Two weeks ago, Grinnell's Jack Taylor scored 138 points in a game, breaking the college basketball scoring record, leading SportsCenter, and causing this priceless quote from Kobe Bryant: "If you score 138 points, you kind of have a license to tell people to f*ck off.”
But while Taylor's achievement was certainly incredible, it was as much a product of the system that he plays in as it was his talent and abilities. Grinnell is playing a fast-paced version of basketball different from any other team in the sport's history, and it's caused any of us who's pick up the ball to wonder: What's it like to actually play on a team that is averaging 130 points a game?
Introducing our new irregular segment "Bros in the Know," where we interview readers of the site who have found themselves in newsworthy situations. Today's interview is with Grinnell's other Jack, Jack Adams, a senior forward who averages 11 minutes and 5 points a game, and who actually put together Taylor's highlight package that was sent to ESPN. Adams candidly gave us 10 things you should know about playing for the highest scoring team in college basketball history.
1. Guys go to Grinnell specifically to play under the system
[When I was being recruited] Coach Arseneault really pushed the fact that it’s not normal, it’s crazy, it’s fun. I've always loved that, and I initially went to Emory, but transferred here partly because of the system. We have so many people for a D3 school—around 20 people on the team—and we all gel and have a good time.
... Coach 'A' is really passionate about what he does. He loves to try to derail any criticism about the system. A lot of coaches try to coach basketball, but he’s coaching his own system. It’s like one of the children.
2. The system is based on a mathematical equation
We want to force 32 turnovers, we want to shoot 25 more shots than the other team, we want to rebound 75% of our misses, we take our shots in the first seven seconds. Coach has this down to a science and says ‘If we achieve all five goals, I’ve been at a 95% clip winning during my career.'
3. Practices are... different
[I transferred from Emory] and it was the same as high school. For Grinnell, the longest practice we’ll have all year is in the beginning when we’re teaching freshmen [how we play]. Two hours is the longest practice we’ve had. When we had the two-hour practice we were all shocked at how long it was.
... It’s efficient. Each practice, we each shoot 100 3’s. The day before gamedays, we’ll shoot 40 each. We then record the threes on a spreedsheet that tells how many each guy made.
We’ll then run a version of our offense.... called skeleton. Then we do normal [passing and other] drills. Practices range from 30 minutes to an hour-and-a-half.
4. Grinnell presses—and runs—the entire time
Every 35 seconds if possible, a new group of five guys come in. It's like hockey substitions, it’s lines. The only difference is they blow the whistle for us to come out.
We press the whole game.... We don’t have the traditional 1-5 spots. We have on-ball, trap, left wing, and right wing, and interceptor and safety. So when I play safety, I'm in the back in case everything breaks down. The interceptor is the point guard. The front 3 trap, and we pick off any passes that come over the top. That’s kind of our press.
5. Non-conference opponents don't want to play them
It's hard to schedule games because no one wants to play us. They have seven-man rotations, and they get tired out. So we end up having some games where the opponent won’t be as strong as normal and we play these worse games because other people won’t play us. That's what happened in the [139-point game].
6. The strategy against Faith Baptist? Get Taylor the ball
We set aside this game with five shifts, instead of our normal three with five players. [Coach A said] Jack is going to play the point guard on every shift in the first 10 minutes. We thought, if he scores 20 points during that time, we’ll keep going.
I think he scored 25-30 for the first 10 [he had 23]. He was on pace for a ton, so Coach was like, he’s shooting well. He’s on pace, we’ll keep going. We had one back-up plan in case it didn’t work, but we went with the primary goal to get him shots. He didn’t get all of them, but he got most.
7. A flurry of points in the second half gave Taylor's teammates their "Holy Crap This is Happening" moment
Into halftime, we were like, 'How many does he have?' I thought it was around 40. It was 55... Even talking about this now gives me the goosebumps.
There was a point in the second half where we called a shift change. He was in for two minutes and hit six 3's and two free throws in a row. 20 points in two minutes. We were all going insane. You see on the highlight reel us fist pounding and going nuts. He came out after that shift. It was the perfect ending.
8. Adams had to cut the celebration short and put together a highlight reel
[After the game] we were like 138, that just happened. We go out to eat, I'm checking Twitter and people are Tweeting about it. Blake Griffin was the first big guy to do it, then a few other NBA players tweet it. And all of sudden, it’s trending worldwide and Grinnell is trending worldwide. Coach A tells me that night that I have to edit the highlight reel. So I do and then it’s sent to ESPN.
9. The strategy changed for the next game, and Taylor only scored 21, but the crowd was huge
After that game, we played Knox. They were picked last in the conference. The games are normally boring, low scoring for us. And we went there and the place was packed. People were holding up 139 signs. We ended up scoring 100+ points and [the crowd] helped us. It’ll be fun to see what conference games are like for the rest of the year.
10. 200 team points is a possibility in the future
We tried against William Penn. We said at the beginning of the game that we would try it. We do set goals like that, just not really against conference opponents. Now that we’re in conference we’re winning at all costs.
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