In June, the NCAA announced it was moving its men’s college basketball 3-point line from 19-feet, 9-inches, to 22-feet, 1 ¾-inches.
The change goes into effect this season for Division I teams, and next season for Division II and Division III teams. Moving the line farther back would have not been an issue for last year’s University of Houston team, coach Kelvin Sampson said.
That 33-4 team was complete with sharpshooters in Corey Davis, Jr. and Armoni Brooks. And it won’t be a problem for this year’s UH team, Sampson said, which does not have any “snipers.”
“Everything’s relevant to how many guys you have that can shoot,” Sampson said. “It would have had zero impact on last year’s team. Moving that line back 10, 15 inches wouldn’t have mattered to Armoni or Corey, because they’re good shooters. They’re not guys that shoot it; they’re guys that make it. There’s a big difference. We don’t have those kinds of guys on this team. That’s not the makeup of this team.”
Last year, the Cougars made nine 3-pointers and attempted 25.4 3-pointers per game, making them at a 35.5 percent clip. Three-pointers accounted for 42.6 percent of Houston’s total shot attempts and 35.8 percent of its total points. Davis and Brooks—who each had the “fluorescent green” light to shoot, Sampson said—were big reasons why.
Brooks led the Cougars by making 121 of 310 3s (39 percent) and Davis made 111 of 296 (37.5 percent). Davis now plays in the Turkish Basketball Super League. Brooks was a surprise departure after he chose to leave college early for the NBA Draft. Brooks went undrafted. He played with the Washington Wizards in Summer League and signed with the Atlanta Hawks in August before being released on Oct. 18.
“We don’t have (shooting) because we had a guy leave early. We didn’t plan on Armoni not being here,” Sampson said. “That’s just the truth. Sometimes you get caught without shooting, that’s a recruiting decision on your part. But we didn’t plan on not having a shooter. We found out on May 29 we weren’t going to have Armoni. So you don’t all of a sudden just go get an Armoni.”
Armoni’s departure is why Houston ended up recruiting, and getting, sophomore guard Quentin Grimes, a native of The Woodlands. While Grimes is a gifted athlete and scorer, he is not the shooter Brooks or Davis were.
The Cougars’ top returner in 3-point makes is redshirt sophomore forward Cedrick Alley Jr. (31) and their top returner in 3-point percentage is sophomore guard Nate Hinton (.337). It makes for an interesting transition for an offense built upon spacing.
“Our strength won’t be 3-point shooting,” Sampson said. “I’m not sure it would have been a strength on our team if the line had not changed. Guys like Armoni and Corey make you think, well, who’s going to be our 3-point shooters this year? I think the numbers will show, at the end of the year, there won’t be as many 3s attempted, certainly by our team. Those guys were snipers. You looked at us and say, ‘Boy, your zone offense is really good tonight.’ Yeah, because Armoni and Corey made 3s. When you don’t have that, you have to find another way to do it, and that’s not as easy as it sounds.”
Sampson likes this year’s team because of what it can become.
“Potential. This team can be pretty good,” he said. “I like our five guards: (redshirt junior) Dejon (Jarreau), Quentin, Nate, (redshirt freshman) Caleb Mills and (freshman) Marcus (Sasser). A lot of lineups will surprise people. Upfront, we’ve always liked the Noah’s Ark approach. Two fours (forwards), three fives (centers). We’re an inexperienced team.”
Mills and Sasser will essentially fill roles left behind by veteran playmakers Davis and Galen Robinson Jr. The five guards are the crux of the Cougars’ identity. Sampson said the team has only been at full health together for four of the first 18 practices this season.
“Guys don’t come in and be where guys were,” Sampson said. “And I’m watching it. We’re not nearly as good of a team right now as we were in January, February and March. Nowhere close to as good. Now, hopefully, when we get to January this year, we’ll be improving. I know what I have and I know what we’re working with, and we have a long way to go.”
The Cougars open the season Nov. 12 at home versus Alabama State.
IN FAVOR, BUT WITH EXCEPTION
On Tuesday, Oct. 29, the NCAA voted unanimously to allow student-athletes to be compensated for their name, image and likeness. Sampson said it’s another evolution of college athletics.
“The thing I’ve noticed is, when we start allowing our kids to get the cost-of-attendance checks, the first one is August and the last one is May,” Sampson said. “And they so depend on those checks. Here’s the problem: the unintended consequence of that is they have no money in June or July, or until they get their check. I think if we’re going to do the likeness thing, do we really want to give the money then? Or do we want to save it for them until school’s out, or if they’re a senior after their eligibility is out?”
The cost of attendance is “calculated by an institutional financial aid office that includes the total cost of tuition and fees, room and board, books and supplies, transportation and other expenses related to attendance at the institution,” according to NCAA Bylaw 15.02.2.
Sampson said the NCAA permitting student-athletes to profit off their image, name and likeness could create unintended consequences between student-athletes who profit and student-athletes who don’t.
“A kid like Johnny Manziel, for instance, when he was at Texas A&M. He was different than anybody else, but he was still a student-athlete at Texas A&M,” Sampson said.
Sampson is for the change. But he is also for delaying payment, particularly during the school year when he said student-athletes already get between $500-700 a month, beyond their scholarship check.
“I do understand adjusting and evolving,” Sampson said. “I just want to see how they’re going to legislate that. How are they going to monitor this thing on our individual campuses? What are the rules that are going to be put in place? My thought is, whatever they make money-wise, keep it. And then whenever school is out, give it to them. That’s when they need it. We have to help them.”