TRENTON, Ga. — Cole Birchfield has heard the story before and every now and then it does the Dade County High School basketball player good to recall it.
NBA legend Larry Bird, then coach of the Indiana Pacers, was angry at star guard Reggie Miller at halftime of a game. The sharpshooter was an uncharacteristic 0-for-7 from the floor, but that's not what had Bird's dander up.
"Bird was mad because, as he told Miller, he wasn't 0-for-14," recalls Dade coach Glen Hicks, who, like Bird, has one rule for his shooters. "I want them to shoot the ball. I told Cole the other night after he passed up a shot that he was being selfish for NOT taking the shot. In our system you have to believe in your people and let them do their thing."
The high-octane Wolverines (10-2) are listening, and though this year's team isn't putting up triple digits as some others have, the potential is there. As Hicks points out, only Birchfield, the three-year starting shooting guard, returned from last year and the team is still working out some kinks.
"When we've got everybody healthy we can throw five guys at you that can flat out shoot it," said Hicks, who just got point guard Nic Gaddis back on the practice floor Thursday. "We're not very big and we've had more athletic teams, but as far as pure shooting goes, this may be our best."
Senior Birchfield leads the group of marksmen at 27.8 points per game, but he has company from the outside in versatile Clynt Bell, who has started at small forward and point guard and is scoring at a 26-point per game clip. Each has hit 52 3-pointers.
Bell's breakthrough has not only given Dade another elite scoring option, it's also kept teams from using gimmick defenses to quiet Birchfield. The two, friends off the court, have a great working relationship on it.
"Me and Clynt talked before the season and we realized we had to have good years in order for this team to be successful," Birchfield said. "The great thing about playing with Clynt is that I know if I'm not shooting well that he can pick it up and he knows I can do the same thing. And we don't care one bit who scores as long as we get wins."
Bell agrees and says the entire team chemistry has been a key to the strong start.
"To me, that's the most important part," he said. "Outside the gym we hang out. There isn't a player on the team that wouldn't have the back of a teammate. We have to be that way because we can't beat people individually."
Last Tuesday's win over LaFayette was a key example. Birchfield, who earlier this seaosn had 57 points in the team's only loss to Howard, started the game against the Ramblers 1-for-9 and was becoming frustrated. Bell picked up the slack in what turned out to be a comeback win, scoring 19 of his game-high 31 points after halftime.
Birchfield would go on to add 20 points and was reminded yet again of what it takes to succeed in the Dade County system.
"You can't quit shooting," he said. "It's a fun system to play in, and when we're hitting and playing defense like we can we can play with anyone."
Lindsey Young is a sports writer at the Chattanooga Times Free Press who started work at the Chattanooga News-Free Press 24 years ago. He covers the Northwest Georgia prep beat and NASCAR. Lindsey’s hometown is Ringgold, Ga., and he graduated from Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe High School. He received an associate’s degree from Dalton Junior College (now Dalton State) and a bachelor’s degree in communications from UTC. He has won several writing awards, including two Tennessee Sports ...