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Sam Houston State’s Scorer: ‘We Reward Good Team Play’

I recently wrote an article about the college teams whose official scorers are the most generous about handing out assists. The capital of assist liberalism was in Huntsville, Texas, where Sam Houston State scorers ranked first in Division I in each of the past three seasons.

I interviewed Bearkats spokesman Jason Barfield and emailed questions to Paul Ridings, who works in the school’s office of media relations and has scored most of its games for the past quarter-century. Ridings previously worked for three other collegiate athletic departments and the Dallas Tornado of the North American Soccer League. He responded after my article ran and agreed that we could publish his comments, which have been lightly edited:

I’ve been the S.I.D. [sports information director] here since 1989 and imputed the computer in basketball for most of those years. I know you’ve talked with Jason Barfield. When he was a student assistant here, he imputed a season, and we had one other year when we had a husband-and-wife imputer team (wife imputed, husband spotted).

I appreciate the generous label but also think we pay attention to how a basket comes about. You can’t score without the ball, and how you get it to set up a shot is important.

Assists that a lot of people miss include outlet passes from a defensive rebound, where the inside player hits a teammate to set up a fast-break score; a pass from under the offensive basket outside to a teammate for an open 3-pointer; a pass from an offensive rebound to a teammate for a follow shot; and a pass on an inbound play that sets up a basket.

We watch for these.

Soccer is another sport with assists, and we work at that, too. In our women’s soccer games, if a pass sets up a goal and we don’t see whom the pass came from, we go to the bench and find out — no matter which team.

Speaking of soccer but applied to basketball, I always remember what one of our players at the Dallas Tornado said after touring with the New York Cosmos and playing with Pelé. What made Pelé great, he said, was not his goal scoring, but his vision and the ability to see the entire field. With one pass, he could change the complexion of the offense and set up a scoring possession. As Steve Pecher (my player and a defender) said, you would see that one pass and say, “Oh sh?t.”

It’s the same in basketball. One pass to the open man can make a difference.

Consistency is important as well. We make this effort for both teams.

I guess I’m surprised you call us the most generous. But I would like to think we reward good team play.

Carl Bialik was FiveThirtyEight’s lead writer for news.