Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Early Observations!!

The club season is now in full swing as most competitive clubs/teams played in exposure events this past weekend. Some early observations follow:

  • San Antonio club directors/coaches are starting to get it! Playing great competition and in exposure events are replacing the outdated philosophy of chasing plastic trophies. San Antonio had at least a dozen teams at the Heart of Texas in Frisco. A few more teams were in Houston at the Cy-Fair Texans event and another organization attended the prestigious Boo Williams Invitational.

  • With all the awareness of playing better competition and in exposure events, we must collectively remember that advanced skill set translates on any court in the country. Truthfully, some of the kids attempting to play in front of college probably should learn to dribble with both hands and jump off of the correct foot on lay ups attempts . Or should I say, some club coaches should teach these things before putting kids in front of coaches.

  • I was amazed at the skill set and Basketball IQ of the Oklahoma kids as a whole. Two teams in Frisco were particularly very impressive, Oklahoma And 1 and Oklahoma Select Blue. Both teams play full court man and aggressive full court traps for the entire game. Both teams have versatile wings that can shoot, guard numerous positions and attack off of the dribble. Both teams have at least 2 point guards who are smart, can handle the rock on a string and play defense like they are mad at the world. They both have smart coaches that are able to teach advanced concepts. Understandably, both teams have 8-10 players that will play at Division 1 universities. I asked the Oklahoma And 1 coach how often he practices because his kids were so skilled and intelligent. His reply, "We have been together for 3 weeks, our HIGH SCHOOLS due an amazing job". I immediately thought that two of the best coaches in SA, UTSA's Rae Blair and Reagan's Terry Barton, are from Oklahoma.

  • This led me to think of a few things like the art of shooting, skill set implementation and intelligent offense. When viewing Oklahoma wings over the last few years, I have noticed how well those kids shoot. Think former UTSA sharp shooter, Jordan Starks. Starks was in the 5"11 range and shot from 25 feet range with consistency. Take current UTSA 6"2 player, Whitney Wright. Wright is comfortable shooting the 3 ball and probably actually prefers it to playing in the post. Both these players would have probably been designated post players if they played high school ball in SA. A lot of Oklahoma teams play some sort of motion offense, even at the club level. This necessitates that ALL five players are capable enough to do their part versus extreme pressure. I am always tickled with some local parents who yell " move the ball" at high school games. More often than not, these same parents have kids who are incapable of making good basketball plays due to a lack of skill set and Basketball IQ. I guess the theory goes to move the ball to unskilled kids so she can turn it over or take a shot that she is incapable of routinely making. Its is a reason that she is open! These Oklahoma kids have 6 ft players that handle pressure like 5 ft point guards. That is the reason that their coaches can effectively run motion(equal opportunity) offenses.

In an instructional DVD by Xavier Mens Coach Chris Mack, he makes this great point. Why are ALL NBA teams running pick and roll sets the majority of the time. The overwhelming reason is to keep the best ball handler and decision maker with the ball in his(her) hands most of the time. The NBA sees the reasoning behind allowing the most qualified kid(pro) to make the majority of the decisions, in a league full of pros. The argument is, "that is why the women's game is more pure." Tell that to Notre Dame, who lost to a Texas A&M team that runs a ton of pick and roll and rode point guard, Sydney Colson to a championship.

(Sidenote on Colson: I have spoken with pundits that "bragged" that Sydney Colson would have or should have been an All-American if she played with a different club team during high school. I have also heard some say that she would have been an All-American in college if she chose a different school. Last week, Sydney was chosen as the first pick in the second round of the WNBA draft and won a NCAA championship. She was chosen before all but two high school All-American guards. I think she and her family made the right decisions!)

  • The art of shooting that is exhibited by the Oklahoma kids bring up another issue in San Antonio schools. How many schools have The GUNN or Dr Dish? The shooting machines are must haves in most parts of the country. Most booster clubs can raise the $4000 to buy one. There is no surprise that so many teams in the state tournament have a number of kids that can shoot the three like it's a lay up. Part of the problem in the lack of shooters is the red tape involved in accessing gyms. Gone is the day where the Jackie Stiles' off old are allowed to stay in the gym and shoot all night. How many local coaches stick around and let kids shoot a thousand shots after school? How many kids have keys to the gym or are cordial with janitors enough to be allowed to shoot. The tales of this STILL happening in Dallas, Houston and other parts of the country are common. I saw current University of Cal star Layisha Claredon grow up in a tough neighborhood in San Bernadino, CA. The gym was her sanctuary and she spent countless nights honing her craft, along with her teammates. She now is studying at one of the most respected academic institutions in the nation. Her high school coach deserves a ton of credit for that success story. For the next Claredon's to happen, it will take coaches who give access to gyms to players that want to get better. More importantly, it takes players that want to get better.

  • A couple conversations with the fathers of elite players recently have helped keep perspective on the Elite. Alexis "The Great" Jones father took time to impart some of his vast wisdom to me. I asked him how often his daughter works on her game. He replied that she is "resting" after winning a state championship and she "only" works out fours days a week now. Her usual regiment calls for six days of skill set work including running a steep hill while dribbling combination moves. How many club players do not work of their games just 3 times a week?

  • In a separate conversation with another father, he went on to explain the difference between two clubs. His daughter moved from one club to another this season. His current club has 24 kids on two rosters,with 14 of the kids ranked in the HoopGurlz 100 in their respective class. This father goes on to say that the biggest difference is that "these girls stay in the gym". His daughter started for one of the 5A semifinalists this past season and has been a participant at the well respected Nike Regional Skills Academy. Yet, he was amazed at this new environment and the dedication of the players. A lot of club ball detractors state that it is easy to stack talent and look good. What those people fail to realize is that NO elite kid was born that way. Countless hours of practice is how an elite player becomes elite.

  • To further this point, the USA 16u tryouts is next month in Colorado Springs. Of the eighteen 2014 players invited(seventeen 2013's invited), I have seen or coached against 6 of these freshmen since they were in the 4th/5th grade. I have seen California kids Jordin Canada, LaJahna Drummer, and Gabby Green since the 4th grade. I have seen Texas kids McKenzie Calvert, Brianna Turner since the 5th/6th grade. I have seen Cali born and Texas resident Recee' Caldwell for a little bit longer than the others. The point is that these 6 players have been competing against each other and working extremely hard on their games for at least 6-7 years. All work with trainers for specific and concentrated instruction. They all now have the opportunity to represent their country playing a game they love. Good for them!

  • Quote of the Day: Talent determines Tolerance- "I will tolerate more from those with talent than those without" Terence Jackson, Elite Trainer/Club Director

Spoken like every college coach or business owner in the country, whether they admitted or not. This quote made me reflect on a special aired by HBO about the UCLA Dynasty. The late great John Wooden personally picked up Hall of Fame center Bill Walton from jail after being arrested for protesting the Vietnam war. Instead of penalizing Walton, Wooden reprimanded him and gave him advise. Would Coach Wooden have done the same for the 12th man on his bench? It is easy to say yes but remember that Coach Wooden was known for NOT coaching his entire team; he delegated his lesser players to being instructed by his staff while he concentrated on his core that led him to 10 titles.

  • The USA 16U invites list is here