A major part of Luke Brown’s daily shooting routine is the 3-point shot. Off the dribble. Catch and shoot. Shots from 6 or 7 feet beyond the 19-foot, 9-inch arc.
The Blackford (Hartford City, Ind.) sophomore guard does it better than most. He once made 55 in a row during a workout and finished his 100-shot round with just three misses. Brown’s goal for any 3-point shooting round is 85 to 88 percent.
“My workout plan is a lot of 3s,” said Brown, who leads the state with a 36.6-point per game scoring average. “The game is changing. A lot 3s are being taken and I have to be able to continue to shoot the 3 well. Steph (Curry) has changed the game completely on how everyone goes to the 3-point line.”
It has been 31 seasons since the 3-point line was implemented in high school basketball. It was a weapon from the start, but the proliferation of 3-point shooting at the NBA and college levels — a direct impact of Curry and the Golden State Warriors — has filtered down to the high school level.
Consider this: Of Brown’s 500 field-goal attempts this season, right at 40 percent (199) are 3-pointers. He is shooting 38.2 percent from the arc (76-for-199) and 59.5 percent (179-for-301) on 2-point attempts. Brown is slightly more efficient from inside the arc, but part of the reason is that he draws a defender — sometime two — out to 26 or 27 feet.
Brown is more of the rule than the exception. More than 42 percent of Westfield’s field-goal attempts are 3-pointers. Hamilton Heights has taken more than half of its shots (544 of 1,056) from the 3-point line. Three Huskies have shot more than 100 3s. New Castle’s Luke Bumbalough has taken it to another level, hitting 111-for-252 (44 percent) from the 3-point line, averaging 12 attempts per game.
“It’s hard not to see the influence of the ‘Splash Brothers’ from Golden State and the Houston Rockets, even in our game at the high school level,” Tri-West coach Adam Bontreger said. “If you look at the shot charts from high school, college and NBA, I bet a majority of the shots are either layups or 3-pointers.”
‘People wanted a shooter from Indiana’
Charles Denbo was nearing the end of his 35-year coaching career when the 3-point line was added in 1987. Denbo, who spent the final 27 years of his career at Orleans and is a member of the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame, remembers receiving a book of 3-point plays that college coaches had put together (college conferences experimented with the line in the early ‘80s before implementing it fully in 1986).
“It was a novelty more than anything else,” Denbo said recently. “The game was about getting the ball inside. Not that we didn’t have guys who could shoot, but long-range shooting wasn’t the first option.”
Through a bit of fortunate scheduling, Orleans set some 3-point history. On Nov. 6, 1987, the first day non-football playing schools could open the season, John Toliver made the first 3-pointer in Indiana high school basketball history. Toliver, a 6-foot small forward, made his shot with 2:48 left in the first quarter of a 65-53 win over Medora.
“As I remember, it just happened in the flow of the game,” Denbo said. “At the time, it was really the farthest thing from my mind. John was a super kid and a great team player. He really didn’t shoot that many from out there.”
MORE FROM INDY STAR: Is Indiana man the inventor of the 3-point shot?
HISTORY OF OUR HYSTERIA: How Hoosiers fell in love with basketball
Toliver’s shot was just the beginning, though. By the time Denbo retired from coaching after the 1994-95 season, the 3-point shot well on its way to becoming a staple of the high school game. Denbo, 83, spends the winters with his wife in Gulf Shores, Ala., where he watches plenty of college and NBA games.
“Everybody can hit that shot now,” he said of the 3-pointer. “I’m amazed at the college games I see. If they are open, they are draining them.”
The 3-point line came along just in time for Mark Poynter, who had the perfect name and game for the new rule. A 6-6 junior on Cathedral’s 18-4 team in 1987-88, Poynter was the beneficiary of playing alongside guards Sean Woods and Noble Duke. Poynter, who was the team’s leading rebounder, shot 60-for-90 that season from the 3-point line.
“I wasn’t the quickest guy in the world, but I could shoot,” Poynter said. “Shooting makes up for a lot of sins. I remember there being some uncertainty about the 3-point shot like, ‘Is this is a shot people are going to make on a regular basis?’ But it changed the game and created a lot of excitement.”
Poynter’s 3-point shooting changed his recruitment. He had offers from Division II and III schools, but Xavier offered him a walk-on spot with a chance to earn a scholarship down the line. He did, playing for Pete Gillen’s Xavier teams for three seasons from 1990-93. He still lives in Cincinnati, where he is a doctor.
“I got to play basketball a lot longer than most strictly because I could shoot,” Poynter said.
Doors opened for shooters. Jason Whiteaker, a 1991 Frankton graduate, remembers watching the 3-point being painted on the floor for team camp at Purdue. The 3-point shot became his specialty. After he shot 49.5 percent from the arc as a senior, he was recruited to Western Nebraska Community College and then played two years at Division II South Carolina-Aiken.
“That’s all I did,” Whiteaker said of his outside shooting. “That’s how I got recruited. I was always super confident I could shoot. People wanted a shooter from Indiana.”
Why go inside the line?
The 3-point line is a home away from home for Max Greenamoyer. The University High School (Carmel, Ind.) junior guard is one of the state’s best from the arc, where he is shooting 50.3 percent (72-for-143) as the leading scorer on the state’s third-ranked Class A team.
All but 10 of Greenamoyer’s field-goal attempts have come outside the 3-point line.
“I’ve been a 3-point shooter ever since I picked up a basketball in third grade,” he said. “I’ve started working on finishing around the rim, too, because I know I have to be able to do something else. But yeah, that is mostly what I do — a lot of shooting.”
University coach Brandon Lafferman embraces the 3-pointer as a weapon. Junior point guard Sam Mervis is a driver who can get to the rim or pitch to shooters such as Greenamoyer and senior Quinn Steiner, who is shooting 48 percent from the arc (37-for-77).
“We make the 3 a big part of what we do,” Lafferman said. “Our style is very much about sharing the basketball and getting the best shot possible. If you have the right guys, and we do now, it is very much about getting in the paint and finding shooters behind the line. That has been a good recipe for us. We don’t want our guys trying to be Steph Curry, but maybe more of the Klay Thompson style where you find ways to score it without dribbling 100 times.”
Earlier this season, in a 108-48 win over Liberty Christian, the Trailblazers were a sizzling 24-for-36 from the 3-point line. It was one of five games this season in which University made at least 10 3s. “That was insane,” Greenamoyer said. “Everything was falling.”
Those are shots that kids practice.
“You see kids walking in the gym and they first thing they do is shoot a 3,” Mervis said. “Nobody is shooting mid-range shots. The highlight videos, you see the deep 3s and volleyball-line shots. I think it’s good. It makes it a skill that people have. Max is one of the best out there.”