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One hundred and thirty-eight. That is the number of points that Grinnell College’s Jack Taylor scored on Tuesday, Nov. 20, in a 179-104 victory over Faith Baptist Bible College in a Division III men’s basketball game. At first glance, this number seems like an incredible feat for any athlete in sports to achieve. When basketball players score 50 or 60 points in a single game there is buzz, but when a player erupts for 138, the buzz is even louder.
Coming into the game, Taylor averaged 23.5 points per game. After his 138 point explosion, his average skyrocketed to 61.7 points per game. He threw up 108 total shots and made 52 of them during his hot streak. It truly was an incredible achievement for the young man.
But should we only be praising Taylor’s athletic accomplishment and disregarding the fact that he scored 77 percent of his team’s points and took a shot every 20 seconds? In team sports, the concept of teamwork, sportsmanship and selflessness are valued characteristics. Does a player forcing up 108 shots in a 40 minute college basketball game send a positive message to young athletes who are learning the game?
Grinnell College is well known for its aggressive offensive style of play and its lack of defense. The team has led the nation in total scoring 15 of the past 17 seasons, and the coaching staff values offense far more than defense. Based on this coaching philosophy, the fact that Taylor scored 138 points may not be as surprising as it initially was.
On the other side of the court, a player for Faith Baptist Bible, David Larson, rattled in 70 points on 34 of 44 shooting. Larson shot 77 percent from the field while Taylor only shot 48 percent on 52 of 108 shooting. When a player shoots over 100 shots in a game, there is a high chance that he will score a ton of points, so the 138 points may not have been as impressive as they first appeared. Unfortunately for Larson, Taylor’s 138 dominated the spotlight that could have been shined on his 70.
Back in 2006, a high school player named Epiphanny Prince scored 113 points, as her Murry Bergtraum High School defeated Brandeis High School in a lopsided 137-32 victory. Brandeis head coach Vera Springer had described Prince scoring 113 points on her team “like picking on a handicapped person.” Prince shot 54 of 60 from the field, where almost all of her shots were layups where she was cherry picking on the defense as her four other teammates would steal the ball and pass it up court to her. There are many similarities between Prince and Taylor’s situations, especially involving the concept of sportsmanship. While Prince’s team completely crushed the opponent, Taylor’s team had a closer game, because Larson had scored 70 points himself. But the question looms: should coaches encourage players to try to reach triple digits in points, even if the opposing team has no chance to stay in the game?
In sports, the idea of teamwork is an integral component to success. Not surprisingly, Grinnell has never won a Division III men’s basketball championship. The old, clichéd saying about team sports often resonates as true: offense wins games, and defense wins championships.
There is no doubt that Taylor deserves the brief air time and few days of fame after his record-breaking night. We may never see a performance like that again for a long time in collegiate or professional basketball. But let’s not forget what the game of basketball is really about, what type of leadership and coaching strategies lead to championships rather than regular season victories, and how to embrace the concept of sportsmanship rather than defy it.