Well, the first one is behind us and I know it was a learning experience for us all. I want to say thank you to all of the parents that came to support and transported young men as well. Also, to those that stepped in and did score sheets, ran the clock, brought Gatorade/water, and even snacks, thank you very much. I hope the players are showing their gratitude as well. As the summer progresses, I will charge my coaches to be detailed in their recaps so that I can put a comprehensive one together for the site. That said, I will give you what I have now from this weekend:
Our u15 team has at least 3 8th graders and only had 7 players at the tournament, so they were shorthanded. However, out of all the teams in my eyes their attitudes were the best. Though they finished 0-3, they gained a respect not often seen on the travel circuit. In game two, we were behind by 24 at halftime to The Progam by Greenwood Elite, 19-43. We talked to the players at the half about not worrying about the score, but playing to gain experience and learning from everything. They took it to heart. In the first 4 minutes of the half, we cut the lead to 11 behind a basket from Azonte’ Burks and then 11 straight points from Noah Baylis. This prompted the opposition to go into a stall technique with 12 minutes remaining in the contest. Long story short, the game ended in defeat 42-57, but the guys learned something very valuable. Even when your are shorthanded and undersized, you don’t fear anyone. Noah displayed the courage of a veteran at only 14 years-old. He ended the game with 26 points, including 6 three-point bombs. There is no question he is one of, if not the best shooter in his class. The next game proved that when the opponent beat him bloody in an attempt to stop him…of course it was the “parent” team of The Program, the Greenwood Elite A team. Azonte’ (Ruffy) put in 7 points versus The Program was a man on the boards all weekend as well. That 1-2 punch will be dangerous if they stay together, trust me. Gavin Ambrose also pitched in 5 points vs. The Program.
The u16 team got the first win of the weekend with a 42-40 victory on Friday night over Common Bond. They then played hard games against a tough Michigan Mustangs team and Powerstroke team. The theme of the weekend was undersized. We are just that; however, it cannot be an excuse. The u16 team did not use it as one either while playing, but there were certainly times that size won out. I was there for the game versus the Mustangs and it was a good contest with us coming up short 32-47. Speaking of size, our smallest guy, Demetrius Miller, gave the Mustangs all they could handle on offense and defense until foul trouble slowed him down a bit. I told Demetrius that he has a lot to live up to being the namesake of one of MML’s all-time greatest players so far. The former Demetrius Miller would have been proud of the current one for sure. At 5’4″, his heart is huge. He ended with 8 points and 3 steals. The newest member, Marlando Wade, made his debut in that game and also chipped in 8 points, while bringing a little more size into the equation. He was a member of Beecher High School’s state champion team, so that experience should help the team immensely. Andrew Spak also showed a toughness that was unafraid of anyone of the opposing players. His fearlessness definitely rubbed off on his teammates.
It is natural that I will have more on the team I coached this weekend primarily, but there wasn’t a ton to talk about honestly. We finished with a semifinal loss in the silver division, but were overall 1-3. Because we were placed in a super pool of sorts, we were granted a bye in the first round of bracket play. We have earned those things through our prior play. However, if anyone was watching our first two games, they may have changed their minds. The first against Oakland County Ballers was just plain awful. There is no other word to describe it. We lost 35-65 and it was that ugly. Call it first game jitters, call it fear, call it being unprepared, but whatever you call it, it was not good. Austin Harless scored 7 and Ricky Holmes III chipped in 6 in defeat. In the first half and the beginning of the second half versus the Michigan Playmakers, we looked like we had learned our lessons from game one. Then the turnovers began again and the game was quickly taken by them 36-60. Live ball turnovers are the biggest deterrent to winning in these tournaments. You MUST value the possession. Paris Partee scored 9, Tyler Rose 7, Savionn Boone 6, and Jose Bartolomei-Castro 5. Much like Noah and Demetrius mentioned above, Jose left that game earning respect of the opposition playing with heart despite a small stature. After that we had a different huddle where every player had a chance to speak. I believe they were able to see the game through each person’s eyes and the third game seemed to show it. From the start, we jumped all over the Kennedy team with a dunk by Ricky right off of the opening tip. From there it was a litany of outside shots, rebounds, steals, and blocks that gave us control throughout. Austin was pretty much unstoppable in the 54-34 win, finishing with 20 points and knocking down 4 from beyond the arc. Paris had 10 points, 12 rebounds, and 4 blocked shots as well. Thomas Cook put in 9 points and Trevor Bland put in 5 of his own. In the semifinal game that was next on Sunday afternoon, a valiant effort was just a bit short 50-53 versus Michigan Threats. The turnover bug plagued us once again, foul trouble, and a few missed shots down the stretch and maybe a few better coaching moves could have made the difference. As I told the guys, any loss under 5 is on me as the coach. Austin led the way with 10 points, Thomas had 9, Eagan Bayer 8, and Paris 6. Hopefully, lessons were learned.
-We had a theft scare after the u17 game when a bag went missing. Parents and players bear that in mind. There is little or no security at these events. We need to look out for each other.
-The slickest passes I saw this weekend came from u16’s James Richardson Jr. Unfortunately, the team wasn’t ready for a number of them, but that will change as they grow together.
-As I have told each team, we do NOT do this to win tournaments. We do this to develop players…winning will come as development occurs. It is a process, so there should be no discouragement throughout the process.
-MVPs: U15- Noah, U16- Demetrius, U17- Austin
-There is no better rebounder on the circuit than Paris. At only 6’2″, he engulfs rebounds over bigger guys. If only he would grow…
-We have some of the best shooters around in our program. There is no coincidence that Noah and Austin led they way in 3 point makes this weekend. They are in the gym shooting nearly everyday. Success comes through hard work. There are no shortcuts.
-We had a bit of a dust up in attitude. Understand this, only the coaches will have some leeway to display attitude. It is their job to “fight” for you with officials, not yours. You play, that’s it. Our only attitude should be one of hard work and supporting your teammates whether you’re on the court or on the bench. People are watching your every move. College coaches hate to see disgruntled guys slumped on the bench. And if you play for me, bad attitude will get you sitting next to me on the bench for a long time.
-Marlando played for a state champion that was as tough as nails. If I were on his team, I would pick his brain to get any tips I could about what that takes to accomplish it.
-Ricky provided the first dunk of the year with a big one-handed one off of the jump ball. We should see more and more of that.
-Ruffy is the program’s next Paris in terms of rebounding…he may actually already jump higher…LOL
-I hope Andrew’s fire rubs off on everyone. Man that dude is tough
-All right, on to the next one! It starts tonight in practice!