Granting himself a certain kind of licence

27 November 2012

Written by: Erdem Koc

138 points. That’s how many points college basketballer Jack Taylor of the Division 3 Grinnell College Pioneers scored last week.

Jack Taylor (source: Grinnell College Athletics)

First, I’ll allow a moment for the sheer enormity of such a number to sink in. But, with that out of the way it’s worth delving a little deeper into Taylor’s night, which ignoring the gaudy point tally, was rather uninspiring. Unimaginable, mindblowing and incomprehensible, but in reality it’s nothing more than the statistical by-product of a lopsided system created to yield unfathomably high shot counts for one player, of which Taylor was the clear benefactor.

In 36 minutes, the diminutive guard took 108 field goal attempts, including a ridiculous 71 threes. For those keeping track at home, that’s one shot every 20 seconds, a figure that would make even Kobe Bryant circa 2005 blush. Overall from the field, he shot 48 per cent – a respectable number – and 38 per cent from behind the line. His box score is filled out by three rebounds, three steals, six turnovers and not-surprisingly, zero assists.

But the sheer ludicrousness of the system Grinnell operates makes a mockery of the game of basketball. Not once was Taylor required to retreat beyond the halfway line on defence, instead opting to cherry-pick around his own three-point line and wait for the inevitable outlet pass that would allow him to launch yet another from downtown.

The 104 points put up by opposing Faith Baptist Bible shows that this wasn’t a Grinnell defense designed to stop their opponent, rather to get the ball back to their not-so-hot hand as rapidly as possible.

Call me old-fashioned, but that blatant disregard for the way the game should be played is not something that should be celebrated by the basketball community. I’m all for high-octane offense, but even Mike D’Antoni pretends like he cares defence.

But as Kobe Bryant eloquently put hearing about the feat after his Lakers topped the Nets, ‘if you score 138 points, you kind of have a license to tell people to f— off.’

It’s hard to disagree with the Black Mamba, and Taylor will certainly be wandering the hallways of Grinnell College with a little more swagger this week, but don’t tell me his sideshow charade is a basketballing achievement. The most impressive facet of the performance was that Taylor was able to jack up 108 attempts over the course of the evening with his arms dropping off. Nothing else that unfolded in small town Iowa last night deserves to be heralded or celebrated.

Think of it this way; say Mick Malthouse trots out next season in his brand new navy blue polo and decided to simply stack the forward half of the ground, defensive duties be damned, lining up no players in the traditional defensive posts around the ground, opting instead to stack that now six position-free men in the middle and rely on the sheer weight of numbers to claim possession. Say that Carlton decided that any time the opposing team got the ball inside forward 50 they simply parted like the proverbial Red Sea and allowed them an open path to bang it between the big sticks. If the Blues resultantly bagged a gaudy 65 goals for the game, would he be praised? Or would the blatant disregard for the conventions of our great game lead to Malthouse becoming public enemy number one amongst our Melbourne media?

Think of what Garry Hocking did for the powerhouse Peel Thunder back in 2005, only in reverse when he lined up every players in the defensive half of the ground. If memory serves correct, the reception for his unique, fangled coaching strategy wasn’t exactly the warmest of Buddha’s career. To misquote metaphors, simply wasn’t Aussie Rules.

And, with all due respect to young Jack Taylor and the coaching staff at Grinnell College, what they did wasn’t basketball.

If it isn’t that, then what’s the point in the record?

Liam Quinn is a second-year Bachelor of Journalism at La Trobe University.  He’s currently on exchange at Michigan State University.  You can follow him on Twitter: @liamquinn23