Althoff High graduate Marvin Bateman ended up in a perfect spot.
The 6-foot-5 Bateman, a prolific 3-point specialist, is a freshman at Division III Greenville College.
The Panthers (19-8) average 54 3-point attempts and 127 points per game. They shot 79 3-pointers in a 164-154 loss to visiting Fontbonne on Jan. 31, making 24. They made 28 3-pointers, on 67 attempts, in a Dec. 16 game at Fontbonne. Greenville has scored at least 100 points in 26 of its 27 games.
Bateman is the ringleader in this crazy long-range attack that requires no shot clock. He has 88 3-pointers on 220 attempts (40 percent). Six other players have shot at least 105 3-pointers.
The scheme has worked. Greenville, coached by 53-year-old George Barber, is competing in the 64-team D-III national tournament for the first time and will play Augustana (22-5) at 7:30 p.m. Friday in Rock Island.
"It's fun," said the slender 170-pound Bateman, who averages 12.6 points to rank fourth on the club. "It was different at first, getting adjusted to the system. One of our goals is to shoot 50 3s (a game). It's perfect for my game.
"I honestly never imagined coming to Greenville and playing in this system, but I'm glad I did. Hopefully, we can do some work (in the national tournament)."
Barber's team typically shoots about 12 seconds into its possession. His perimeter players shoot 200 3-pointers at each practice; his post players shot "only" 100.
Barber, in his 19th season, takes exception to his style being described as "run and gun."
"Everybody likes to say, 'run and gun,'" Barber said. "I get it. I won't use that term because it takes a great amount of discipline to play the way we do. There's a method to the madness. But we do shoot a lot of 3s. Wouldn't you love to play for a coach who's running up and down the bench saying, 'We need more 3s'? It is the approach I prefer. I like offense."
Bateman, majoring in criminal justice, is a big fan of Barber's.
"He's great," said Bateman said. "I know it was difficult for him to learn the system himself and then teach it to us."
Division III does not offer scholarships, but when Barber was trying to lure Bateman to Greenville, he knew what to say.
"He said, 'We shoot a lot of 3s,'" Bateman recalled, not fully comprehending the magnitude of Barber's comment. "I was like, 'OK, I shot a lot of 3s at Althoff.' But I would have never imagined this. I thought, 'OK, we'll shoot about 20 a game.' That's a lot. But 50? That's nuts.
"This is heaven to me."
Despite the speed of the Panthers' attack, they average just under 17 turnovers per games, along with 25 assists. Defensively, they average 18 steals, in part because they're so hungry to get the ball back to launch another 3-pointer.
"People say defense wins championships," Barber said. "What they're doing is pairing the sexiest word in sports, which is 'championships,' with the hardest thing to get players to do, which is play defense. By doing that, they're trying to motivate their players to play defense. It's really not a true statement in itself.
"We play defense. We just play it in such a way that we try to get steals instead of stops. We want to get stops, but we try to get steals. That's our first priority. When you get the ball, we want to get the ball back. That's our thing."
Bateman said the Panthers "take pride in our defense."
"We need to get steals so we can get more shots," he said. "That's how we get as many points as we get."
Barber likes seeing the ball in Bateman's hands.
"That young man can shoot from 30 feet and drop them right in," Barber said. "We don't have any problem with that. We say, 'If you miss three or four in a row, shoot again.' In fact, when we get a rebound, our first priority is to get another 3-point shot, not put it right back in. Marvin certainly has the green light. He fits into this system very well. He's going to have a great career here."
Belleville West graduate Dalton Fox and Collinsville graduate Austin Knight also are at Greenville. Jordan Yates, a senior at Belleville East, will join the program next season.
Fox and Knight are freshmen playing on the JV team.
"They're doing good. They're always working on their game with me, getting in the gym and putting some shots up," Bateman said.
Barber, a former assistant at Bradley University, is running for the State Senate in the 54th District. He is trying to win the Republican nomination in the March 20 primary. If he wins, he would remain Greenville's coach but vacate his position as a kinesiology and sport professor.
"You can't imagine how busy I am," Barber said. "But I love it. We'll see how it goes."