The future of basketball? It’s in Pine City

The future of basketball may be designed by a group of boys in Pine City, Minn. The Wall Street Journal thinks so, anyway, with its profile of the Dragons, the high school team that is changing the game with its devotion to percentages.

In a recent game, for example, the team attempted 64 field goals. Sixty-two of them were either layups from “the paint” or three-point attempts from beyond the arc. Those are the two most “efficient” shots in the game, so the team has no use for any shot in between.

The players don’t even bother looking at the basket if they’re not in the paint or beyond the arc, the Journal says.

It’s working. The team doesn’t have anyone taller than 6-2. They’re 12-4 on the season.

You might suspect there’s a coach here who know his statistics.

There is. Kyle Allen.

Allen, a 29-year-old teacher, is young enough that he was influenced by “Moneyball” in his formative years as a fan and soon embraced a data-driven approach to sports. After he became Pine City’s coach, he spent most of his budget on the services of Krossover, a company that analyzes game film to create personalized statistics for even tiny high schools in the middle of Minnesota. Pine City’s players and coaches suddenly had access to helpful information—like customized video clips, advanced box scores and detailed shot charts—that was previously only available to NBA teams.

Pine City takes 59% of its shots from behind the 3-point line because it makes sense statistically. But it’s also because Allen believes it’s a more alluring style of play. “You don’t find a lot of kids who come in and work on post moves for an hour,” he said. “But I’ve got kids who will put up 500 threes for an hour like it’s no big deal.”

The strategy doesn’t always work. Pine City lost to the defending state champs, the Braham Bombers, last week.

That’s what happens when you take 37 three-point shots and miss all but seven.