All levels of basketball have fallen in love with the three-point shot. High-school basketball is no different.
The darling of high-school basketball doesn’t wear sneakers.
It’s the three-point shot that has been flung around with more frequency. It grabs the spotlight to propel teams to their dreams of a championship while delivering a dagger through the hoop of opponents’ hearts.
“A lot of it has to do with the current day and age of basketball where you see the (Golden State) Warriors, Steph Curry and Klay Thompson and how they shoot the ball so well,” said Cartiea French-Toney, a basketball trainer and Seattle Public Schools educator. “High-school kids mimic what’s current, (and) it’s made people focus on actually having to develop their skill-set rather than just being fluid athletes that can run and jump. In this day and age, you’ve got to be able to shoot the basketball if you want to play.”
Woodinville senior guard Madison Dubois quickly discovered the value of being able to shoot the three-pointer consistently. She is the top-seeded Falcons’ go-to player for three-pointers, shooting 33 percent from that range this season. In a Class 4A girls state tournament quarterfinal game at the Tacoma Dome last year, Dubois scored a game-winning three in overtime.
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Earlier this month while the Seattle area was buried in snow, Dubois had her father shagging rebounds outside at a neighborhood park for an hour as she practiced shooting until her hands froze. Dubois wanted to stay sharp for when school convened and playoff basketball could start.
“It’s a game-changer,” Dubois said of the three-pointer. “Especially at key points in a game where you’re trying to make a statement. I’ve been practicing it since seventh grade, and I put up a lot of shots. A lot, a lot of shots (because) those moments are so big and so fun. I’ll never forget it, and being able to share it with my teammates is the best thing ever.”
The three-pointer’s debut was in 1961 as part of the men’s American Basketball League, which folded before completing its second season. The American Basketball Association picked up the shot in 1967 as another way to attract fans while competing with the NBA, which began in 1946 and dismissed the shot’s appeal.
“We called it the home run, because the three-pointer was exactly that,” said NBA legend George Mikan in the book “Loose Balls: The Short, Wild Life of the American Basketball Association.” “It brought fans out of their seats.”
Despite the ABA merging with the NBA in 1976, it took Magic Johnson and Larry Bird’s rookie season in 1979 for the league to adopt the crowd-pleasing three-pointer. The NCAA didn’t budge until 1986 and high schools, which have the line at 19 feet, 9 inches, followed for its 1987-88 season.
Chris Hyppa, a basketball skills trainer and former assistant boys coach at Foss in Tacoma, said the Falcons were able to win the 2017 Class 2A state title banking on opponents looking to draw defenses into the paint to find an open player on the perimeter to hit the three.
“We just chose not to help on anything,” said Hyppa of sticking to player-to-player defense. “It actually took away the three-pointer for a lot of teams and that was their strength. That right there lets you know the three-pointer has become a huge part of the game.”
Even before coaching high school, Hyppa knew the impact in running basketball camps. He’d walk into the gym and see dozens of grade-school boys and girls dotted behind the arc heaving three-pointers.
“But a lot of them can’t even make the shot,” Hyppa said. “What I tell them is to scoot in and make the closer shot first. Once you get comfortable and can master that, then you can scoot back. The pros have a routine of what they do every day and that starts off right at the basket. In order to be able to shoot a three effortlessly, you have to have the proper form and technique.”
Nothing is better than the three-point buzzer-beater come playoff time.
“I used to have a mini hoop in my bedroom and probably did a countdown to hit a (winning) three-pointer a thousand times,” said Gonzaga Prep forward Anton Watson. The 6-9 senior caused the Tacoma Dome to erupt in excitement last year by nailing a game-winning trey against Richland in the Class 4A boys semifinals. The Bullpups went on to defeat Federal Way for the title.
“I never thought it would be on a real court,” Watson continued. “To get that chance was pretty cool.”