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Gonzaga shooters should be ‘just fine’ with new 3-point distance

Freshman Brock Ravet lets fly with his last shot to win the 3-point contest over Admon Gilder at Kraziness in the Kennel. (Jesse Tinsley / The Spokesman-Review)

Junior wing Corey Kispert loves the new, deeper 3-point line that goes into effect this season.

Senior forward Killian Tillie offered the equivalent of a verbal shrug. Freshman forward Anton Watson said it’s about building confidence to adjust from the prep line of 19 feet, 9 inches to college basketball’s 22-1 3/4 measurement.

“It kind of weeds out the men from the boys when it comes to people shooting 3s,” Kispert said. “I think we’ll be just fine. A lot of our guys that came from overseas played at that (22-1 3/4 international) distance their whole lives.”

The Zags did little damage with 3-pointers while piling up paint points in a 103-87 win over top-ranked Michigan State in a recent closed-door scrimmage. That wasn’t a byproduct of the deeper 3-point arc, approved by the NCAA in June. Gonzaga generally operates inside-outside – understandable with nine frontcourt players since 2012 who have played in the NBA. (Pop quiz, without Googling: Name the nine?)

The new rule is going to impact every Division I team, but the Zags haven’t relied on 3s as much as other programs, even though their 38.2-percent accuracy since 2000 is tops in the country.

“It’s going to bother some people,” GU head coach Mark Few said. “I dealt with it in USA Basketball. Obviously, that’s a smaller window in time, but it’s going to impact some things. It’s going to take some average shooters and make them below average and maybe to the point where they don’t shoot as many.

“But the good shooters like Brock (Ravet), Kispert and (Admon) Gilder, it shouldn’t affect them too much.”

Three-point shooting percentages will probably drop. The line was moved back to 20-9 in 2008-09 and teams made 34.4% beyond the arc compared with 35.2% the previous season. Gonzaga’s lowest 3-point percentage in its 21-year run of NCAA Tournament appearances was 35.3 in 2010.

“We’re not a program that’s, ‘Oh man, to win we have to make 12 3s,’ ” assistant coach Tommy Lloyd said. “We only shot 12 or 13 against Michigan State in 40 minutes. As long as we’re taking and making the right ones, that’s the important thing.”

The change was implemented to slow the preponderance of 3-point attempts – teams averaged a record 21.9 per game in 2018 – and create more court space for player movement and dribble penetration should defenses opt to cover the 3-point line.

It should make for interesting scouting reports on defense.

“The flip side is there is more space and longer closeouts, and it’s a little harder to guard. A lot more space and free-flowing,” Kispert said. “But the last couple of years at the old line, some players were able to get away with shooting in the low 30s and you had to pay attention. With this new line, people who were kind of pretenders from deep we put in a driver category and it’s a little easier to guard.”

Freshmen are dealing with a 3-point shot almost 2 1/2 feet longer than during their prep careers.

“I’ve just been working on my shot, getting a lot more confidence over the summer,” Watson said. “I think the old college 3 wasn’t that big of a change. Now it’s a little deeper and you just have to know where you are on the court.”

Ravet, a quality 3-point shooter at Kittitas High, didn’t have any issues behind the arc at Kraziness in the Kennel. He made 10 of 12 in the final round to win the 3-point contest over Gilder.

“It’s the European line, so many of our guys played with that,” said Tillie, who has made 47% of his 149 career 3-point attempts. “I don’t think it’ll impact us. I think it might help us.

“Brock is going to pull whenever he has a chance. He can shoot from anywhere.”