Phog champion of higher hoops

Allen insisted 12-foot goals would neutralize ‘goons’

By Bill Mayer, October 13, 2006

Who can even dare to dream how the game of basketball would look and be played today if a Kansas University icon had been able to convince his peers of the merits of 12-foot hoopla?

In the early 1950s, concerned college basketball officials noted the growing impact of big men in the game and were giving at least moderate consideration to raising the basket level, from 10 feet to as high as 12. And the increasing trend for dunking had not even begun to reach the epidemic proportions of today.

While that was startling news in some corners, it didn’t raise many eyebrows around Lawrence. KU’s Phog Allen, the father of court coaching, had been campaigning for the higher buckets for about 20 years. “Let’s do it,” he had commented, time and again. Allen got the notion in the early 1930s and at one point had visions of dozen-foot hoops being the norm by the 1940s.

Didn’t happen, but Allen always insisted it should.

His 1940 Kansas team with nobody taller than 6-foot-4 had reached the NCAA finals and Phog admitted he was worried about the increasing heights of competitors.

Said Allen, as only he could: “If we raised the goals, these mezzanine-peeping goons wouldn’t be able to score like little children pushing pennies into gum machines. They would have to throw the ball like everyone else. They would have to make the team on real skill, not merely on height.”

He noted that James Naismith in inventing basketball at Springfield had nailed peach baskets at the 10-foot level only because the indoor running track where he attached them provided 10-foot levels — not because of any visionary or vital reasons.

Phog, to make his points, set up some 12-foot goals in old Robinson Gym where the Jayhawks practiced and had his boys work with them to encourage better trajectories for their shots and rebounds.

He contended that higher hoops would allow wider dispersal for rebounds of missed shots, helping smaller and more agile people to outmaneuver the “goons” for possession. There would be less congestion, fewer fouls, no goal-tending and removal of the “goalie” from basketball. Doc periodically referred to his game as “hockeyized jargon.”

Exhibition Experiments

To open the 1934-35 season, KU and Kansas State decided to experiment, with each successful shot on the higher goals counting for three points instead of two. K-State won the first match, 39-35, on Dec. 14, 1934, at old Hoch Auditorium. KU won the second test game, 40-26, on Dec. 18, 1934, at Manhattan. All-American Ray Ebling was the first Jayhawk ever to hit a three-pointer, albeit a much different trey from what we see today.