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My team: little change, but Rinka would have had amazing numbers

Last week I wrote about what basketball life would have been like in the 1960’s had there been a three point line. I wondered how many points long range sharpshooters like Bettsville’s Paul Steffani and Thompson’s Dave Dreher might have scored had they been given three points for their bombs instead of two.

At the end of the column I suggested that two thoughts occupied my mind more than others. Would my high school basketball team have done things differently if the line had been adopted earlier? Could Kenyon College’s John Rinka have set a number considered even more unreachable? Here are my thoughts on those two topics.

In 1968, my Attica High School basketball team had what everyone would likely consider a very successful season. Here are some stats. We finished the year 21-3. We averaged 79 points a game. We shot over 50% from the field as a team for the entire season. All five of our starters averaged in double figures.

Four seniors and one junior comprised the starting five. Several players that came off the bench likely would have started had they been at another school. We were, if I may say so, a talented team.

The starters included 6-foot-5 John Hosang at center, 6-4 Charlie Holm at one forward, 6-3 Sean Studer (the only underclassman) at the other forward and my BFF Al Falter at the other guard. He stood 5-11 while I probably stretched the truth listing my height at 5-9.

We lost two games during the regular season — both in overtime — before exiting the tournament by losing to the eventual state champion Mansfield St. Peter in the district tournament. At the risk of bringing up bad memories, we got torched by St. Pete.

So here is the question: would we have done anything differently had there been a 3-point line. Would I, for example, have launched more shots from downtown? If you ask John or Charlie, they would probably say I would have, as they frequently chide me for not getting them the ball enough as it is. The stats would suggest they are just kidding. I don’t know if we would have taken advantage of the 3-point line or not. My first thought is — probably not. When you had the size and strength along the front line like we did, I would think we would have gone inside to take advantage of that.

My second thought is that how we handled a 3-point line would have depended on our coach, Glenn Brooks. We had confidence in him and respect for him. I don’t remember any player second guessing him and we would have done whatever he asked. It’s what we did then and I don’t think that would have changed with a 3-point line.

Then again, Coach Brooks was very smart. If utilizing that line would have helped the team, he would have figured out a way to do it. I guess we’ll just never know what it would have been like.

As far as John Rinka was concerned, we can speculate wildly about his college career. Rinka came to Kenyon College from Milwaukee, Wisconsin. He would have preferred to stay close to home playing for Al McGuire at Marquette or perhaps in the Big Ten at Northwestern. Alas, he was considered too short at 5-9 for those big time programs. Al McGuire would later say not recruiting John Rinka was the biggest mistake he ever made during his coaching career.

Instead, Rinka ended up in Gambier, Ohio. To suggest he had a great career would be a huge understatement. Rinka scored an incredible 3,251 points at Kenyon and is still the leading scorer in Ohio Athletic Conference history. In fact, many people feel his record may never be broken.

Can you imagine if there had been a 3-point line when he played? Did he fire away from long distances? Well, let me tell you about the two games I played against him and then you can decide.

I was a freshman at Hiram when Kenyon came to our campus. I started the game against the Lords and was told to make sure I got on him as soon as he came across the 10 second line.

We were playing a 2-3 zone defense and I did as instructed. Once he crossed half court I started out. He was just a few feet past the line when he stopped and went up for a jump shot. I thought to myself — ‘You’ve got to be kidding me,’ — but then I turned around and saw nothing but net. That shot would have been several feet behind today’s NBA 3-point line!

I had the privilege of playing one more game against him the following year. Hiram went to Kenyon for Rinka’s final home game of his career. In a game that Kenyon won 116-110, John Rinka lit up the scoreboard to a tune of 52 points, which included a perfect 20 of 20 at the foul line.

John Rinka AVERAGED 41 points per game his senior season and given his propensity for shooting from long range, can you imagine his numbers if there had been a 3-point line during his career?

My neighbor and I have often speculated on whether he could have reached 4,000 points had there been that line. He played 99 games in his college career and if he made a little less than eight bombs per game — 4,000 would be a reality.

Think about that number. When a player scores 1,000 points in a career they are lauded for an outstanding achievement. Imagine 1,000 points per SEASON for a four year career!

John Rinka was drafted by the Milwaukee Bucks in 1970, but opted to sign with the Utah Stars of the old ABA. They had the 3-point line, but he was the last player cut. Failing to make it in the pros, Rinka became a long time high school basketball coach in Wilmington, North Carolina.

I read an article where he coached with the 3-point line. His philosophy was interesting. The area from the line to a point three feet in front of it he referred to as “no man’s land” and his players were not allowed to shoot from there.

If they could get closer — fine. Otherwise they were required to step back to get that extra point.

John Rinka never got to use that 3-point line as a collegiate star and that is just a shame. His numbers would have been incredible.

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