Monday, August 10, 2009

No longer Depressed!

I wrote a blog a couple of weeks ago that generated a lot of discussion, good and bad. Even though my objective was to give my OPINION of ways in which I FEEL we must improve in the club basketball arena, some took it as an indictment or personal attack. Some expressed a more positive outlook on the situation and some took to personally slamming kids and other clubs in a defense of their agenda. I now am revisiting my OPINIONS with a new set of eyes.

The post under discussion originated with the defeat of the areas best club team by younger girls. This post will hit upon some of the same topics but using a different type of player, coach and system of development to support my OPINIONS.

I traveled to the MAYB tournament this past week with my 7th grade team. In my failed pursuit of the championship, I found the scene to be enlightening. My argument from my “Depressing” blog will be supported with examples of what I saw in Oklahoma.

1. Toughness

“Be Physical Katie, Stay Physical Honey”! Those calls were made by the mother of the very intimidating 7th grader by the name of Katie Burkhart. Katie, all 5’2 and 90lbs of her, was the point guard on a very physical and almost abusive 3-1-1 press. Katie played for the Missouri Elite and had already hit 4 three pointers. She also had a traditional three point play by taking a lot of contact only to finish the layup and splash the free throw. I found it amusing how “NASTY” the girls from the Missouri Valley played. They grabbed shirts, body checked cutters, slammed into players when boxing out, and played defense with pride. I sat back and smiled as I heard mothers yell at their little girls to get tough and get up from hard fouls while dads gave an earful to the refs. As I left, Missouri Elite was blowing the Oklahoma Lady Titans out by 20 at the first half. The encouraging thing was that the Titans were also ingrained to be tough. In fact, the same mother that was calling on her daughter to be more physical also accused the Lady Titans of being Kamikazes for the way that they made hard fouls on fast breaks. These parents expected physicality and encouraged it.

During the Elite 8 of the 11-12th grade bracket, I met Coach Matilda Mossman. Coach Mossman is the very successful leader of Norman High school girls’ team. She lead the Tigers to a 2005 State Championship and is the schools all time wins leader, surpassing OU’s Sherri Coale. During the MAYB match up between Oklahoma Blue Angels and the Oklahoma Lady Trotters, Coach Mossman cheered emphatically with the rest of the fans. Her most emphatic celebration came as she applauded Mariah Turner for taking a bone crushing charge to help preserve an overtime victory. The interesting thing in this was finding out that Mariah plays for Mossman in high school. Mossman gave Turner a huge hug and congratulated the 6’0 bruiser on taking a charge that made her so proud. The former championship state winning coach went on to explain to me that she tries to support as many AAU games that her girls are playing in as possible. Her dynamic point guard, Kamra King lived in the paint as she scored 12 points in the second half a very physical game. Her coach smiled with every one of her forays to the basket, even though most of them resulted in some sort of collision. It is this type of support and encouragement that breeds tough players.

Another issue I addressed:

2. Right Priorities-

Throughout the event I saw numerous instances of coaches playing their kids up. The most glaring example was in the 8th grade division. The Kansas Lynx lost in the 8th grade championship. They were lead by a reserved coach by the name of Jim Page. One of the reasons that Coach Page could be so calm is that his 7th grade daughter was leading his pack. He also had his 6th daughter along for the ride. It helps when you have raised a 6’1 right handed shooting guard that handles it like a point guard and prefers to go left. Kaylee Page is the deal! and is rumored to already have the attention of the University of Kansas. She reportedly plays pick up ball routinely with current Jayhawk players ( if that is the case, she will soon learn to tape her ankles firmly around CeCe Harper ). Kaylee is very skilled as I saw her pass with her left hand in traffic on numerous occasions and hit the open three off of the dribble. She plays the top of her fathers ¾ 1-2-2 press and causes problems for opposing guards with her length. Her body resembles former San Antonio star, Christine Flores. Instead of being pigeon holed in the post, Kaylee is being prepared to play 3 or 4 positions at the collegiate level. Not only does her father play her up, he DEVELOPS her to be successful while doing so.

Let’s rewind back to that Blue Angel team. They played up and beat a very talented and skilled Oklahoma Trotter team to earn a Final Four trip. I saw the Oklahoma Trotters beat a full roster TeamXpress Black on their way to losing to one of the best teams in the country, Nike Cy-Fair Shock, at the PBR Super 64 in July. The Trotters feature at least 7 D1 kids including a senior point guard that will make a Jr. College stop on her way to a D1 school. The Blue Angels played with all incoming juniors and came out on top of the overtime game.

I also spoke of:

3. Flawed Teaching

I wrote, “Basketball players are supposed to get better during every club season.”

This event allowed me to see players that are taught well. One example is the coach of the Kansas Sparqs, another team that lost in the Championship. The Sparqs are led by Doug Finch, Head Coach at Salina High School in Kansas. Coach Finch knows a few things about coaching as he has won over 300 hundred games as a high school coach on the boys side but more importantly, he is a DEVELOPER!!!! WNBA players, Nicole Ohlde, Laurie Koehn, Kendra Wecker and Creighton Asst. Coach, Dayna Finch all were developed under Coach Finchs’ tutelage. Some of Coach Finchs’ philosophies include:

- NO SETS!- Coach Finch believes that girls have a tendency to become robots so he has a continuous offense with few rules. He wants his kids to read and react within his 4 Out 1 In system. He favors Rick Majerus’s version of the 4 out 1 in.

- NO ZONES- Coach Finch plays full court man with 8 girls. His theory is that man teaches mental and physical toughness and prepares kids for the collegiate level.

- NO FOULS- Coach Finchs' assistant, Brian Wood runs the 11 man fast beak drill with a rule that there will be no fouls called. In fact, he calls the drill “No Babies”!

Coach Finch had a 5’10 kid named, Shaelyn Martin, who could play varsity on most local teams as a rising 8th grader. And she is a shooting guard! His lone 6’0 kid also played on the perimeter and could handle and shoot. His eventual lost in the championship to the Missouri Elite was partially brought on by his no zone philosophy. Playing 8 girls, full court man defense, for 8 games in 72 hours and expecting them to win the championship is a lot to ask 13 year olds. Imagine that, an accomplished coach sacrifices wins for the sake of development. It is that type of forward thinking that has PRODUCED three pros and a daughter who thrived at the D1 level. Those type of expectations and mental preparation is what has made him such an elite DEVELOPER and coach, all while preparing a daughter and former pupil to step in and coach at the D1 level.

As Michelangelo wrote ," The greater danger for most of us, is not that our aim is too HIGH and we miss it...but that it is too LOW and we reach it!" We all must continue to observe the habits of the best and emulate them in an effort to be the best. While there is no one way of developing good basketball players, WE MUST DEVELOP!!!