The Pro Am

The Pro Am is not known for it’s punctuality, but it’s lack thereof is undeniably part of it’s charm. On arrival, I noted a long, athletic player shooting 3’s from the deep corner with several kids jacking shots and running suicides. What I did not see was Juan Bernal, 407 Hood Legend, or any of the Pedro’s Posse players. 25 minutes before tip off was absurdly early to see any of them.

With nothing better to do, I walked on the court and tried to get some shots up. The aforementioned long, athletic player recognized me from my days at Winter Park. He was a West Orange Warrior on the team that bounced us from Regionals in 2005, Juan’s final game as a high school manager. A bond of tenuous friendship thusly forged, I rebounded for the Warrior along with another nondescript guy. For reasons that escape me, the Warrior professionalized the other guy as a rebounder telling him “I got a 5 for you in the parking lot”. I was more perplexed than offended, but noted the increased enthusiasm of the nondescript guy.

Juan was the first to arrive with a trash bag holding the Posse jersey’s. John P, co-founder of the Posse, showed next, but now he was a member of the opposing team along with Posse alum’s Kyle McClanahan, DJ Ferguson and Jordan Prais. The origins of this divide remain somewhat shrouded, but there was a good-natured tension permeating the pre-game.

As the clock moved toward 1pm, ostensibly tip-off, the Posse assembled, the last of whom was Chandler Parsons, who immediately and successfully requested additional warm up time ensuring a tardy tip-off. While not unexpected, the late start imperiled my viewing of the Euro 2012 final.

John P’s team started the game well. DJ Ferguson proved why he is an excellent Pro Am point guard pushing tempo and getting his team easy shots early in the clock. The Posse featuring two current NBA players in Chandler Parsons and Marreese Speights were indifferent on defense and relied too heavily on isolations on offense. They trailed 20-15 after one.

In the second, Chandler switched on to DJ and slowed him down a bit, but enter Pausha, the former Lake Howell manager. He was targeted quicker than JFK in Dealey Plaza and isolated on three straight possession resulting in six points. Mercifully, Pausha got the hook, and was overheard on the bench saying, “I thought we would have been up 20, and I was gonna have a fun afternoon.”. The Posse trailed 48-45 at the half.

Halftime adjustments included mild exhortations to defend, particularly in transition, and share the ball or use some basic action on offense to have some fluidity. The game remained tight through the third quarter, but the Posse’s elite talent broke the game open in the fourth. Pausha even played the final three minutes collecting a rebound. Unfortunately, his family left at halftime, potentially for fear of being called onto the court and iso’d in the second half.

I would be remiss at this point if I did not mention the contribution of Lake Howell/Rollins player Alex Castillo.  He was the most efficient player on the floor.  Perhaps 6′ 3″ skinny with long arms, Alex does not look the part of a player who would have such an influence over the game.  He is however a player fully aware of his strengths and limitations.  During the second half, he made countless significant plays slashing to the basket, spotting up and shooting, posting a mismatch and posting drawing help and kicking for an open 3 two passes away.  Defensively, he had a few steals, several deflections and was never out of position.  I can’t recall an instance when he played selfishly or attempted a play beyond his grasp.  It was the quintessential glue guy performance.

Things got a bit ugly at the end when John P “bumped” Juan in front of the bench and refused to shake hands after the game. It is widely believed peace has been made as of this writing.

Posted with WordPress for BlackBerry.

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