My twins, Bryson and Holland, applied to college this week. Bryson to Jacksonville University where he will play soccer, and Holland to Florida Atlantic University and Florida State University. I assisted, to the extent they permitted, them in writing their admissions essays, and reviewed the final products. It was a revealing process, but not in the way I intended.
Bryson essentially used me to generate some raw thoughts early in the process, and then trampled my work with a theatrical essay on his road to achievement. He glorified himself as a writer of great repute while dismissing me as a benign objectivist. Between the lines though, I was surprised to read a bit more insecurity than he would outwardly concede, though when pressed on this issue, he deftly shielded himself with a “dramatic flourish” defense.
Holland offered little at the outset of the process and was openly insecure. She pushed me to start the process while I pressed her for insight into her genuine feelings and aspirations. I assembled a draft and left the end open for “her”. She demurred and consulted her brothers. Bryson produced a draft that was over the top unusable excrement. I was pissed.
This morning I woke to a draft from Holland that was pitch perfect. She expressed herself. Wrote from the heart, and in the closing paragraph a lump developed as I read in her words the strength that I always believed was in her. I touched up a few grammatical points and sent it back with the words, “Holland, really good job. You dug in and wrote from the heart. That’s where good writing exists. Not in fake drama and bullshit. I left the last paragraph untouched because it was real. Loved it. Even got a bit choked up. Now get this application submitted and become a NOLE!”
I went all caps on the “NOLE!” for selfish reasons. I am a NOLE! This weekend, my old roommate Sarvin Patel took his family to Tallahassee for the first time to see a game and sent a bunch of pictures. We spent the weekend texting pictures and telling stories of our time in Tallahassee. It was a special time and, as time has proven, unforgettable. I wish that experience for anyone that goes to college, and especially, my guys.
As a college athlete, Bryson will have the unique experience of team sports at a high level and the ability to bond with his teammates through the demanding rigors of time management, close proximity and competitive challenge. It is something I was unable to achieve for myself and for which I am immensely proud of him.
As a college student, Holland’s journey will be different, much closer to my own, and maybe that is why I am rooting so hard for her to be a NOLE! At any campus, you will study for your degree and meet valuable friends that can influence and alter the course of your life, but for me, there is a tremendous enhancement of the experience when it is done at a school like Florida State where sports, on the national level, are so important. You never forget that time of your life. It becomes a part of you for better or worse. It is a brotherhood or sisterhood not as tightly defined as Bryson will enjoy, but eternal.
I remember leaving the stadium after beating the Gators during law school. Every Nole in the stadium chanted and chopped their way down the concourse and into the night. My only thought, other than pride, was that my Dad needed to see a game before I graduated, or he died. The following year we chanted and chopped our way out of the stadium after beating Miami’s ass. I want this for Holland. I want it for both us so that in addition to our father/daughter bond we have a bond as NOLES!
And just maybe she might have a better understanding of why her father hurls objects across the room when a lineman jumps offside on 3rd and 2, mother fucks the world with every missed tackle in space, buries every scrap of Nole clothing in the deepest corner of the closet after a 63-20 loss, or just beams with pride every weekend “we” win.
I did not write this, but its sound advice for any pig-headed player screwing up the local pick up with crappy play.
PRINCIPLE 1: TEAM SHAPE
Every time your team has the ball, you must spread out to make the field as big as possible. This is done by player 9 pushing up as high as possible, wingers 7 and 11 getting out as high and wide as possible, the back line dropping back and the midfielders spreading into the space in the middle.
PRINCIPLE 2: PEEL OFF AND OPEN BODY TO THE FIELD
All the players ahead of the ball should peel off their opponent and open their body so they can receive the ball facing up field. Players should avoid receiving the ball with back to goal if there is pressure on them. Move away from pressure and open body to at least a sideways-on posture.
PRINCIPLE 3: BENDING RUNS
Whenever you make a forward run on the flanks, bend your run towards the outside to create width and separate yourself from your opponent. Whenever you make a forward run in the middle of the field, bend your run to give the passer enough time to judge the pass, to open up a passing lane for a through ball, and to avoid running into off-side.
PRINCIPLE 4: RUNS TRIGGER RUNS – AWARENESS OF SURROUNDING
Players need to look around them all the time to see where their teammates and opponents are. This will help players make the correct runs and will avoid players duplicating runs or running into the same area. For example, if you are an attacking midfielder and you see that your center forward is making a checking run towards the ball, you might decide to run into the space created by him/her and run onto a through ball behind the other team’s defense. Another example is when a winger runs inside to make room for the fullback to overlap. Runs trigger other runs but for that to happen you must be constantly looking around you to assess your position in relation to your teammates’ positions.
PRINCIPLE 5: DIAGONAL PASSES
Diagonal passes are better than vertical passes. Diagonal pass allows the receiver to open his/her body and receive the pass facing up field. A diagonal pass accomplishes both penetration and switching all in one pass. A vertical pass is played into a player who is likely to be facing his/her own goal and have limited vision. If he/she is marked, a vertical pass is difficult to control. Avoid vertical passes and look for the diagonal ball as often as possible.
PRINCIPLE 6: EVERY BACK PASS IS FOLLOWED BY A SWITCH
When a player makes a back pass, he/she is likely doing it because he/she does not see an option to play forward. It usually means that the area in front of the ball is too congested or your team is outnumbered in this area. For this reason, it is usually best to switch the ball into another area of the field. Another reason for a switch following a back pass is to sustain a rhythm of possession and increase the speed of play.
Of course, there are exceptions to this principle. For example, if the back pass is part of a combination play like a wall pass or a back-through passing sequence to penetrate, it is of course ok.
PRINCIPLE 7: THE BALL DOESN’T STAY IN AN AREA FOR LONG
To maintain possession and not allow the other team to press and win the ball, we have to circulate the ball and move it constantly around the field. This makes us less predictable and it makes it harder for the other team to pin us down and press us with lots of players. As a rule of thumb, after a couple of short passes in one area, the next pass should be played out of the area.
PRINCIPLE 8: KEEPERS DISTRIBUTE BALLS, AVOID THE LONG PUNT
Since the emphasis in ODP is to play out of the back, it is important for the keeper and the back line to become comfortable at playing out of the back. When the keeper catches a cross or a shot, the team should spread out quickly so the keeper can throw the ball to a free player. On goal kicks, the keeper should look to play the ball to feet rather than send everyone up and take a long high kick.
PRINCIPLE 9: USE THROW-INS TO SWITCH THE POINT OF ATTACK
Use the throw in to switch the point of attack since the opposing team has most of their players squeezed into the area near the throw-in. This means that there is lots of space on the other side of the field. Avoid throwing the ball down the line into a crowd since it usually results in loss of possession.
PRINCIPLE 10: SPEED OF PLAY
You have to learn to play quickly and keep the ball moving. This requires a lot of one touch and two touch play. This results in a high tempo of possession and makes it difficult for the opponents to keep up with the play. There are some moments when dribbling is appropriate, but for the majority of the time, quick one touch or two touch passing is the best way. If you watch high level soccer on TV, you will see how quickly the ball is passed from one player to the next, with a minimum of fuss and with quick and pacey ball movement. KEEP THE BALL MOVING!!!!
Dave Farber, Bryan Richardson and Juan Bernal sat around a table at Twin Peaks in Altamonte in the fading daylight hours of Sunday August 7. It was somber as Pedro’s Posse had just dropped a 3rd straight game, and sat 5-5 on the season. The euphoria of last season’s run and Sweet 16 TBT 2016 showing seemed remote as it would take a massive effort to just make the playoffs this season. Jason Williams was suspended, and likely wouldn’t play the rest of the season, Rocky Trice was in hospital and we only had one substantial contributor from last season’s team remaining- Bryan Richardson, the Red Bull and vodka-fueled super shooter, who, for various reasons, was a shell of himself for most of the season. There was some serious thought, albeit for a very brief period of time (maybe 2-3 minutes) of mailing in the rest of the season.
Jason’s “suspension” was totally ludicrous, robbing Pedro’s Posse of its enigmatic talisman and irreparably damaging the psyche of the team. 28 different players suited up through 14 games, and six of them were lost with season ending injuries including promising newcomers, Spencer Rivers and Schuyler Rimmer. The season started two weeks later than usual causing additional difficulties with guys are leaving to go overseas and back to college. The pool of available talent dwindles as the month goes along. But in the desperate hours, Juan refused to quit. This is what real organizations and the spirit of Pedro’s Posse is made of- the grind, the hustle and everything that comes with it, whether you’re 16-0 or 8-6 (like we were in 2014, and grinded to make the Finals), you have to let situations play themselves out and keep fighting. And that’s exactly what we did.
With so many veterans injured or otherwise unavailable, we dug deeper into the 407 talent pool, and gave birth to the next generation of Pedro’s Posse- Dayon Griffin, Adonys Henriquez, Fletcher Magee, Brett Comer, Joe Chealey and Chris Ferguson all played well. We got cameos from veterans Deividas Dulkys, Luke Loucks, founding members John Pietkiewicz, DJ Ferguson, and the timely return to health of Rocky Trice. We lost our first game after the Twin Peaks soul searching, but won our next two to get to the playoffs at 7-6. We played surprisingly cohesive basketball and rediscovered our identity.
Our final regular season game was for seed, and again we faced adversity in the unpleasant guise of attrition, injury and unavailability. We went into our final regular season game with 6 players- 3 of whom Dave Farber, Nate Moran and Luis Brito are limited minutes role players. We started out beautifully and were up 24 midway through the third quarter. But 20 missed free throws, lack of execution and depth plagued us and we were in a dogfight. We were up 2 with 5 seconds to go, and Space Coast Stars missed a contested layup at the buzzer and we held on to a 72-70 win to clinch a three way tie for the 2nd seed.
Many things in the Pro-Am are all about circumstance, and throughout the season and prior, we have been on the wrong side of many circumstances.
In 2010- Guys missing flights and didn’t get back in time for games.
2013- Courtney Lee gets hurt on the morning of the play-offs and Nick Calathes plays with a 100 degree fever. Despite finishing the season 13-1, we lose in the first round of the playoffs.
2014- Rocky misses the championship game, Joey gets hurt in the first five minutes of the title game and we lose by 7 despite playing our third game that day.
2015- Rocky and Jason miss the championship after both getting hurt in the semifinal and we lose on a buzzer beater in overtime to ruin a perfect season.
Our semifinal playoff game on Sunday was rescheduled to Monday- where we had 8 solid guys and grinded out an overtime win, in what was very reminiscent of 2015 semifinal. We didn’t play well and had a couple of guys struggle offensively, but we fought hard, made some key stops at the end and Bryan Richardson hit some big shots in the 4th quarter and overtime. Deividas Dulkys was dreadful offensively, but our faith in him was rewarded with his defensive effort throughout the game, including a steal on a potential game winning possession for them.
We’ve been on the wrong side of many circumstances and have had a ton of adversity this season between various factors, but here we are. We showed our true colors. We fought and caught some breaks in the process. Third final in a row, 4th in 6, 5th in 8. Let’s finish this one.
“Hey, can you do me a favor and vote for my basketball team?”
“Sure, what’s this about?”
“We are trying to get into this winner take all $2,000,000 tournament and we need fan votes.”
“Yeah, or is it more plausible that I would make the whole thing up for shits and giggles?”
“I voted, but that was a pain in the ass.”
Thanks to everyone who voted, Jason Williams, Mike Bibby and Juan Bernal, we received word at the beginning of July that we made TBT 2016. Our roster remained a work in progress until the week of our first game with twice as many names discussed and contacted than the 10 guys that made the trip. We featured two former NBA stars in Jason Williams and Mike Bibby. Two former Florida State Seminoles in Deivedas Dulkys and Luke Loucks. Local players Alex Castillo, Josh Warren and Bryan Richardson, along with imports Torlyn Fitzpatrick, Bobo Morgan and Amadou Mbogi.
Our preparations consisted of two scrimmages during Juan’s Pro Exposure camp the week before our first game. We had a partial squad and played poorly in the first game losing a close one, but were vastly improved in the second rolling to a 25 point win. Other than some general camaraderie it was difficult to assess what we accomplished during the weekend.
The team arrived piecemeal in Chicago on Thursday and Friday. I flew up with Alex Castillo who shared my sense that any outcome ranging from getting blown out in game one to winning the damn thing were on the table. We drove directly to practice where we did some skill and press work with seven of our ten players. Mike Bibby’s flight was delayed from Los Angeles, and to make matters worse, Juan received a distressing text message from Bryan Richardson midway through practice advising that he and Jason Williams had yet to leave Orlando. Juan, who rivals Chuck Daley as the Prince of Pessimism, plunged into a dark mood for the remainder of practice.
After practice, we returned to our hotel on the outskirts of civilization (and the city of Chicago) to find Jason, Bryan, Mahmood and a wildly intoxicated Cliff Smith chilling in the parking lot delighted at the stress they had caused Juan. Bibby was still en route, but we would have a productive second practice later that night.
Jason took control of the practice introducing basic sets to the delight of a youth team that lingered after their practice to see Jason, but not the rest of us. Cliff was in rare form as practice wound down hoisting jump shots and challenging players to one on one while he wore flip flops and pulled the front of his shirt over his neck exposing his sizeable, tattoed stomach.
As the hotel was 45 minutes from anything fun or interesting, we had a team dinner at the hotel restaurant. Truth be told, it was a good meal and a great time with the guys, many of whom were getting to know each other for the first time. We were loose and still clueless as to what to expect the next day.
On Saturday morning, I drove to the game with Bobo, Auguste and Amadou. We met Mike Bibby (for the first time) at the front door of the arena and the rest of the players filtered in thereafter. Games were ongoing and the TBT 2016 staff was fantastic in taking care of our pregame needs. We shot around in a spare gym, and Mahmood went to work stretching our guys in the training room. At 12:30 pm, we took the floor against Eberlien Drive for our first game. Eberlien Drive featured Justin Dentmon, Renaldo Balkman and the Milsap brothers, and much like ourselves was something of a hodge-podge of talented players.
Jason started the game brilliantly with steals, buckets and assists giving us an early lead. We had difficulty containing Dentmon on the other end, but the game turned in our favor with the insertion of Bryan Richardson, who promptly nailed 3 triples leading Eberlien’s coach to berate his players for not noticing Richardson shooting prowess on Home Team Hoops youtube videos. We led by as many as 24 in the fourth quarter before enduring a sloppy finish to win 96-86. It was a great moment. Everyone on the roster delivered what they were brought in to do and we played entertaining basketball.
The players returned to the hotel to rest, but the staff stayed on to scout our next opponent. Purple and Black, a Kansas State alumni team, prevailed in a close game. They were led by scoring guard Jacob Pullen, but lacked depth.
We enjoyed another team meal at the hotel reveling in our victory, bemoaning the lack of fun at our hotel and combing backpage for potential hijinx. On the way out of dinner, we encountered a lacrosse team with their parents. One of the dads recognized Jason while most of the kids just marveled at the relative height of our players. I went up to hang out with Bryan Richardson, Jason, Mahmood and Cliff. Things had gotten chippy between Mahmood and Cliff. Trash talk was incessant. Cliff changed clothes several times while threatening to go out, but sadly fell asleep on the floor with a makeshift blanket. I had to take a dump, and for the courtesy of the guys, returned to the lobby where the lacrosse gathering was breaking up. I got on the elevator with three teen lacrosse players. One of them was thrilled to have seen Jason Williams, but his friend claimed he did not know who he was which triggered the response of “Dude, you don’t know sports! Jason is the OG “white chocolate”.”
We arrived in good form to play Purple and Black. They had only five players available, but took an early lead. Again, Bryan Richardson hit a few threes to get us going and Jason was our catalyst. Purple and Black rallied in the latter part of the first half but Jason hit a pull up three from 28 feet and left a drop pass for Bryan on another three to give us a one point lead at the half. There was cause for concern though as Purple and Black was small and athletic. We could not play with them with two bigs on the floor. We went small to start the second have with Fitzpatrick at center and he was fantastic in helping us build a solid lead. Purple and Black ran out of gas late succumbing to our patient ball movement and slick decision-making. We won 94-80.
By reaching the Sweet 16, TBT 2016 picked up the cost of travel and lodging for our trip to Philly the next weekend and ESPN2 would broadcast our game the following Friday. The minutes after the game were a fantastic whirlwind. We moved our team up the TBT 2016 bracket and took team photos before being whisked to a room for individual photos. Without much of a team talk, we were escorted to another room to book travel arrangements. Again the players scattered and the coaches remained to watch Always a Brave, a Bradley alumni team play the next game. Always a Brave played an up and down game trailing by 5 with seconds to play. They hit a 3 with 5.6 seconds left to cut it to 2 then benefitted from a colossal blunder as their opponent, with a timeout in their back pocket, threw the ball away allowing Always a Brave to hit the go ahead 3 with a second left. The narrow escape was disconcerting. Alex Castillo astutely noted that we would have a far easier go with the opponent who was talented, but not particularly well organized. Always a Brave was coached and would clearly have a plan in place against us.
I arrived in Philly and met my parents and sister at the airport. I got to the hotel around 3pm and found Juan immersed in game film. I got word of a team dinner with our assistant general manager and chief financier, Dave Farber, at the Outback around 5:30. I left the room for the lobby at 4:45 and had an uneventful walk to the lobby. By 5:15 the rest of the guys started to arrive with tales of a pile of shit lying in the middle of the hallway. It was described as large, foul-smelling, and believed to have come from a large dog. Later, the hotel staff would confirm that it was in fact human feces and there was video of the perpetrator (not a member of our traveling party). I have to confess to admiration for any man with the sheer audacity to take a dump in the middle of a hallway on a late Friday afternoon.
Our pregame meal was largely uneventful. Most of the guys wisely selected grilled chicken of some sort. Jason, who remained back in Club 207 (his room), texted a request for two whoppers and a large coke from Burger King.
At the arena, I was watching the earlier game when a coach from Always a Brave approached and asked me to convey a message to Bryan Richardson about a long ago game between Bradley and Richardson’s Tennessee-Chattanooga team. Richardson’s head dropped slightly when I relayed the story with the realization that he was unlikely to get a clean look all night. Nonetheless, we warmed up in the same gym as Always a Brave and I felt confident that we were better.
For the first 8 or 9 minutes, I was right. We led 20-15 and moved the ball well. We missed 4 lay ups though and with it the chance to take a double figure lead when we were in top form. Fouls accumulated. Always a Brave hit shots and took a lead in the later part of the first half. We kept Jason in the whole half to insure we stayed within striking distance, but he was gassed by halftime. Always a Brave was killing us on the glass including an offensive rebound of a missed free throw and a follow up three that gave them a 5 point lead at the half.
We had not played well, but at 41-35 were very much in the game. Unfortunately, Always a Brave hit the first 4 shots of the second half for a quick double figure lead. We had one window to get back in the game trailing by 10 at the 13 minute mark. We defended well, almost created a steal, but they got the loose ball and hit a 3 at the end of the shot clock to go up 13. We missed on the next possession and they scored again to go up 15. Game over. We lost 92-65. It was a bit embarrassing by the end. We mismanaged our bench, got exposed for our weaknesses and did not catch a break all game.
Jason uncorked an epic post-game presser. He praised Kevin Durant for joining the Warriors, called Charles Barkley a “fat loser that nobody wanted on their team”, described himself as “one irresponsible 40 year old” and concluded by saying when asked if he would return to TBT 2016 next year, “do fat hogs fart?”
We returned to the hotel and specifically Club 207 to heal our wounds before heading out on the town. We hit downtown Philly with a vengeance. Our first stop was a strange bar that featured 90’s music and white guys dancing with Christmas hats. We looked for something better and found Sixers rookie Ben Simmons on the street. He invited us to his VIP room at a much cooler club where we spent the rest of the night. We lived in the moment and even tried to convince a seedy establishment to stay open after hours to accommodate our circus.
Saturday, I toured the city with my parents in the morning, and hung at Club 207 most of the evening. The highlight, beyond the standard fare of Jason stories and life wisdom, was Mahmood’s long overdue ambush of Cliff Smith as he entered Club 207. Mahmood struck from the rear, but Cliff, fueled by alcohol and retard-strength, managed an improbable reversal. Mahmood contended that he was only playing, but was visibly shaken by his under-estimation of Cliff.
The players departed early Sunday morning, but I stayed on with Juan and Greg Miller, NBA aficionado and Lebron fanboy. We toured the city exchanged witty, jaded barbs and settled for a Geno’s cheesesteak before returning our rental car and flying home knowing that Pedro’s Posse, like MacArthur in the Phillipines and farting fat hogs, would return.
I returned to the noon ball run at First Presbyterian Church a few weeks ago after a six month absence. Most of the same guys still ran regularly, and there were a few new faces. One of the new faces ended up on my team in week three and it was not a pleasant experience.
In terms of pure athleticism and energy, he ranked in the top two or three guys in the gym that day, but we were playing basketball, a team sport and his actual value was closer to a clean towel.
Throughout game one, he would race the ball up the floor, pause at the top of the key with a look of confusion on his face, and then charge headlong into a contested shot in the general vicinity of the foul line. He seldom passed and when he did it was inaccurate in terms of both time and location. We got our ass kicked and I was close to leaving the gym.
In game two, circumstances conspired so that the ball ended up in my hands with greater frequency. I made several passes that resulted in easy baskets and we won. To my astonishment, my athletic teammate approached quite elated and exclaimed that passing was the key to our success. Thanks buddy, glad you noticed.
I was skeptical, but carried some notion of a potential breakthrough in team functionality into game three. Skepticism and stupidity carried the day as my new teammate’s admiration of passing was little more than a passing fancy. He hero-balled us into the hell of a second loss on three games.
This player’s complete lack of awareness is sad. He momentarily saw the error of his ways, but could not adapt his faulty mentality. If I had my druthers, he would be escorted from the gym and permanantly banned.