Bruce Weber prides himself on fielding a stellar defensive squad. And the past two seasons, Kansas State has been among the best in the country. (The stats bear it out.)
Despite his passion for defense, Weber said he hopes a rule change approved earlier this week by the NCAA Playing Rules Oversight Panel helps the Wildcats’ offense: moving the 3-point line to the international basketball distance of 22 feet, 1¾ inches from the current distance of 20 feet, 9 inches.
“If we can spread the defense and be a little more efficient — not only us, but everybody in the country — I think that’s the goal of it,” Weber said at a Catbacker Tour event in Salina on Wednesday, before pointing to the rules panel’s other objectives. “They want a quicker game. They want more points.”
Weber will get a taste of the new 3-point line quicker than most of his coaching counterparts in the NCAA. That’s because he’s the head coach of the United States’ under-19 team, which will compete in the FIBA World Cup this summer in Greece. The World Cup uses the FIBA 3-point line that Division I men’s teams will implement next season. (It won’t be introduced in Division II or III until the 2021-22 season, with the NCAA citing the costs of “placing a new line on courts” potentially being a burden financially for the smaller schools.)
All in all, Weber said he had no complaints about moving the line further away from the basket. That’s as far as he believes it should go in the college game, however.
“I think if we would have (gone) to the NBA line, we would have had trouble, because I watch our guys,” Weber said with a laugh.
Weber saw the effect of the NBA 3-point line firsthand a year ago: While Barry Brown was going through the draft process prior to his senior season, the Wildcats helped. They taped the NBA line down on the floor so he could practice from pro range.
K-State has a more permanent solution with the rule change.
“Now I’ve actually painted it on the court for the guys,” said Weber, before clarifying: He didn’t actually don a pair of overalls and take a can of paint out to the court himself. “I put the work order in.”
Putting the work in, Makol Mawien said, won’t be an issue for the Wildcats.
A rising senior, Mawien said he’s confident his teammates, more prone to taking shots from beyond the 3-point arc than him — he’s attempted just 19 from distance as a collegian, making five — will extend their range this offseason.
“It’s interesting, of course. It’s just something to work on,” Mawien said. “I don’t think we’ll have much trouble with it. I feel like we’ve got guys who are going to get in the gym and work on their games, so I feel like the change will help us to improve.”
That, Weber said, is the desired result.
“I hope it doesn’t lead to worse percentages, because I think in the long run, we want to have better percentages and more efficient offense,” he said. “But again, I think the hope of the rules committee is (to) get people driving. You’ve got to help (defend) further. It’s a longer closeout, so maybe (offensive players) will get more open shots.”
Given that he’ll have to draw up defenses to defend the national teams from other countries, Weber already is racking his brain. Along with his coaching staff, which includes assistants Mike Hopkins and LeVelle Moton, Weber is trying to figure out the best plan of action. They don’t have much time.
The World Cup starts June 29.
“It’s something I’ve been talking about with the coaches on the staff: ‘Do we play our normal, characteristic defense of being in the gaps, helping and trying to get back to the shooters?’” Weber said. “But ... one, international guys shoot the ball so well from 3, and two, you do have another foot on that closeout. That extra whatever, half a second, one-quarter, allows guys to get open. So it’s something we’ve got to think about, there’s no doubt, and adjust to it. To me, it’s being in help earlier, so now I can be there and I can get back. You’ve got to be even a little more efficient defensively if you’re going to guard the 3 like that.”