Pine City, Minnesota – the land of the 3 and home of the high school basketball team that everyone is talking about.
Not Hopkins. Not Benilde-St. Margaret's. Not Braham. It's all about the Pine City Dragons, thanks to national publicity created by the Wall Street Journal, which sent a reporter to the town of 3,075 between Minneapolis and Duluth for a closer look at their unusual approach to basketball.
Pine City might take 60 shots in a game and only two or three will be mid-range jumpers. A minuscule 4.2 percent of their shots come from mid-range, with the rest being layups or 3-pointers, according to WSJ.
"There's nothing new with what we're doing," 29-year-old head coach Kyle Allen to GoMN. "We are just trying to be real purposeful with what we're doing."
The offensive design was inspired by Grinnell College in Iowa, where in 2012 the run-and-gun attack helped Jack Taylor set the national scoring record with 138 points in a game.
"We wanted to adapt the ideas and concepts of what they were doing into what we already believed in," said Allen, who went to high school with Taylor in Black River Falls, Wisconsin. "When you came back to it, the numbers are what kind of made sense for us. We really tried to focus in on being purposeful, of being efficient."
Jesse Logan, the father of two boys on the team – Clay, a junior, and Seth, a freshman – loves the analytical approach.
"It's a great way to maximize the talents of smaller players," Logan told GoMN. "The number of participants in the program has also gone through the roof because it's an exciting brand of basketball. Coach has a contagious enthusiasm and he has gotten a lot of people to buy in."
Kids don't have to run killers if they take a mid-range jumper, but they avoid them as much as possible.
"Our theory is that if we take that 4.2 [percent] and we put it at either the 5-feet-and-in line, or we put it at the 3-point line, that the percentage of that shot will go up," Allen explained. "Our boys are allowed to take those shots, but we just don't see them as the most valuable shots."
The Dragons set a Minnesota State High School League record with 358 made 3-pointers last season.
"Each shooter gets up 100 3s in practice and we record those numbers on a daily basis," Allen said. "We keep track of shooting trends over time and we want to know who is shooting at a higher percentage for that week and who is maybe not shooting at their best that week, and it gives us a better outlier of where our shooters are at in that specific part of their game."
Allen laughed and said it's "flattering" to be called the Houston Rockets of high school basketball, but they really are similar to the Golden State Warriors, who have set the bar for position-less basketball in the NBA.
"We want to create basketball players. We can categorize players as guard and forward and point guard and all of that, but we want people to have similar skill sets. It's a cog in the machine, so as long as the cogs continue, the machine continues to roll," he said.
Pine City is 13-4 this season with a big game Thursday against conference leader Hinckley-Finlayson. Keep tabs on the Dragons via their blog right here.