Some call it the Steph Curry effect.
Others think it’s just a natural evolution of playing basketball with a 3-point line.
Whatever the cause, high school boys’ basketball in southern Maine has become a showcase for not only 3-point shooters but shooters with NBA range.
“I do see kids shooting farther out than they have in the past,” said Portland Coach Joe Russo, now in his 27th season.
Based on SMAA statistics from 2015-16 (and this season’s midyear report), nearly one-third of all shots attempted are 3-pointers. Most teams have at least one player capable of making shots with frequency from well behind the high-school 3-point line (19 feet, 9 inches).
“Range-wise it’s very evident that kids have deeper range and it definitely (is) an effect from Steph Curry and how he has transformed shooting,” said Windham Coach Chad Pulkkinen.
Curry, the star guard of the Golden State Warriors, is 6 feet, 3 inches with a slight build, but in a league of 7-footers he is the two-time NBA MVP. A big part of his game is his accuracy from long range. Curry made 46.7 percent of his shots from beyond 30 feet (21 of 45) in 2015-16.
“A lot of NBA players have transformed the game but only a few of the population could truly emulate those attributes,” Pulkkinen said. “Whereas Curry’s shooting ability is something everyone can try to emulate and work on.”
While local high school coaches aren’t ready to release the reins and let players start firing away from 30 feet, taking a shot from NBA range (23 feet, 9 inches at the arc; 22 feet in the corners) or a bit farther is increasingly accepted.
Thornton Academy senior guard Austin Boudreau is among the area’s best shooters from long distance. He made 10 3-pointers in one game this season and is clearly comfortable taking shots from 25 feet. He said long-range shooting isn’t “instructed” at either the club or high school level. Rather it’s an organic process of having fun with friends, getting up hundreds of practice jump shots and remembering to maintain foundational form.
And if a 6-foot-3 kid from Maine needs an inspiration, he can look to Curry.
“Most definitely,” Boudreau said. “You see a guy come out of a small college like Davidson and win back-to-back (NBA) MVPs and lead the league in scoring and you want to do that. Everybody can work on the jump shot.”
Russo said he thinks the increased range from high school players has more to do with the yin and yang of strategy.
“I just think it’s the way the game has evolved. More kids are practicing (3-point shooting) and more coaches are incorporating it into the game plan,” Russo said. “Now teams extend the perimeter defense. So now the offense has to make other adjustments. Either step back farther or come up with a counter move. It’s easier to step back.”
Russo quickly names Boudreau, Windham sophomore Mike Gilman and South Portland junior Noah Malone as top long-range threats in Class AA. Portland’s junior guard Terion Moss, viewed more as a penetrator and distributor as a sophomore, has stretched his range to where he is comfortable behind the NBA 3-point line at the Portland Expo.
“I was shocked by Terion this year,” Boudreau said. “In the past I didn’t think of him as a 3-point shooter. He’s been a real threat this year.
“And the kid up at Edward Little, Darby Shea, he’s lighting it up from deep, too. I haven’t seen him but I’ve heard from other people that he warms up at half court.”
In the Class A ranks, 6-foot-7 Greely senior Matt McDevitt and Falmouth senior Colin Coyne are among the players ready to shoot almost as soon as they cross the half-court line.
“If you get the rhythm going then it’s just like a regular shot from the 3-point line,” McDevitt said. “It doesn’t matter where you are. If they’re going in, anything can feel good.”
McDevitt said the key to extending range is making sure the shot is taken with the same form as a shot from 15 feet.
“It’s getting the form down from a young age,” McDevitt said. “A lot of little kids just want to huck up 3s and their form is terrible. You’ve got to kind of start in close and once you step out, if the form’s the same, then the shot is nothing to you, honestly.”
And adding range can help a team.
“It stretches the defense,” said Falmouth Coach Dave Halligan. “It makes gaps and seams because you have to give help on the shooters.”
Thornton Academy Coach Bob Davies said when Boudreau and his less heralded teammate Avery Mckenzie are knocking down 3s, “it makes people have to extend and opens up the middle for David (Keohan). But that’s nothing new for basketball. Shooting has always been important.”
But the sheer volume of 3-point shooters is different.
“My first year coaching was the first year we had it,” said Halligan, in his 30th season at Falmouth. “That first year we took 18 3-pointers in a season. Now we do that in a single game.”
In 2015-16, 10 teams in the SMAA recorded 3-point makes and 3-point attempts. Those teams averaged 5.2 3-pointers on 16.8 attempts per game.
The Western Maine Conference doesn’t compile team shooting statistics but looking at the top-10 3-point shooters in the Western Maine Conference over the past five seasons indicates a growing trend toward more 3-pointers being made.
In 2013, the WMC’s top 10 shooters combined to make 341 3-pointers in the regular season and four players averaged two or more 3-pointers made per game. Last season the top 10 3-point shooters in the WMC combined for 401 makes and five players averaged at least two per game.
This season’s stats are not finalized, but with most teams reporting at least half their games, 11 players in the WMC were on pace to make more than two 3-pointers per game this season. John Martin of Gray-New Gloucester is the leader with 3.6 3-pointers per game for the regular season.
With so many more players capable of making a 3-pointer, maybe it’s simply natural that some would be able to extend their range.
“The kids today, they have a different practice routine and more time to work on it, especially indoors,” Russo said. “They start challenging each other. They’re shooting 3s and all of a sudden they start stepping back.”
Steve Craig can be reached at 791-6413 or: