To asterisk or not to asterisk, that is the question.
Sometime during Monday night’s basketball game between Thomas College and Husson College at the latter’s Newman Gym in Bangor, barring injury or natural disaster, senior guard Raymond Alley of the Braves will become his school’s new scoring king.
Alley enters the game needing 18 points to surpass Husson legend Dana Wilson, who scored 2,471 points for the Braves from 1970-74.
Please note again the years Wilson played. His career ended a decade before the 3-point field goal was introduced to the college game. Wilson also graduated before the Braves’ schedule mushroomed from 21 contests a season to 30-plus games.
Therein lies the rub. Or at least, the debate.
Should Alley’s career point total, which currently stands at 2,454 and counting with five games left in the regular season, go to the top of Husson’s list of honor followed by an asterisk?
“I think so,” answered Husson head coach Bruce MacGregor, who coached both players.
“I can’t really say that it should,” countered Wilson, fueling the debate.
It’s not a question to be taken lightly, as any sports fan or athlete knows. Remember the Roger Maris debate. Maris hit 61 homers in 1961 to beat Babe Ruth’s single-season record of 60. Yeah-butters pointed out Maris had the advantage of a 162-game season, compared to 154 for Ruth. The yeah-butters got their way. Maris got an asterisk.
Basketball has never been hung up on such distinctions. Neither the NBA guide nor the NCAA guide assigns asterisks to distinguish between record holders who played before or after the game adopted innovations like the 3-pointer or shot-clock.
Even so, individual teams are certainly within their rights to acknowledge the difference those innovations made on players’ statistics.
What makes the Alley asterisk debate so fascinating is a case can be made either way based on comparing him with Wilson.
Let’s start with the stats.
At first glance, Alley should definitely be assigned an asterisk when he breaks the record. He had the advantage of the 3-pointer, which by itself has added 340 points to his career total. Plus, he’s already played in 38 more games than Wilson. More chances to score.
But not so fast. Wilson, despite playing in fewer games, attempted nearly 300 more shots than Alley has. Factor in the number of games each played, and Wilson averaged 10 more shots a contest. So who really had more chances to score?
Plus, Alley has carried the load of distributing the ball. He is 22 assists shy of setting the school’s all-time mark with 522. Wilson isn’t in the top seven.
At this point the argument gets subjective.
Wilson and Alley were physical and stylistic opposites with similar offensive games. Wilson was a willowy 6-foot-2, 160-pounder with a loping stride that produced elegant drives to the basket. Alley is a 5-9, 180-pound fireplug. He’s muscular, physical, and possesses explosive quickness. His hell-bent drives to the hoop usually bruise someone.
Both players’ trademark, though, is uncanny range on their jumpshots, out to 25 feet.
MacGregor makes the asterisk argument for the following reasons:
“First, the game is different because of the 3-pointer and the shot clock,” said the 26th-year coach. “Second, at the time Dana was leading the country in NCAA Division III as a senior, he had to do a lot of scoring for the team. Raymond has had the luxury of other people around him who could score. Dana faced a lot more box-and-ones and triangle-and-twos.
“It’s a great record and a monumental feat by Raymond, but there are too many differences between the eras,” MacGregor summed up.
Wilson, now a 43-year-old entrepreneur living in Brewer, agreed with MacGregor’s points and even added one only a shooter could appreciate.
“No one talks about the breakaway rims they have now, but you watch how soft the ball sits up there,” said Wilson. “The old rims were hard as a rock. You hit the rim, you didn’t have a chance.”
For all the changes, though, Wilson believes Alley deserves to be at the top of the record book with no asterisk.
“He’s a better conditioned athlete, playing against better athletes,” said Wilson, who has seen Alley play often and plans to attend Monday night’s game. “Small college basketball has improved a lot. Kids are more talented today.”
The question is irresistible. Yeah, but what if Wilson had had the 3-point shot?
“Let’s just say I’d have had a lot fewer breakaway layups,” said the soon-to-be former top scorer of the Husson Braves.
Husson’s Big Guns Player G FGA FG FTA FT Pts Wilson 86 2270 1007 623 457 2471 Alley 124 1976 877 460 360 2454