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Girmindl's Ghost

A diary of Shaker High School's 2005-2006 basketball season, a retelling of Shaker's fabled 1979-1980 season, and general commentary on high school hoops, updated daily...


"I like sitting in the back row. I found that sitting against the wall is just easier on your back." -Dean Smith, on the comfort of the H-gym bleachers

Today (12/11) in 1979

Today in 1979 (12/11): Shaker did not play. Next game is the home opener, 12/14/1979 vs. Shen.

One topic that I'd like to regularly discuss in this section on the off days is the amazing degree to which high school basketball has changed since 1979-80. And by this I mean a few things.

First and foremost, the game itself has chagned: there was neither a 3-point line or a shot clock in high school hoops in the 1970's, and those two things have radically affected everything from 4th quarter strategy and the effectiveness of zones all the way down to player selection and offensive styles. As I wrote in the footnotes to the Girmindl's Ghost essay, the 1991 Shaker team was a great example of how the 3-point line altered thinking about lineup combinations. In 1979-80, the "3" on most other teams was typically more of a tall, inside player. By 1991, the "3" on many teams was a small, knockdown 3-point shooter. This was important not only because you could score 3 points at a time, but also because the 3-pointer became the easiest way to open up the middle for your big men. In 1979, the punishment for collapsing a 2-3 zone when the ball when into a big man was the possibility of an open jumper. Now the punishment is the possibility of a 3-pointer. That's a huge difference.

Secondly, and maybe more interestingly to this blog, is that the culture of high school basketball has changed in some important ways since the 1970's. One of the easiest cultural changes to observe is the recruiting practices of colleges. In 1979-80, if you wanted to watch Perkins, Cain, and the other Shaker stars play, you pretty much had to come to a Shaker game or go find them in the Hoffman Park summer league in Albany. (Perkins did play on the U.S. junior national team in the summer of 1979, but that was quite the exception - he was the only schoolboy on the team). Night after night in 1979-80, the Shaker bleachers would be full of college coaches - Dean Smith, Jim Boeheim, Digger Phelps - coming to observe Sam (and to a lesser extent other Shaker stars) play.

Nowadays, student basketball has transformed into much more of a year round and organized activity, particularly for the elite players. Take Brad, for instance. He's the undisputed star of the Shaker team and definitely an elite college hoops recruit, but he was also a starter on the Albany City Rocks AAU 17-and-under "A" team this past summer. And that team traveled around quite a bit, giving Brad an opportunity to showcase his skills against tough opponents while numerous scouts and coaches watched. One result of this system is that contemporary players are often able to secure offers and make college decisions much earlier than was previously done - Brad completed his entire process before the season began. Perkins didn't choose Carolina till April of his senior year in part because Dean Smith didn't see him play unitl December of his senior year. Obviously, there are upsides and downsides to the current system, but it certainly is nice that Brad doesn't have to have the recruiting scene weighing over him during his final year - basketball or otherwise - of high school.

Obviously, there is a lot more to discuss along these lines - both within the topics above and on the more general topic of what has changed in high school hoops in the last 26 years. I'll probably wade into it about once a week or so.
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