NEW BEDFORD, Mass. – If you watch basketball these days at any level, you know that the game leaves something to be desired. Today’s players are more athletic but less skilled and the feel for the game is often lacking. Scoring has been down in recent years for a variety of reasons, to the point where the NCAA is now mandating that referees call the game tighter in part to increase scoring. The merits of that can and will be debated, but that’s not the only way to try to improve scoring.
Camps devote time to skill development, and plenty of players spend time with trainers. Nowadays trainers are seemingly a dime a dozen, and while most do a good job, the end product can still be improved.
Enter TrueBounce and its attempt to improve the game.
Eric Britto is no stranger to basketball. He’s been a referee at various levels for over a quarter of a century. In New Bedford, an area richer in basketball talent than most even in New England know, he’s now pushing forward with three aspects of it that have been in work for about 11 years as the principal of TrueBounce: the backboard, the ball and the game.
The backboard will stand out the most, mainly because it’s the most visible aspect and also because the ball isn’t really different from any other basketball. The backboard is made of the same basic material as a glass backboard in a college or NBA arena, but it has many perforations in it. That has the effect of taking energy from the ball when a shot goes off the backboard, and thus it comes off differently. That means it’s harder for a player to go up too strong, and deep rebounds off missed jumpers don’t happen quite so naturally.
That can have two effects: more balls go in in the former case, and post players deal more with rebounding because there are more balls in the low block area to grab. Nowadays post players love to wander away from the basket to a maddening degree at times, but if more balls could come their way that can start to change mindsets.
The game will take more to change because as the saying goes, old habits die hard. But in today’s game there are seemingly two kinds of players: ones who try to score on the break and ones who stand on the three-point line. College coaches know that the three-point shot has become a big part of the game, as it can be a great equalizer for smaller and/or less athletic teams. Players tend to fall in love with the shot, however, and it’s most frustrating with big guys who fancy themselves to be small forwards and don’t realize that there’s a lot more to transitioning out of the post to the wing than three-point shots.
To that end, Britto runs events like the one he ran on Veteran’s Day at the Boys & Girls Club of New Bedford. Along with the backboards, a smaller court is set up that is 50 feet long, which means athletic advantages are somewhat minimized. What also works to try to change mindsets is the line that’s a few feet from the basket. In an attempt to encourage attacking the basket, whether by driving or finding a way to get it to a post player inside, players get two points for a shot inside the line and one for a shot made outside the line. It also encourages them to take jumpers from mid-range, as they can step just inside the line for more points instead of less.
In Monday’s event, the first three games of the day gave us a look at this. The players took to it, as there was much more action close to the basket, more ball movement, more aggressive offense, and in the end more scoring. Some of the added scoring came from the shorter court and less-than-stellar defense, but that only accounts for some of it.
The player who took to it the most was Ryan Carney (Jr., Mattapoisett (MA) Old Rochester Regional HS), who scored 24 points in a 15-minute half. He was always around the ball finding ways to score. Teammate Evan Santos (6’0″ So. PG-SG, Mattapoisett (MA) Old Rochester Regional HS) impressed as well from the perimeter, as did Jaleel Massey (5’9 Sr. PG, New Bedford (MA) High), who had a couple of double-digit outings. Massey’s teammate, Derek Amaral (5’11” Sr. SG, New Bedford (MA) High) also posted a coulple of double-digit outings and impressed by talking to his teammates on defense and keeping in the game when he rested.
There’s a long way to go to change the game to something better. Rule changes or calling the game more tightly won’t have that effect, and changing the culture of a game doesn’t happen overnight. The game didn’t change to what it is now overnight. But this is potentially a step in that direction.