ESTERO, Fla. (AP) — If one had to break down Florida Gulf Coast’s scoring so far this season by position, here’s the math:
— 0% of guards.
— 0% from ahead.
— 0% from centers.
— 100% shooters.
FGCU, a mid-major program that has won at least 30 games in six of the last nine seasons and has led all of Division I women’s basketball in three-pointers made in each of the last four years, has embraced the concept of basketball without position. to a whole new level. The Eagles have 16 players on their roster and each of them is listed in the same position: shooter.
Some may look like guards, others may have post moves like forwards or centers, but the Eagles simply classify everyone the same.
“They were asking me what position everyone was in,” said Eagles coach Karl Smesko, who has guided his team to the AP Top 25 at the end of the season in two of the last three seasons; only nine schools have been ranked in the final poll in each of the last three seasons. “We don’t really have a position-heavy situation where someone is (point guard) and someone is (shooting guard) and all that kind of stuff.”
Smesko’s offensive system is complicated, but in simple terms it works like this: 3-pointers or layups are the goal, mid-range jumpers are frowned upon.
Consider how it went in Friday’s quarterfinal win over Delaware at the Gulf Coast Showcase, a win that gave the Eagles a chance to face No. 5 Iowa and reigning Associated Press Player of the Year Caitlin Clark in Saturday’s semifinals. The Eagles scored 83 points: 39 from three-pointers, 32 from layups and 10 from free throws. There was only one basket that didn’t fit into any of those categories.
“They’re such a good program,” Iowa coach Lisa Bluder said. “They have a great small ball system that makes you pay with a three-pointer. You know, they’re one of those teams that when you’re in the NCAA tournament, you never want to see their name against you, because you just know how well they play in the tournament.”
It’s no longer surprising that FGCU plays this way. There have been seven instances in Division I women’s basketball history in which a team finished a season with at least 393 three-pointers. Sacramento State did it once, DePaul did it once and FGCU did it the other five times.
“It’s a lot of fun,” said redshirt junior Maddie Antenucci, who was once a guard and is now obviously a shooter. “I mean, it makes us kind of resentful. We have to live up to the standard. So as long as we take our shooting seriously, we are obviously shooters.”
It’s not a trick, or a joke, or something put in the game notes to see if anyone is paying attention. When the Eagles starters are announced, it is part of the introduction: “a fifth-year shooter, Uju Ezeudu” or “a senior shooter, Dolly Cairns,” etc.
The Eagles considered other options and then decided to have everyone have the same position.
“It was going to be longer, like ‘shooter’ and ‘defensive stopper’ or something like that,” Smesko said. “And then we said, ‘We’ll just put the shooter in.’ Most of our kids are very good shooters, and for other kids, it’s aspirational. They are capable of being great shooters. They need to start thinking of themselves as shooters and work on becoming shooters.”
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AP Women’s College Basketball: https://apnews.com/hub/ap-top-25-womens-college-basketball-poll and https://apnews.com/hub/womens-college-basketball