In college basketball, is the mid-range shot under-taught, under-used or under-demanded by coaches?
Kids grow up seeing dunk shots and three-point stingers featured on television highlight shows and tend to believe, no matter what coaches tell them, that the Holy Grail can be found in those categories. Trouble is that the Ricky Mounts, Bill Sharmans, Gail Goodriches, Larry Birds, Sam Joneses and Pete Maraviches who worked so hard and became so brilliant as all-around shooters are seldom found on school grounds and in gyms anymore sharpening their 10- to 15-foot weaponry.
Kansas has four or five players capable of hurting people from closer in. If the Jayhawks are looking for a role model they should study film of Michigan State’s Kalin Lucas who helped turn KU inside out in that Jan. 10 shocker. Lucas got 22 points in 29 minutes with his variety of pokes, then the other night against Ohio State he provided a textbook example of flexibility at crunch-time.
O-State was testing the Spartans and Lucas was lurking on the rim. In two instances he took advantage of the trey-conscious Buckeye defenders, ducked, then dribbled inside the arc and popped in two delicious basketball shots. The tide was turned, MSU coasted to victory.
Coaches tell me they try to get kids to work on mid-range shooting but that the focus is too much on slams and long-distance, like Mario Chalmers’ tide-turner in the 2008 NCAA title game. Kansas 2009 has the wherewithal, with Sherron Collins, Tyrel Reed, Brady Morningstar and now Mario Little, to exploit inside-the-arc territory, a lot more often, for higher-percentage shots. Hope the Hawks will pay more attention to the mid-range and that coach Bill Self will insist on more of such. Even Tyrel and Brady can’t always work three-point miracles.
Sure, Cole Aldrich and the erratic Morris twins can do damage inside, and Collins and Co. can still plunk the bombs. But why not give defenses another solid dimension to worry about with more mid-rangers? Works for Kalin Lucas.
• Let’s not forget that Kansas put an often overlooked fingerprint on Super Bowl football history because of Larry Brown (no, not the basketball coach). Larry (KU 1968-70) won four title rings as a tight end and tackle with the 1975-76 and 1979-80 Pittsburgh Steeler champs. In a big surprise, he was the Steelers’ leading receiver in the 16-6 Super Bowl IX win over the Minnesota Vikings — at a time when a Pittsburgh tight end had to be a master blocker but seldom saw Terry Bradshaw’s passes coming his way. Not with Lynn Swann and John Stallworth there to score home runs.
Entering the ’74 playoffs, Larry from KU had only 24 catches in four years in the NFL. He caught one pass in the win over Buffalo in the first round, led the team with two catches for 37 yards in the AFC title game against Oakland. Came the Big Show and Brown caught three more passes for 49 yards including the 4-yard touchdown that iced the victory and assured the first championship in franchise history.
Perhaps KU’s best-known Super Bowl personality is John Riggins, the Washington Redskin diesel who sparked the 1983 victory over Miami. Also locally, let’s not forget Marv (Buddy) Kellum, the Lecomptonite via Wichita State. Versatile Buddy was a linebacker-special teams guy for the Steelers for four years and won two title rings with the ’75 and ’76 champs.