Many basketball coaches would be livid if one of their players hoisted up 30 to 40 shots a game. However, Providence High boys' Coach Carey Many encourages his players to shoot at will.
Many has instituted a scheme that has the Pioneers running an up-tempo, run-and-gun style of offense. The game plan calls for players to take a shot whenever they're open — preferably from three-point range.
"It was kind of by necessity that I've gone with this type of offense," Many said. "We are small, and we know we aren't going to get many points down low. I had to find something that was up-tempo and gave us more opportunities to shoot [three-pointers]. We tell the guys the first open shot they see they should shoot."
The style has allowed the Pioneers to put up big offensive numbers this season, as the team is averaging nearly 77 points a game.
But no one has benefited from the system more than junior Patrick Gonzalez. Gonzalez has obliterated school records, ranks at the top in California in scoring average and three-pointers made and has put up eye-popping offensive numbers.
Gonzalez said although the style of play has taken some getting used to, he enjoys being a part of it.
"It's definitely different. But it's also been a lot of fun," Gonzalez said. "The offense is pretty easy, you just shoot the ball. And it's fun to make the threes."
According to maxpreps.com, Gonzalez is No. 1 in the state in scoring with a 37.7 points-per-game average. In addition, he is also first in three-pointers made, averaging an even six per game.
He has had games in which he has scored 52, 50, 48, 49 and 47 points. His season-low in scoring is 13 — in a 60-57 loss to Pilibos — and his next-lowest result is 24 points.
When he's in the heat of the game, Gonzalez said he sometimes doesn't even realize how many points he's scored. And when he walks off the floor and is told of his accomplishment, he is often surprised.
"At the time, it really doesn't feel like I'm scoring that many points," he said. "And when they tell me how many I've scored, I'm like, 'Really?' Sometimes I can't believe it."
With two games left to play in the regular season, Gonzalez has already set school records for most points in a season (830), most points in a game (52), most three-pointers in a season (132), most career three-pointers (211), most three-pointers in a game (11) and most free throws made in a season (128) — among others. He will set the record for the highest scoring average in a season, as the No. 2 spot is 30.3 set by Barry Dabbaghian from 1992-1993.
"There are records that we've been keeping since Providence has been around, and he has broken every single-season record that we have on the books," Many said. "And he is closing in on the career marks in pretty much everything offensively that we keep track of — and he's only a junior."
It might be hard to believe, but Many thinks that Gonzalez could have even bigger numbers than he's put up.
"Sometimes, Patrick is reluctant to shoot the ball so much," Many said. "There are times, and I know this is really odd and weird to say, that shooting the ball 30 times a game isn't enough. In one of our recent games Patrick scored 38 points on 28 shots. But my thought is what would he have scored if he would have taken 35 shots?
"It's one of those weird things where you have someone who shoots a lot, but because he's so consistent and productive, that you want him to shoot more. But I know sometimes that Patrick doesn't want to be a super ball hog."
Gonzalez agrees: "I always think if I should pass the ball to someone else instead of shooting it myself. But coach wants me to take the shots if I'm open."
After Gonzalez tallied some impressive scoring numbers during the nonleague campaign, Many expected there to be a drop-off once Liberty League competition rolled around.
"I was concerned because I know that before league we would be able to catch some people because they wouldn't know about Patrick," Many said. "I thought that maybe his numbers would come down once we went to league, but they have actually gone up. That's pretty incredible. He is just doing some phenomenal things in league."
Gonzalez is leading the league with a 40.5 points-per-game average.
Many said what Gonzalez is doing is unprecedented as far as players he's coached. But the coach is quick to point out that it is not just his system that has made his player successful. He noted that Gonzalez has worked hard to improve his skills, and he was willing to learn the new system."
"He has matured more this season, and it's helped that he's probably grown about six inches since his sophomore year," Many said of the 6-foot-3 Gonzalez. "He is just more comfortable shooting this season and his shot has gotten a lot better.
"On top of that, he's very coachable and he's sacrificing a lot with his own game to be a part of the offense and defense that we run. He's also very crafty, and he knows how to get around opponents."
Many adapted his approach to the game from a system run at Grinnell College, a private liberal arts institution in Grinnell, Iowa. Known simply as "The System," Coach David Arseneault's plan incorporates a continual full-court press, a fast-paced offense, an emphasis on offensive rebounding, a barrage of three-point shots and substitutions of four to five players over a short span.
With its scheme, Grinnell College — which coincidently also bears the nickname Pioneers — has been able to win three conference championships in the last decade. In addition, the Pioneers have set various NCAA scoring records and their players have led the nation several times in scoring and assists.
It is that kind of success that led Many to incorporate the approach into his program.
"It's their philosophy that they want half of their shots to be threes," he said. "Also, they want to get 20 offensive rebounds and 20 steals every game. That has been kind of our motto. We want to make sure that at least half of our shots are threes and we want to shoot at least 30% from three-point range. On the season, we're about 30% for threes, and it helps that Patrick is about 37%.
"It's really organized street ball. This seems to me to be the absolute happiest way to play basketball. I don't call too many plays, unless it's a sideline or out-of-bounds play. We just let the athletes play. I think the guys like it a lot and they like playing in it."
Although the new system has led to success for Gonzalez, Providence has experienced mixed results this season. The Pioneers are 12-10 and 5-5 in the Liberty League. The team sits in fourth place in league.
Admitting it's nice to put up the impressive numbers he has this season, Gonzalez said he covets victories much more than personal statistics.
"Winning is always more important," he said. "It means a lot more to me that we get a win. Wins are even more important than breaking records."