Smith: Comets basketball taking ownership of run and gun

Back in the early 1990s, a novelty offensive system in the NFL evolved called the run and shoot. It favored a wide open offense that spread defenses thin and then exploited weaknesses it created.

Sounds more like an offensive philosophy for basketball to me.

Though the current style of basketball that Reed-Custer currently plays is more accurately described as run and gun, both Morris coach Joe Blumberg and Comets coach Mark Porter used football terms in describing it.

“It’s kind of like option back days in the NFL game – it’s a different style,” Blumberg said after his team lost to the Comets, 77-69, on Tuesday.

“I think we all have a little bit of a football coach in us and that involves wanting to be involved with every possession,” Porter said.

I’ve written about the way that the Comets play basketball these days, so bear with me if I repeat myself. I had only seen one other high school team employ this style of play and that was the Herscher girls team several years ago. 

“It’s the Grinnell [college] system run by Dave Arseneault over in Iowa. Olivet (Nazarene) also runs the same thing, though we don’t do it exactly like either of them,” Porter said. “It a style where you push the pace and play a lot of kids. Where you like to get a lot of turnovers and shots. In some ways it is a little bit of quantity over quality.”

Most people who think of the classic run and gun style, and are old enough remember, think of Loyola Marymount coach Paul Westhead employing it in the 1980s. Perhaps the biggest thing I remember about that team was that it set an NCAA record for points when it beat United States International University, 181-150. That run- and-gun mainly utilizes a full-court press on every play by the defense with the team willing to gamble on a steal over giving up an easy basket on the break. That maintains the up-tempo pace. Offensively it generally means someone taking the first available shot, preferably a 3-pointer.

The Grinnell system added to the Westhead style by making substitutions in waves – sort of like hockey line shifts.

“It’s a nightmare to coach against,” Blumberg said. “When you are shooting well and shots are going in, that style is beautiful to watch.”

Against Morris, 13 different kids got a tick somewhere on the stat sheet for Reed-Custer and four different players ended up scoring in double figures – Travis Schoonover (25), Brent Headrick (14), Mason Dransfeldt (11) and Tyler Foote (10).

“They wear you down both mentally and physically. I don’t know it’s a style I could coach, but it is something different,” Blumberg said. “I just think if it was the way to play basketball I think everybody would be playing that way. But Porter’s got them believing in the system and they are playing extremely well in it. It works for them. It took us out of our game [Tuesday].”

Normally a reliable ball-control team, Morris turned the ball over 25 times Tuesday – although Reed-Custer only made 36 percent of its shots (30 of 84) on the night. There were 170 total shots taken in the game.

“I think our style lets the kids go out and gives the kids a lot of freedom to play, too,” Porter said.

While the Comets are only 13-9 this season, I find their style very refreshing and fun to watch.