Controversy surrounds Division III player's scoring records
Depending on whom you ask, Grinnell College guard Jack Taylor, owner of two 100-point performances for the Division III Pioneers, is the best thing to happen to college basketball.
Or the worst.
“Jack is wired to score,” said Grinnell associate coach David N. Arsenault, whose father, David, designed the offense in 1993 that made Taylor famous. “He's perfect for what we do.”
Not everyone agrees.
“When you're scheduling an inferior opponent just for one of your players to set a record and gain notoriety for your program, I find that to be poor sportsmanship,” ESPN college basketball analyst Fran Fraschilla said.
Taylor is a 5-foot-10 junior who broke the NCAA single-game scoring record with a 138-point game last year. He scored 109 points this season in the second game of the year, and his 45.0-point average leads all NCAA divisions after his first six games.
Taylor benefits from playing in a rapid-fire offense that encourages him to shoot at will. But his two biggest games have come against overmatched opponents, creating skepticism about the validity of those performances.
“I don't know enough about it, but you'd have to find 10 players to go along with it, along with 10 sets of parents. It would be a challenge,” Pitt coach Jamie Dixon said.
In Grinnell's 173-123 win over Crossroads College on Nov. 17, Taylor sank 35 of 70 field-goals attempts, including 24 of 48 3-pointers, while playing only 29 minutes.
“People call me selfish, that I should pass the ball, that I'm not a team player,” said Taylor, who was recruited by Ivy League schools before suffering ACL and MCL injuries. “They don't realize that my role in this system is to shoot. When I'm not aggressive, shooting the basketball, I'm actually yelled at.”
Taylor follows the instructions of the Arsenaults. Son David played for his father and completed his Grinnell playing career as the Division III career leader in assists per game.
He said Grinnell installed a fast-break offense after 27 consecutive losing seasons. The result has been 16 winning seasons in the past 20 years and 18 national scoring titles.
“It's evolved into a competitive strategy for us to the point that, year-in and year-out, we're in the hunt for a conference title,” Arsenault said.
The strategy peaked during last season's 138-point game against Faith Baptist College in which Taylor set NCAA records for field goals (52), field goals attempted (108), 3-pointers (27) and 3-pointers attempted (71).
Crossroads College and Faith Baptist College are members of the National Christian Athletic Association, which is ranked lower than NAIA.
Crossroads has about 100 students. Grinnell, located in Grinnell, Iowa, plays in the Midwest Conference and has an enrollment of 1,700.
West Virginia coach Bob Huggins said it's not unusual to design an offense around one player.
“I've had guys that have taken half our shots before. Logan did that a few times,” said Huggins, referring to guard Steve Logan, Cincinnati's second all-time leading scorer behind Oscar Robertson who was 12th in the nation in scoring in 2001-02. “We all wanted him to (shoot). He made them.”
ESPN's Fraschilla takes issue with Grinnell setting up Taylor for success by scheduling opponents such as Crossroads and Faith Baptist.
“It almost looked like they picked an opponent they absolutely were going to hammer to set up Jack Taylor to score all those points,” said Fraschilla, who compiled a 176-99 record at Manhattan, St. John's and New Mexico.
“For them to purposely play this way to try to get an individual a record, I don't think reflects all that great on Grinnell College.”
Taylor doesn't agree.
“Coming into this program, I knew I would be able to put up big numbers, but I didn't know I would be able to break any records,” Taylor said. “I came here to play this unique brand of basketball. I'm having a lot of fun.”