I know, I know, the basketball season almost is over. That doesn't mean we have to forget about The System, does it?
Through a variety of social media -- Facebook, Twitter, Youtube -- I was able to track down Bobby Long over the weekend. He graduated from Grinnell in 2009, where he helped coach David Arseneault and the Pioneers continue to perfect the most wonderful style of basketball anyone has ever seen.
Bobby averaged 27.2 points as senior, second in NCAA Division III only to teammate John Grotberg, and he a total of 123 3-pointers in 25 games that season as Grinnell finished 18-7 overall and 13-3 in the Midwest Conference, good enough to claim the regular season title.
After graduation, Bobby believed he had more basketball in him, and he eventually landed a gig playing professionally in Germany. He plays for the Rattelsdorf Independents, and he reports the squad is 13-13 so far this season, a huge improvement from last year's 3-19 record. Oh, and yes, he reports the Independents are the only team in Europe running The System. Bobby is averaging 27.8 points, 4.1 assists and 3.0 steals, along with six 3s. Not bad for a rookie, eh?
There is a great snippet on Youtube of him dominating play for about a 2-minute shift. According the caption, he dropped in 17 3-pointers in that game and finished with 59 points. Wow.
I sent along a few questions via e-mail for Bobby, and he was kind enough to respond very quickly. Here you go:
(How'd you end up in Germany?)
Bobby Long: "Over the course of my Junior and Senior years at Grinnell, I decided I wanted to try and continue my basketball career on a higher level. As a team and individual, I experienced a lot of success in my last two years, which gave me the opportunity to be recognized. After I graduated from Grinnell, I hired an agent, and went to a variety of camps in an effort to gain exposure. Fortunately enough, through hard work and a little bit of luck, a team in Germany believed in me and gave me the chance to prove myself on a higher level.
"In Rattelsdorf, we have a very young team. The average age being around 21. Which not only makes me kind of a veteran, but (makes us) one of the youngest professional teams in Germany. Yet, our age allows us to be lively and enthusiastic in practice, games as well as on the weekends. We have a great group of guys, and we all get along really well."
(Tell me about hearing about Grinnell, and The System. What did you think initially about this style of play?)
Bobby Long: "In regards to learning about Grinnell's style of play, I WAS SHOCKED. I couldn't understand it to be honest. The first thing I heard about Grinnell, which in turn sparked my interest about the school, was the ESPN article on The System. I read it in awe and amazement and had to learn more. After going to a game I was hooked. For The System, it is either hate or love it ... and needless to say, I love it."
(How about the criticism System teams face?)
Bobby Long: "You always hear criticism about giving up layups and allowing teams to score over 100 points a game on you every game, but as long as you score one more point than the other team most of the time, it is pretty successful. Some people argue that we don't play defense; well, in response to that, I argue, we lead the nation in turnovers forced and steals per game, and while the team does score over 100 points a game, we win conference championships. It is a pretty good comeback."
(What is your greatest memory of Grinnell?)
Bobby Long: "What is my greatest memory of Grinnell? Wow, that is so tough. I have so many, but if I had to narrow it down to one, it would have to be this past year (2009) in the Conference Tournament Semifinal game against St. Norbert. We had just pulled off eight straight victories to share the Conference Championship and hosted the Tournament at Darby Gymnasium.
"The place was absolutely packed. I have never played in front of that many people before in my life. It was a close game against St. Norbert, and every time we scored the fans erupted. I could feel my insides shake whenever the fans went crazy. We ended up winning the game and just thinking about that game gets me excited to play basketball."
(Would you consider yourself a "true believer" in The System?)
Bobby Long: "I am a true believer in 'The System,' not only because we shoot a lot of 3s and score a lot of points, but just the atmosphere. The System allows for 18 different people to play for the team, and gives everyone the chance to change the outcome of the game with one play. Not many other schools and say that if any. I think having 18 people play brings the team closer together as well, because everyone feels a part of our success.
"It doesn't get old playing The System. I love shooting 3s and scoring points. I love playing a style of basketball that no one has ever seen before. The only thing that gets old may be coming out every 35 seconds. Sometimes you just want to stay in the game."
(What has been the reaction in Germany to The System?)
Bobby Long: "The reaction around our league regarding The System has been mixed. Basketball, in terms of popularity, takes a backseat to soccer over here and is just now becoming popular. So for some fans seeing such a radically different style of basketball is at times shocking, and not in a good way."
(What's the most fun about playing in The System?)
Bobby Long: "The thing that is most fun about The System is just that, having fun. Whenever you play this style of basketball, you always have a good time. People enjoy scoring points and seeing points scored, so the atmosphere is just one of enjoyment."
(A big question I always ask System folks: would it work at a major NCAA Division I school?)
Bobby Long: "I think it would be difficult for The System to work at one of these schools and here is why: At a D1 school ...
1) All the players are so athletic, making it difficult to force as many turnovers necessary to gain the shot differential needed.
2) All players can shoot 3s; when an opponent can make 3s, it makes it difficult to play a 3-2 game.
3) All players can dunk; when opponents can dunk at will, instead of potential missed layups, you have guys dunking all over you which unfortunately not only increasing their shooting percentage, but can give their home crowd the advantage."
(What are your plans after this season?)
Bobby Long: "My plans after this season are to continue playing basketball. Whether it be System basketball or regular basketball, I am excited. If I had to make a guess now, I will be back in Germany, but, with professional basketball, you never really know where you are going to end up. I am ready for another opportunity and another experience. I can't wait."
I certainly appreciate Bobby's time, and wish him the best in the future. Maybe we can check back in with him next year to see what he is up to.