Long-range shooters still fascinate/Paul Peterson

There’s something about players who can shoot the basketball from long distance.

These long-range snipers seem to possess a trait that has fascinated fans for decades.

Now, we’re not talking about the player who can shoot the 15-footer. We’re talking about the guy who can put up – and hit – baskets up to 30 feet away.

This season, we have a couple of local players who fit this description in Troy Kinnunen of Jeffers and Dillon Gordon of Ewen-Trout Creek.

Kinnunen, a senior, will likely become the all-time scorer in Jets history before the season ends. He shoots the three-pointer with a lot of confidence, and like all prolific scorers, puts them up without hesitation.

Gordon, another senior, is a scorer whose shooting range begins when he enters the gymnasium. He’s been known to fire up shots from well beyond the three-point line and already has several 30-point plus games this winter.

But Kinnunen and Gordon are only the latest in a long line of shooters.

Roger Ryynanen of Jeffers and Don Mattson of Chassell played in the middle 1950s and were probably the first of this elite group.

Ryynanen, who was the first local player to score more than 50 points in a single game, was said to have a range that started near half court.

“I saw him (Ryynanen) regularly cross half-court and let one fly,” the late Spencer Carlson once told me. “And he was accurate with it.”

Mattson gained his fame as the catalyst behind Chassell’s three straight championships and a still-record 65-game win streak. But his shooting range is still talked about today.

Tom Clisch, an all-state center at Baraga High, recalls a game at the Baraga Armory in 1958.

“We were leading Chassell by one point with time running down,” Clisch recalled. “Mattson was just dribbling around mid-court … when he turned around … and put up a shot that hit nothing but net.”

A bit skeptical about Mattson’s range, I once watched an old (circa 1957) tape of him playing at Sherman Gym on the campus of Michigan Tech.

Sure enough, he would just cross half-court and effortlessly hit a jump shot.

A number of other local players have followed in the decades since that could be described as long ranger snipers.

Larry Kangas and Gary Moberg of Baraga, Deane Kent and Brad Tonkin of L’Anse, Mike Ojala of Ewen-Trout Creek, Pete Dix of Dollar Bay and Dave Vertanen of Chassell are just a few that come to mind.

But Negaunee St. Paul’s Dominic Jacobetti, who played in the mid-1960s, was probably the most prolific outside shooter I’ve ever seen.

Jacobetti, whose 2,150 points is still the Upper Peninsula record, would regularly shoot from a good 30-35 feet away.

I remember playing a game against him in which he made 15-of-18 shots from the floor and scored 37 points. Under the three-point rule of today, the majority of them would have counted as triples.

But former Princeton University coach Pete Carril had the best line about long range shooters. Asked once by a media member whether one of his players could shoot the three-point basket, he replied:

“He can shoot the three-pointer. The problem is that he can’t make them.”