Maine high school basketball talent is decreasing

Many basketball observers tell me that the talent level for Eastern Maine high school basketball in all four classes is down overall from last season.
They may be right.
Since 1993, which probably had the most Division I talent in Maine, basketball ability has declined a little bit each year.
There are many reasons for this drop. Current players such as Garet Beal, Mitch Worster, Zach Gilpin, Xavier Lewis, Tyler Thayer and Garret Libby are very good, but there were many players of their ability from the 1950s through early 1990s.
Also, a big difference is that there used to be more good players on each team and thus players did not score as much individually, but teams scored more.
Teams have more minutes to score, but the scores are no higher than they were when they changed the stop-the-clock rule. They may be even lower.
Players today are no doubt more athletic, but that does not make them better basketball players.
Many have overall lower basketball IQ’s and that results in making poorer basketball decisions.
There are many reasons why there is a decline in overall talent.
Let’s start first with two rule changes. In the 1961-62 season, the rule that stopped the clock only on fouls, timeouts and jump balls was changed to the clock being stopped on every whistle.
This rule should have produced higher scoring games, but that has not been the case.
Previous to that rule change a game was actually only about 24 minutes of actual playing time in high school because the clock was running every time the ball went out of bounds or a floor violation occurred.
Today the players play an actual 32 minutes. Overall team scoring of games shows that the scores are no higher today than prior to 1961-62. Today’s players actually play a full eight minutes or a quarter of the game more than before the rule change.
Changes in today’s society have also affected the game.
Gone are the teacher-coaches who were supported by their administrations, which kept parents from applying the pressure they do today.
Coaches might have been fired in the old days for having losing records, but they certainly were not fired because of minutes played by each player.
Many of today’s coaches do not teach in the school system.
Many coaches have far less overall control over their teams because gone is the main objective of interscholastic athletics which put athletics into the educational system to teach the life lessons and skills that cannot be taught in today’s classrooms.
Doing so required discipline and with discipline came hard work and teamwork that produced a winning attitude.
Players today actually spend more time playing organized basketball because of AAU, MBR, Maine Hoops, YBOA and MAC during the off-season. Yes, they play more, but many do not work on their individual skills, and weaknesses, other than shooting.
Speaking of shooting, the other rule change that was made in 1987-88 should have increased scoring, but may have done just the opposite with the introduction of the 3 point shot.
Watch players shooting around on their own and even in some pregame warmups and watch which shot they take the most — the 3-pointer.
Fewer coaches now actually teach shooting. Very poor shot selection is accepted by coaches at all levels from elementary through college.
If players cannot shoot 70 percent from the foul line, then something needs to be corrected. If they don’t take good shots in a game, then a sub should replace them.
An evaluation of the shooting percentages of the Eastern Maine tourneys each year provided to the Maine Principals’ Association by the late Bill Spence, shows the overall combined tourney averages for foul shooting were below 70 percent, 3-point shooting below 33 percent and two-point shooting below 50 percent. These are the best boys and girls teams.
Considering the main objective of the game of basketball is to put a round sphere into the round target that is twice as big, it is surprising that many coaches and players do not spend more time on correct shooting techniques and good shot selection.
Poor shooting statistics have also carried over to the University of Maine basketball teams.
These are recruited players and their shooting statistics are not ones that I would accept as a high school coach, let alone as a college coach — without spending a lot of time improving their shooting techniques and shot selection.
Both teams are shooting below 30 percent from 3-point land, below 70 percent from the foul line and below 50 percent on 2-point attempts.
Gone are days when players would shovel snow off outdoor courts to play and the gym rats who would sneak into the gym to get out of playing in the cold.
Ah, it must be my old age working overtime again.

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