BECKLEY – All you have to do is peep at a local boxscore and you realize that scoring is way up around the area.
Individuals are scoring at a clip we haven’t seen in decades.
Let’s look at the evidence.
Greater Beckley’s Jay Moore had a game of 58 points, one off the Raleigh County record of 59 set by Bruce Martin three decades ago.
Woodrow Wilson’s Bryce Radford had 50 against First Love Academy Dec. 29 and 45 against Bluefield Jan. 21.
Bluefield’s Braeden Crews had 45 points against Princeton Dec. 15.
And just Monday, Luke LeRose, who has already set he season and career scoring mark at Nicholas as a junior, had his career high with 43.
Now consider that last season there was one game over 40, when LeRose had 41 against Princeton Feb. 16.
Two years ago there were none.
Where a 20-point game used to be a standard for a good game, 30-point games are starting to become the norm.
Richwood’s Jacob Holliday has eight 30+ games this season and is second in he area in scoring. LeRose had eight 30-plus games and is leading the area in scoring at 30.4 points per game.
Fayetteville’s Luke Vass and Greater Beckley’s Jay Moore have six 30-plus games.
All but five area teams – Oak Hill, PikeView, Wyoming East, Midland Trail and Mount View – have had a player score 30 or more in a game. Oak Hill’s Andrew Work, Midland Trail’s Austin Isaacs and Mount View’s Aaron Jackson all have games of 29 points so they aren’t far off the mark.
Last year there were 22 30-plus games in the area. This year, even before the calendar flips over to February, that number has nearly tripled to 62.
Just three season’s ago Shady Spring’s Jon Sawyers was the lone player in the area who over the second half of the season was averaging better than 20 points per game.
Last year we had only a hand full – namely Midland Trail’s Noah Minor (24.5 ppg), Luke LeRose (23.0 ppg), Greater Beckley’s Jay Moore (22.5 ppg) – who topped the charts and the 20.0 ppg average – most of the season.
Armed with all that data, the question is, why now?
No less an authority than Mike Fowlkes, an assistant at Woodrow Wilson who has been involved in the area’s basketball landscape at all levels for over three decades, has an idea.
It’s called the Steph Curry Effect.
“Copy-cat syndrome,” Fowlkes said. “We watched (Michael) Jordan, (Patrick) Ewing, (Karl) Malone and (Charles Barkley) and we wanted to play how they played – inside-out and tough defense,” Fowlkes said. “Kids today are watching Steph (Curry), LeBron, KD (Kevin Durant) and (James) Harden and they want to duplicate their style, soft defense but score at will.”
Woodrow has seen benefits of the scoring at will up close and personal, with Radford’s scoring prowess.
But he is not alone, as fellow senior Danny Bickey has really caught fire. That one player averaging 20 a few year’s ago? Bickey has scored 20+ in eight of the last nine games and has 61 3s, which after Monday’s games led the area.
Radford and Bickey both average over 20 points per game and both have multiple 30+ point games. Three teams have two players with +30 games.
The copy-cat syndrome takes care of one very good point, albeit societal, but there are also on-court variables that Fowlkes cited.
“It’s just my opinion but you aren’t allowed to guard anymore,” Fowlkes said. “It’s a foul if you do. When we got after people you see the free throw disparity we had early in the season (in the first three games, all Woodrow losses, the opponents got to the line 89 times, Woodrow 37, and Woodrow has always been a team with the ability to get to the line).”
Of course a team that shoots a plethora of 3s generally isn’t going to get to the free throw line.
Which is Fowlkes’ second point.
“There are no real true post players any more,” Fowlkes said. “Really everyone can step out and shoot (the 3). Everyone wants to be Steph Curry.”
Many coaches have cited the three-point line as the ruination of high school basketball.
Players have become better shooters over the years. Once a fad the 3 has become an way of life for some teams. Woodrow Wilson is averaging 9.5 3s this year and has a game of 16 and 17 3s.
Nicholas County coach Brian Phipps has seen it up close as well. As mentioned, his junior Luke LeRose is one of the most talented scorers in the state.
“You have a bunch of kids who are really talented at scoring the basketball,” Phipps said. “They are working at scoring in the off season. These kids have an instinct that’s built into them and add to that the work they put into it.”
While the players are good shooters are they on the level of the Tamar Slays, Herbie Brooks, Jamel Bradleys, Coney Jacksons, Tracy Sheltons or Ryan Culicertos – all guys I covered, all state players of the year or runner ups and future Division 1 players?
The game has changed. The fact is, this generation has not embraced defense. It’s true in all sports, including baseball and football. Everyone wants to see offense, scoring.
These offensive schemes are making a difference.
“Everybody is five out with floor spacing and it takes away help defense or if you do help, it’s harder to recover and close out because they are further away.”
While the players have become better shooters over time, that doesn’t mean the overall product has improved.
Several coaches mentioned the increase in turnovers, which leads to the increase in possessions which leads to the increase in point production.
And it’s not just on an individual basis.
In the area, all but six of the 21 teams that regularly submit boxscores and statistics have increased their scoring from this point last season.
For example, Greenbrier West average 56.3 points per game last season through 14 games. This season it’s at 70.8, an increase of 14.5 points per game. Westside, meanwhile, which lost seven of its top eight players to graduation, is down from 77.7 last year (when it was easily the best scoring team) to 58.2 this season.
Which brings up another good point. A lot of the individual players are back from last year and a year more experienced.
LeRose had five 30+ games a year ago. Moore had three. Vass had one.
Still, attrition is part of the game and the increase, especially among teams, has increased well beyond just being good.
While the old school guard will decry the loss of defense – and I have – the game has changed into a game where offense wins championships