Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Basketball Lessons from J-Lo!

In the early 2000's, Jennifer Lopez was It. Fresh off of her performance as the late great Selena, Lopez picked up the microphone and started a career as a "singer". Lopez had the foresight and luck to join a very hot producer named Irv Gotti during his incredible streak as a hit maker. Lopez became a disciple of Mary J. Blige and the genre she helped create which was Hip-Hop Soul. The difference between Mary J and J-Lo, as Lopez was increasingly known , was that Mary J could SING, while J-Lo could "sing".

Technology has touched all walks of life. The music industry is a major benefactor of technology and Lopez benefitted greatly from modern techniques. Her musical coach, producer, Irv Gotti knew the environment in which J-Lo thrived in. He kept things simple for her by writing simple verses that were heavy on the monotone requirements and stayed away from complicated voice arrangements. Lopez hits were hook heavy, catchy rhythms that even the untrained could sing along. Gotti used technology to add reverb to Lopez's voice in order to give it more substance. The result was a very successful album and designation as a pop star. Then J-Lo got in over her head.

One of the most difficult things for a grassroots basketball coach to ensure is that you are putting your players in a position to succeed. Our job is to teach supreme confidence in the face of competition. We help shape a positive vision for young players in a field that is full of rejection and failure. We preach that the odds can be beaten, that seemingly insurmountable numbers do not apply to our players.

While instilling self belief, coaches also have to keep in mind that like music, there are levels to success, ceilings in fact. And too like music, individual and collective ability determines a players success at conquering a certain level.  A grassroots coach will inevitably  face a time where their players are not capable of effectively achieving in a game, a time when they have hit their ceiling. VERY few players can play in ANY environment and still achieve. Those that do/can, eventually become the pros that we watch on TV.

The difficult part in realizing that your players are in over their heads is first admitting it. At times we can feel as though it is a personal indictment of our ability and resist  admitting that our kids are not ready. Then comes the hard part, benching or limiting the minutes of a player that you have taught to always believe. It is hard not to feel like a hypocrite. You have instilled an "I believe in you, so you believe in you" philosophy in your players, yet in those overwhelming situations, you obviously do not believe in them enough to play them. Being an integral part of their development, you feel you are positioned to know their strengths and weaknesses. You feel like, "who knows them better than you" and surely your positive intentions for their well being is beyond question.

 I am sure that is what Irv Gotti felt like after he and J-Lo created magic and enriched both of their careers. Gotti knew what J-Lo's ceiling was and he made sure to keep her on a successful level. J-Lo then chose to undertake a different form of music, singing ballads. The problem was that J-Lo failed to understand that she was not really like Mary J Blige. Unlike Blige, who was raised singing difficult gospel ballads in church, she could not go to that NEXT level and achieve the same results. J-Lo and her advisors, akin to some basketball parents, figured that since she may have outsold and received more praise on the Hip-Hop Soul level than Mary J at that time, she was as good as Mary J and ready for that NEXT level. Wrong! She should have listened to Gotti, the coach (producer) that KNEW her skill set best. Instead, her music career has been EXPOSED as a novelty. She "played in front of scouts" versus singers that were truly NEXT level performers and her career has never fully recovered. Basketball parents should take heed. Sometimes that Irv Gotti ,that has your child in the correct lane, is there for a reason. They know when to add reverb, a simple hook and a catchy rhythm. They also know that unlike J-Lo, basketball scholarships do not include royalties and you are paid(rewarded) on current production, not past performance on an inferior level.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

December quick hitters!

Here is a quick look into some city happenings for December:

- The Wulf is showing why he is one of the premier coaches in the city. The Churchill leader, Cal Wulfsberg is arguably the best the city has to offer and his 19-1 record lends to that argument. True the Chargers have not played a very challenging schedule early but they will be heard when the fight for 26-5A is over.  The Chargers have quality wins over Top 10 Clark (twice). 2015 guard Mickey Flores is now the 'go get it done' piece that Wulf is riding this year. The tenacious and physically tough Flores is averaging close to 18 a game and is joined in double digit territory by Dori Villareal chipping in 12 a game.

Back to the Wulf, female basketball enthusiasts spotted the Churchill girls coach on the bench of a recent game as assistant coach for the Top 5 Churchill boys teams. This should be no surprise. The guy is a gym rat and I would be very surprised if he does not end up on the boys side soon enough.

- Speaking of girls coaches flirting with the boys side, NEISD head coaches, Terry Barton (Reagan), Randy Evans (Johnson) were both long time boys coaches. In fact, the story goes that Evans was turned down for the boys job at Brennan and took the girls job in consolation. It turned out to be probably the best move for him since the Brennan squad was loaded and led Evans to his most successful coaching season and his 1st and only SAEN Coach of the Year award after two decades on the boys bench. It also started a streak of Evans inheriting D1 players, another first for the long time boys coach.

- Staying on the subject of coaching, watching Triva Corrales zone offense vs Reagan was impressive. I had to scan my brain to realize that the zone offense she employed is one of the most common strategies that Michigan State men's coach Tom Izzo uses. Corrales is a student of the game and put her kids in position to get open shots. The problem is, Judson has a tough time making shots, from the from the perimeter or the paint. Simone Fields shot 75% for the game but had little help in the area of point production. That said, Triva's team is arguably the best in the city on the defensive end. They held #1 Brennan to 40 points and Top 10 Johnson to 34 points.

- Roosevelt's leader Rob Rheinberger has his team flying below the radar. The Roughriders are 11-2 with good wins over Southwest, Clemens and Brandies. In this down year for the city, Rheinberger's patient offensive philosophy coupled with his stingy defense will make a lot of teams uncomfortable.  They have decent size, aggressive athletes and a style of play that should prove difficult for some expected favorites come district.

- This city IS down! I championed the 2014 class as the most heralded in SA history so how can I say the city is down? No disrespect intended but it is the 2015 and 2016 classes that are thinning out the high school scene in the city. For instance, when the 2014 were freshman, the city had a strong 2011 class(Donovan, Govan, Roberson), a decent 2012 class(Mitchell- Cole,Berry,Gumbs) and a good 2013 class(Smith, Vorpahl, Allemand). This equated to close 50 plus D1 players going at it during that time. In contrast, I would be surprised if there are more than 35 D1 players playing in HS today. It also hurts that two Top 10 nationally ranked guards are not playing on the local scene.

- With the thin depth around the city, coaching is going to become even more important in 5-A. Coaching and toughness! When I sit back and think tough, I see Judson as a team that will cause problems come playoffs and a Steele team that has the most on-court "alley cats" equipped to battle. When I think coaching, Terry Barton's team will execute when needed and Tina Camacho always seems to find a way during crunch time.

Some players getting it in early!

Brackenridge Offense- Averaging over 60 pts a game in 17 outings. Miranda Acuna leads them with 14.8, Breean Rodriguez earning 14.2 and Skylar Reyna putting in 13.2.

Bailey Quisenberry- Devine HS- The savvy 2016 PG is averaging close to 18 points and over 5 assists.

Liz Cathcart- Smithson Valley- The 2015 SF is producing over 13 pts and close to 8 brds a game.

Gabby Connally- Brandeis- The freshman combo guard is leading 27-5A in scoring at over 14 a game.

Desiree Rodriguez- 2014 G for Southside is putting up 16 plus a game while shooting 36% from 3pt land.