On Wednesday morning, almost every sports fan in the United States heard what Jack Taylor did on Tuesday night in Grinnell, Iowa, and did a double take.
Playing for Grinnell College, Taylor scored 138 points in a college basketball game. He scored 77 percent of his team’s points in a 177-104 win over Faith Baptist Bible College.
Taylor was 52 for 108 from the field. He made 27 3-pointers on 71 shots. From the foul line, Taylor was a very human and average 7 for 10.
Around the nation, people lined up to rip Taylor, his record and Grinnell basketball. The hand-wringing and disdain for Taylor’s feat is just as stupefying as trying to wrap your head around his stats. Some called the show Taylor and Grinnell put on disgraceful and unsportsmanlike.
If you want to do some soul-searching, don’t waste it on a college basketball game. As the writer Chuck Kloseterman said in a Twitter post, “If you’re unhappy some random kid scored 138 points ‘inappropriately’ in a Div. III basketball game, you truly deserve your unhappiness.”
Let’s get this myth out of the way now. Grinnell’s press all day, take the first shot every time down the court, play like your hair is on fire style of basketball is not a gimmick. The Pioneers have been playing this style for almost two decades. Aside from getting Taylor shot after shot is his run toward the scoring record (and there’s nothing wrong with going for a record), the Pioneers did nothing that for them can be considered out of the ordinary.
There’s a central Maine connection to Grinnell. The architect of Grinnell’s frenetic style is head coach David Arsenault, a 1976 graduate of Colby College. Under Arsenault, Grinnell has won the Midwest Conference title five times, most recently in 2009, and the Pioneers have played in the postseason 11 times.
Early in the 2003-04 season, Arsenault brought the Pioneers to Waterville to play a pair of games at Colby’s Wadsworth Gymnasium. In the first game, Grinnell beat St. Joseph’s College, 147-103. The next day, the Pioneers struggled offensively, beating Colby 116-77.
One of the great things about basketball is, there are so many ways to play the game. You can run around heaving up 107 shots per game, Grinnell’s average through the first three games this season. Or you can play the game as patiently as a hunter, waiting for that perfect shot. Either way is acceptable. They are different chapters in the same book.
This wasn’t a high school game, where part of reason for playing is to learn to play basketball. Grinnell has played this way for so long that no opponent can feign surprise when it takes the court against the Pioneers. Taylor and his teammates played as hard as they could for the entire game. That’s the exact definition of sportsmanship. Hustle will never be unsportsmanlike.
The Pioneers have led the NCAA in scoring in 17 of the past 19 seasons. They ranked first in the nation in three-point shooting in 15 of the past 19 seasons.
To say the Pioneers ran up the score against Faith Baptist is ludicrous. They did what they do and Taylor did it better than anybody.
There are 22 players listed on Grinnell’s roster. None is listed as a center. Sixteen of them are listed as a guard. Last season, 12 Pioneers averaged at least 10 minutes of playing time per game, but only one, Griffin Lentach, averaged more than 20, and Lentach played 20.8 minutes per game.
The Pioneers come at you in waves, sending five fresh players on the court every few minutes like a hockey coach sends a fresh line to the ice.
Taylor played 36 minutes against Faith Baptist, the exception to Grinnell’s substitution rule. Eight Pioneers played at least 10 minutes in the game, but other than Taylor, none saw more than 15 minutes of playing time. Twenty players got into the game for Grinnell.
Taylor’s accomplishment is the stuff of bad fiction. You’d never believe it if it was not true. Taylor should be applauded, and when the Pioneers play this afternoon against William Penn University, he should try and score 140 points.
Travis Lazarczyk — 861-9242