This weekend I took the team to Rollins Team Camp. It is my favorite summer team camp because in many ways Rollins is all that I enjoy about the Orlando basketball community. Here’s a description of the weekend.
A few minutes after 1pm, I jump in my car and race out to Rollins gym to meet my team. Parking is a freaking nightmare. Restricted areas and construction areas out number parking space 3 to 1. After about ten minutes, I find a space behind the gym that I am fairly confident will not result in a citation or tow. The team is milling around the lobby with Little Wolverine. I quickly divide our two younger teams, and see Kyle McClanahan in the gym. We embrace, exchange pleasantries and vow to keep in touch. This should be easier as Kyle will play next season at Rollins.
I took nine players in my JV group: Dallas Kaviani, Elijah Grooms, RJ Bradley, Jake Wolber, Kensley Hilaire, Jesus Santiago, Daulton Znosko, Jacob Tague and Antoine Amaloof. Our first game is against Lake Highland JV. We start slow, but I feel as though we are in control of the game. Our second unit gives us a great burst of energy and we move to a 19-13 lead. I bring the starters back and we turn the ball over 5 straight times. By the time we get our next shot up at the basket, we are down. We never lead again. We scrapped and hustled and threatened to get back in the game, due largely to self-inflicted wounds and a thorough inability to guard the Pillsbury Dough Boy who scored 14 improbable points on 5/5 shooting. With two minutes left we were down four with the ball, but turned it over in the back court to go down six. We lost by eight. On the whole, I felt we did more damage to ourselves with turnovers, poor finishing and bad defense.
I went to the hospitality room. The Rollins hospitality room is unrivaled. Over the course of the weekend, I consumed ( a rough estimate) 137 chips, 4 krispy kreme doughnuts, 2 einstein bagels, 2 bread sticks, a sliver of lasagna, a sub, fried chicken, a slice of pizza, 10 cokes, a chocolate chip cookie, a chocolate milk, and a beer hand delivered from the Dominican Republic.
I had my first exchange with Tom Klusman (pictured above). This is notable because Tom makes you feel like you are the most important person on the face of the earth. Upon recognition, his face brightens, his arms embrace and an unmitigated tide of the highest praise emits. Having just lost, I found this excellent for my flagging self-esteem.
At 4pm, I sat on the varsity bench for a game against Ocoee. We started well, and led 15-7, but slowly lost the lead. I think we had a five point second half in defeat, but I was too preoccupied watching one particular Ocoee player. He was about 6′ 1″, strong as a bull and very quick. I could not help, but wonder why we NEVER have such a player at Winter Springs. He was not a great basketball player, but simply tougher, stronger and more explosive than anyone we have. By sheer athleticism, he could turn bad plays into good. It is not fair.
I began my coaching career at Trinity Prep. My first impression on walking the campus was that no one seemed to be particularly athletic or even muscular. My former neighbor, Drew Nemec, had just taken over the football team, and the most telling aspect of his progress was the appearance of muscular, quasi-athletic people walking the campus over the next five years. These were by no means recruited athletes, but kids that had been motivated to lift, and improve themselves as players. Based on the “men’s physique” competitor’s on the basketball team, this motivation is still in place. We played their varsity and were manhandled. we trailed at the end of the first quarter 32-3 having scored on a buzzer beater. We played better in the second half, but never threatened to get back in the game.
Before leaving for the night, I asked about the tournament schedule for the next day, and was shown a bracket that featured my 0-2 JV team facing Lake Highland Prep and FBGM Coaches Player of the Year Joel Berry at 9:45 am. I protested and was assured this would not be the case when I arrived the next day.
LIES. The bracket remained unchanged. I protested again to no avail, and retreated to the hospitality room to down 4 krispy kremes and a chocolate milk. We tipped off,……and my guys played about as well as they could. We ran our plays, got good looks, made a few shots, played coherent defense and played hard. Berry and the other starters only played about 8-10 minutes and we lost 65-34. I felt as though we turned a corner though. The team listened, played together and the result was tangible.
During the break, one of my player’s text me to say he could not play anymore today because his mom was making him go to a competition. A few text messages later, it was determined this competition was actually a bikini contest in which his mother was an actual competitor. I encouraged him to have fun, take pics and “check in” on facebook “at mom’s bikini contest”.
I coached our younger group to their only victory of the weekend. A butt ugly 31-28 sudden death win at the dimly lit Baptist church next to a graveyard. All true, after a 28 all stalemate in regulation, and a scoreless one minute overtime, and executive decision was made to play sudden death next basket wins. Barry Beasley rattled home a three from the top of the key and victory was ours. I gave a stirring speach about how everyone tried hard, but in truth displayed little of the quality necessary to be actual high school basketball players, and that months of long work and an uncertain future remained ahead of them. I’ ll text you about our next practice, enjoy the rest of the weekend and stay safe from the dangerous streets of Winter Springs.
I drove back to Rollins for the second clash of the fbgm coaches. Mr. Charm won the first game last weekend. I was immensely disappointed. We led through out the first half, but crapped away the lead early in the second half and didn’t recover. I felt it was a game we literally gave away. Hagerty controlled most of this game. We, and by we I am actually speaking only of Elijah Grooms, fought hard to keep the game tight. We went down ten in the second half but fought back to take a 42-39 lead. Elijah had 34 of our 42 points in a fantastic display of his unique talents. Hagerty got a three point play to tie and force overtime. They hit a pair of free throws to go up two, and we had a look at a three, and an offensive rebound to win or tie, but time expired. It was a good game by both teams. I was proud of my guys. While Elijah scored a bunch, we all competed with heart and episodes of execution. I told the team I was proud of them.
Pride is a fickle thing. We played our final game against Circle Christian’s varsity team. They are a very small school with limited player resources, who beat us unexpectedly last week at Lake Howell. We played a typically-this-is-our-last-game-of-the-weekend-i’m-tired-hungry-and-my-body-is-feeling-like-it’s-older-than-my-coach’s lazy ass, uninspired half, but led 14-7. Your eighteen running clock minutes from actually winning and finishing the weekend with a measure of pride, albeit somewhat small. We crapped the bed, loose motion style. Circle morphed into OKC in the second half scoring 35 points and winning. It was a horrible way to end the weekend.
We have been inconsistent and poor this summer. We are not however without hope. Individual player’s have shown growth, and collectively we have shown moment’s of genuine promise. We are, however, our own worst enemy. Our wounds predominately self-inflicted with turnovers, missed lay ups, offensive rebounds, missed free throws and periods of lethargic defense. Five of the six battles that win, or in our case lose the war. They are all within our power to correct. It is time to do so.