ESTERO, Fla. (AP) — If one was to break down Florida Gulf Coast’s scoring so far this season by position, this would be the mathematics:
— 0% from guards.
— 0% from forwards.
— 0% from centers.
— 100% from 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 3-pointers made in each of the last four years — has taken the concept of positionless basketball to an entirely new level. The Eagles have 16 players on their roster, and every one of them is listed at the same position: shooter.
Some may seem like guards, some may have post moves like forwards or centers, but the Eagles just classify everyone the same way.
“I was being asked what position everybody was,” said Eagles coach Karl Smesko, who has guided his team into the season-ending AP Top 25 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-filled situation where somebody is a (point guard) and somebody is a (shooting guard) and all that kind of stuff.”
Smesko’s offensive system is complicated, but in layman’s terms it works like this — 3-pointers or layups are the goal, midrange jumpers are frowned upon.
Consider how it went in Friday’s quarterfinal win over Delaware in the Gulf Coast Showcase, a victory that earned the Eagles a chance to face No. 5 Iowa and reigning Associated Press women's player of the year Caitlin Clark in Saturday’s semifinals. The Eagles scored 83 points — 39 off 3-pointers, 32 off layups, 10 off free throws. There was just one basket that didn’t fit into one of those categories.
“They're such a good program,” Iowa coach Lisa Bluder said. “They run an excellent system of small ball that makes you pay with a 3-pointer. You know, they’re one of those teams that when you’re in the NCAA tournament, you never want to see their name come up against you — because you just know how well they play in the tournament.”
It's no surprise anymore that FGCU plays this way. There have been seven instances in Division I women's basketball history where a team finished a season with at least 393 made 3's. 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 once was a guard and now obviously is a shooter. “I mean, it puts kind of a chip on our shoulder. We have to live up to the standard. So, as long as we take our shooting serious, then obviously we are shooters.”
It’s not a gimmick, not a joke and not something put into the game notes to see if anyone is paying attention. When the Eagles’ starters are announced, it’s part of the introduction: “a fifth-year shooter, Uju Ezeudu” or “a senior shooter, Dolly Cairns” and so on.
The Eagles considered other options, then decided to make everyone the one position.
“It was going to be longer, like ‘shooter’ and ‘defensive stopper’ or something like that,” Smesko said. “And then we were like, ‘We’ll just put shooter.’ Most of our kids are really good shooters and for other kids, it’s aspirational. They’re capable of being great shooters. They need to start thinking of themselves as shooters and put in the work to become a shooter.”
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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