published Tuesday, November 27th, 2012

Gene Henley: Grinnell College 'achievement' not good for basketball

Somewhere James Naismith is shaking his head.

This couldn't have been the basketball game he was envisioning back in 1891 with the soccer ball and the peach basket -- a sport that had its integrity put into question recently by one headline-hungry coach and a 5-foot-10 shooting guard.

Last week, Grinnell College sophomore guard Jack Taylor scored 138 points in his NCAA Division III team's 179-104 victory over the juggernaut that is Faith Baptist College. Taylor scored 80 points in the second half and stayed in the game for 36 minutes although none of his teammates played more than 15.

Coach David Arseneault pressed a winless team for 40 minutes, encouraging Taylor not to play defense and hover around midcourt, enabling him to have more opportunities to score.

Arseneault employs a style that encourages players to shoot within 12 seconds and normally "highlights" a player to score large numbers against inferior opponents. Eighty percent of the coach's bio on his webpage talks of his offensive accomplishments, while the rest mentions team accomplishments. You know, like postseason success -- the true determiner of how good a coach is.

Griffin Lentsch scored 89 points in a game last year. He played in Tuesday's game and scored seven.

Is this what we're teaching the next generation? That stats matter, and playing a fair game against an overmatched team doesn't? I respect the performance by a kid who shoots almost 50 percent from the field and almost 40 from 3-point range, but is that a good message?

Oh, and by the way, Taylor had no assists and six turnovers. Call me nitpicking all you want, but that's just an awful message -- that leading off "SportsCenter" is more important than integrity.

• Bringing it closer to home, did you see Dade County's Cole Birchfield's performance Saturday? The senior guard scored 57 points in a loss against Howard. Birchfield hit 16 3-pointers and a few coaches called it "an unbelievable performance." There's a very good chance the 3-point output is an area record, and the scoring output is the most since former Bradley Central standout Terrance Oglesby scored the same amount against Red Bank in 2007.

If you're tired of the 365-day grind that we call football and want to watch some hoops tonight, here's three destinations that you might want to head to for games:

1. Walker Valley at McMinn Central girls, 6: This game will be an interesting contrast in styles. The Lady Mustangs have started the year off well. They aren't the tallest team in the world and will get out-rebounded a lot, but they usually have four or five shooters on the floor at any given time. The Chargerettes might not have the shooters they've had in the past, but they have size and a Miss Basketball winner in Elizabeth Masengil.

You might not like the drive, but you'll enjoy the game.

2. Tyner at Hixson boys, 7:30: Could this be a good game? I'm not quite sure yet. The host Wildcats have a potential star in senior forward D'Mondta Smith, but will he, along with guard Chandler Abbott, be enough against a solid Tyner team with good guard play and solid posts?

3. Brainerd at Central boys, 7:30: Central coach Rick Rogers never has beaten Brainerd. A district home game against what could be a tired Panthers squad fresh off a trip to the Bahamas provides an opportunity. Will the Pounders be able to take advantage?

Contact Gene Henley at ghenley@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6311. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/genehenleytfp.

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