College basketball players are being instructed this preseason to keep their hands to themselves.
Rule changes aimed at increasing scoring are requiring players to reprogram their minds to play defense.
No longer can they:
■ Keep a hand or forearm on an opponent
■ Put two hands on an opponent
■ Use an arm to impede the progress of a dribbler
Break the new rules and you’ll get assessed a personal foul.
University of Toledo coach Tod Kowalczyk is in favor of the changes, believing offensive freedom will enable the game to return to its roots and breathe life into a product critics say has become boring.
Last season, when scoring dipped to its lowest point in 30 years, games often embodied the physicality of martial arts.
“The game of basketball needs to be a game of basketball and no longer a full-contact sport,” Kowalczyk said. “Freedom of movement has gotten away from us, and it was evident last year.”
Drawing a charge could soon be obsolete, falling in line behind short shorts and the now defunct BracketBusters. As soon as an offensive player begins movement to the basket a defender cannot slide into his path to create contact. Under the old rules the defender had to establish position by the time the offensive player elevated from the floor.
Kowalczyk, whose fourth team at Toledo is his best one yet, believes the Rockets will benefit from the changes.
Most importantly is depth. With 11 scholarship players whom he is comfortable giving meaningful minutes, Kowalczyk has enough parts to overcome foul trouble that figures to arise as players adapt to tighter officiating. Toledo opens with a Nov. 3 exhibition against Hillsdale before starting the season in earnest six days later against Northwestern Ohio.
“I think fans are sick and tired of 52-50,” Kowalczyk said. “They want 82-80, and that’s what they’re going to get.”
The 68 points per game averaged by Division I teams in 2012-13 was the lowest output since 1982 and second lowest since 1952.
The Rockets, who have excelled under Kowalczyk at the free-throw line, are equipped to make opponents pay for getting too physical. A year ago Toledo led the MAC at 76.1 percent and climbed to second in the nation in early February.
“Our coaches are telling us to get to the rim,” guard Justin Drummond said. “That’s our green light because we were a great free-throw shooting team.”
Drummond, who is among five Toledo newcomers, shot 77 percent from the line in 2011-12 at Loyola (Md.).
Kowalczyk brought in officials recently to explain to his team the revised rules and is ordering his assistants to call fouls at practice reflecting the changes.
“We’re learning how to play with our feet and not our hands,” Drummond said. “We have a lot of athletic guys who can play with their feet.”