When the high school basketball season opens tonight, Washington area fans will be seeing the three-point field goal -- a shot purists call an abomination and others say is one of the best things to happen to the game.

Last season, nine states experimented with the 19-foot 9-inch shot and the National Federation of State High School Athletic Associations rules committee, pleased with the results, voted to expand the shot nationwide for both boys and girls. The distance is the same as in college games.

Coaches and area fans got a brief look at the high school version in last year's Capital Classic all-star game. Players did not distinguish themselves with their ability to hit from that distance, making only three of 32 attempts.

"Those guys didn't make too many that night," said Parkdale senior Henry Hall, one of the area's top returning scorers who averaged at least 27 points the past three seasons. "I think the shot is fine but you have to have people who can make them. Some teams will have players who will come down and just throw them up there and the games will be wild. I shouldn't have any problem because I shoot farther out than that line."

While coaches argue the merits of the shot, they realize they must make preparations for it both offensively and defensively. Most coaches agreed the shot will benefit the coach who uses it correctly, enhance the game for spectators, open up the inside for big players and keep smaller teams in games.

Other coaches say the three-point shot takes away from teaching the primary skills such as screens, picks and inside play, and encourages undisciplined players to take more difficult shots.

"Whether you like it or not, it's here to stay," said W.T. Woodson Coach Red Jenkins, who is in his 26th year and can earn his 400th coaching win this month. "I'm a basketball purist and I don't like folks dickering with Dr. Naismith's rules about the game. It makes you work harder as a coach because you have to put in an offense to get a guy open for the three-pointer, if you have someone who can make it, and you have to defense the teams that shoot them.

"I may use it at the end of the period or if we're eight points down. On the other hand, you work hard to build a lead and it gets wiped out in two minutes."

Crossland Coach Earl Hawkins agreed with Jenkins and said he prefers not to use the shot as an integral part of his offense, but as a last-minute maneuver.

"It just means the kids who take bad 17-foot shots now will take bad 20-foot shots," Hawkins said. "The smaller teams will use the shot a lot and it will hurt teams trying to protect leads down the stretch. I know had the shot been in effect last year, Henry Hall would have scored 65 {instead of 45} against us."

The 6-foot-1 Hall, who said he averaged at least 20-22 shots per game from that distance last year, plans to do so again this season.

"I didn't make many layups last year," Hall said. "I've worked on improving my overall game but I still will be shooting those shots because I can make them."

Some coaches feel the same way.

"If you have the shooters, you have to love it," said St. John's longtime Coach Joe Gallagher. "It is exciting for the game and I have it in my offense."

Robert E. Lee Coach Charlie Thompson says he has three players, including 6-2 Jeff Jividen, who will spend the early part of the season shooting mainly from the three-point range.

"It will be green light city for Jividen, 6-3 Bill Courtney and 5-10 David Zadareky," Thompson said. "We'll shoot a lot of them to see how effective we can be. Plus we have a 6-8 guy inside, Derrick Solomon, and it should help him. This is the greatest thing that's happened to high school basketball in a while. It puts the little man or the gym rat back in the game."

Coolidge Coach Len Farello, who will replace the late Frank Williams, said defending the shot is most important.

"You can't sag back in the middle too far because you have to run out a long way to stop people from shooting them," Farello said. "You can't sit back in a zone anymore. Now, if a team shoots very well from the outside and they have a good big man inside, you are in trouble."

Hawkins doesn't see any need for panic. "Even with that shot in college last year, the big teams that played sound defense were there at the end, with the exception of Providence," he said. "In high schools, I still say the big team that plays good defense will be there {in the playoffs} again."