moment; he may be a Boomer or a bust, Driesell said, good enough against Maryland-Eastern Shore to get another start. The coach was pleased about one new player, Len Bias, but concerned because another, Ed Farmer, so far has shown his immense ability only during practice.
Driesell was too preoccupied to think long or hard about a notion that seems to have some merit: making a splendid defensive play on one end of the court worth three points at the other, regardless of where the ultimately successful is taken.
Three feet or 30, it still ought to be three points, the thinking goes. Who shoots it is more important than how far it goes. And the only person who can earn those three points is the one who got his team the ball in the first place, the one who created the turnover.
Create is the key word. If a dunderhead turns the ball over with a pass that hits a defender on the butt, the defender would not be "live" for three points; he hadn't earned that privilege.
But let's say that Jeff Adkins flicked the ball away from Michael Jordan and another Terrapin, Branch, got it. That possession, Maryland could take 14 shots; only the ones by Adkins would count three points.
It's intriguing. So much so that it was used, with some success, during a high school Thanksgiving tournament in Birmingham, Ala. The Continental Basketball Association is interested, to the point of trying to coax an amateur league to use it over a period of time to gauge fan interest.
"Still offense," Driesell said. "If they want to reward defense, let 'em give a point, right away, to the team that gets a turnover."
Maryland sentiment was predictable.
"Don't like it," said Branch, a scorer who would have to concentrate more on defense and passing.
"Let's put it in," said Adkins. "Right away."