Saturday, May 30, 2009

November's Nor Cal Tip Off Classic

Gerry Freitas has set the date, place and teams/matchups for the 2009 Nor Cal Tip Off Classic:

3rd Annual Nor Cal Tip Off Classic
November 28, 2009
Newark Memorial High School

Game 1: 11:00 am - Tennyson (Hayward) vs. Analy (Sebastopol)

Game 2: 12:30 pm - Modesto Christian vs. Castlemont (Oakland)

Game 3: 2:15 pm - Buchanan (Fresno) vs. St. Patrick’s (Vallejo)

Game 4: 3:45 pm - Oakland vs. Miramonte (Orinda)

Game 5: 5:30 pm - St. Joseph’s (Alameda) vs. University (San Francisco)

Game 6: 7:00 pm - Newark Memorial (Newark) vs. Castro Valley

Game 7: 8:30 pm - St. Mary’s (Berkeley) vs. Sacramento

A few impressions from Rumble In The Bay

We thought this might run elsewhere but it doesn't look like it now so here goes:

Through blurried eyes, with haunches in quite the unforgiving mood after being pressed into wooden bleachers for too many days and hours, here are a series of impressions taken away from the Eighth Annual Rumble in the Bay tournament.

*** First things first, we offer a hearty thank you to tournament maestro Gerry Freitas for yet another well-run event

*** For whoever made the decision to turn the last few games into full court matches, we will do our best to get you awarded a MacArthur Genius Grant for such superb decision-making. Such an adjustment was right up there with that one small step for mankind thing.

*** We've become paid up members of the Kory (West High, Bakersfield) Thieleke fan club as the 6-foot-4 2010 backcourter made plays all weekend for his Team Superstar squad

*** We offer a salute to Robert Sandoval of the Bay Area Hoosiers who displays the amazing trait of 'seeing' what is going to happen next before it takes place on the court and positioning himself accordingly

*** Nick Johnson of the Drew Gooden Soldiers is certainly the real deal as a scoring point -- maybe he will grow taller but it looks like he ultimately will have to be a point in the pros and, yes, he will be in the NBA

*** John (De La Salle) MacArthur, also of the Soldiers, was impressive in showing the ability going to his left to score as well as facing the hoop and connecting from long range -- but is he really 6-8?

*** 6-foot-7 Josh Ritchart of Team Superstar gets off the floor seemingly quicker than anyone but needs to supplement his diet with Met-Rx bars or the equivalent in order to add the weight and strength he'll need for college play

*** Dom (St. Mary's) Lee of the Hoosiers has no athletic match in the northern California prep ranks, case closed

*** Charles Standifer of Play Hard, Play Smart apparently is headed for a year of prep school back east but his play this weekend begs the question: what more does someone have to do to catch at least a mid-major ride?

*** Soldier Desmond Simmons is going to delight Lorenzo Romar with his versatility after one more season of making Salesian Coach Bill Mellis a very happy man

*** We predict Hoosier Kiwi (Manteca High) Gardner, still with two years of high school left, will really surprise at the next level -- he's a stone cold finisher whose confidence, rightly so, knows no bounds

*** Salesian's Quincy Smith is a 2011 grad-to-be but already displayed plenty of next level potential in the last three days as a Team Superstar member

*** We had a Sean Rooks sighting on Saturday as the Southeast L.A. squad was taking the floor. Actually, we viewed the area somewhere just below the shoulders of the 6-foot-10 12-year National Basketball Association veteran who is apparently assisting with the Whittier-based team

*** 6-foot-7 sophomore-to-be Grant (Central Valley Christian) Verhoeven of Organized Chaos 1 has obviously inherited some hoops and height genes from father Pete, who played at Fresno State followed by six seasons in the NBA

*** With tongue firmly in cheek, a better showing was expected from the Palo Alto Midnight 17U squad what with the lineup loaded with 'ringers' Stacey Augmon and Steve Kerr ... plus, we didn't witness him in action but our understanding is Lakeshow sophomore Conner Kevorkian's jumpshot is killer ... bada bing, bada boom.

For those of you we missed viewing but are deserving of a mention, please do us this favor: continue with your schooling and engineer some advancements in cloning technology -- at least for use on a temporary basis -- because we found ourselves able to be in but one place at one time this weekend. Either that or please develop human split screen vision when multiple courts in one gymnasium are in use.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Congrats to Brandon Smith

Brandon Smith
Smith is a leader nonpariel

We offer a hearty congratulations to Brandon Smith of De La Salle High and the Bay Area Hoosiers because of the news that a Cal basketball scholarship has opened up and Coach Mike Montgomery was able to hand it to Brandon for the 2009-2010 season.

Jerome Randle enjoyed his best season by far as a Bear in 2008-2009 and major factors for his improvement were his not having to try and create something every time down the floor, plus a lesser quarterbacking load. With Brandon Smith, Randle will have to be concerned even less about getting the ball up the court and running the offense. The same for soph-to-be Jorge Gutierrez. Additionally, the PAC-10 is loaded with smallish backcourters so Smith's defensive prowess will also come in handy.

He is a fine young man who comes from a great family and has worked so hard to achieve his dream.

The champs of the Rumble In The Bay

Here's the coach and team members of the Bay Area Hoosier Red squad that won the Rumble in the Bay tournament championship.

Brandon Smith(from left to right, back row)

Rob Jones, with his Hoosier-to-be offspring
Will Davis, Sacramento High
Travis Souza, Turlock High
Steve McClellan, Edison High
Jamie Moore, Jesuit High
John Green, Castlemont High

(front row)

The Lees, Demetrius and Dominique, of St. Mary's High, surrounding Kiwi Gardner of Manteca High. Gardner was named the most valuable player of the tourney.

Battle of the Best Showdown is coming up soon

The Battle of the Best Showdown, with some new twists this go-around, is taking place at Laney College on June 13.

It's a one day event this time. Here's the schedule:

12 Noon - Sac vs. Bay (Girls)
1:30pm - Sac vs. Bay (Boys)
3:15pm - 3-Point Shootout
4pm - "King of the Hill" One-on-One
5pm - Dunk Contest
5:30pm - North vs. South (Girls)
7:00pm - North vs. South (Boys)

Yes, the civil war of basketball will be taking place between the north's best ballers and those from down south, with bragging rights on the line, as well as the Bay Area's top players tangling with those from Sac Town.

Here's the link to the Showdown site. It contains the rosters, event participants, videos and more.

Do you want to become a better shooter?

Jeremy RussottiHere's an article promoting a shooting improvement product from basketball skills trainer Jeremy Russotti, someone who's among the handful of topflight gurus in the country, let alone California. You need to be with this guy (or the two others we have previously mentioned) if you truly wish to maximize your potential.

Attack Basketball
May 27, 2009
1Percent Club Training

I have been training our players in the offseason for going 10 seasons now (really amazing how fast the time has passed!) In that time I've experimented with a myriad of gadgets, aids, straps and techniques to help kids improve their shooting and ball-handling skills. Some of these things have proven moderately successful, others have been duds. Over time I've come to believe strongly that there are no shortcuts to improvement. Only correct repetition and long hours working in the gym yield results. As a result I've become very skeptical when I see new products come on the market claiming fast results.

With all that said, I recently came across a program that has simply revolutionized my thought process on the proper way to shoot the basketball. California bio-mechanist Jeremy Russotti has created a product called the "J-Glove" which is flat out the best shooting tool I've ever seen... Go here for the remainder of the article.

Here's the link to Jeremy Russotti's own site.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Kevin Laue goes D-1

Kevin Laue
(photo by Andrew Shurtleff for The New York Times)

In one of the most inspirational stories in decades, former Amador Valley Prep Kevin Laue has landed a D-1 scholarship at a school right in the heart of New York City.
Kevin Laue, One-Handed Player, Earns Division I Basketball Scholarship
Adam Himmelsbach
New York Times
May 25, 2009

Kevin Laue, a 6-foot-10 center whose left arm ends at the elbow, was often told he would be an N.C.A.A. Division I basketball recruit if he had two hands.

It turns out the second hand was not necessary. Laue, who is from California, has accepted a scholarship to play for Manhattan College next season...

Go here for the remainder.

Here is a full-length feature the Times did earlier on Laue.

A great Rumble in the Bay tourney

99.99999% of the Bay Area went about their respective business over the holiday weekend blissfully unaware of the the subculture on display Saturday, Sunday and Monday at the Rumble in the Bay tournament.

The basketball bounced, went airborne, teased, through the metal cylinder at Cupertino High, Fremont High, Independence High and Cañada College for hour upon hour until the Bay Area Hoosiers topped the Drew Gooden Soldiers 96-93 in a championship game best described as hoops at its finest.

We offer a hearty thanks to all the kids who provided the great entertainment -- may all your basketball dreams come true.

A major hat tip goes to Gerry Freitas for putting on an event that epitomizes professionalism.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Here's a great read

We're at the Rumble In The Bay this weekend (not to be confused with the Thrilla in Manila) so posting time is limited but we came across the following article and thought it was extremely informative. It's lengthy but will be quite worth your while.
Allonzo Trier Is in the Game
Michael Sokolove
New York Times Magazine
March 19, 2009

After school on a recent afternoon, Allonzo Trier, a sixth grader in Federal Way, outside Seattle, came home and quickly changed into his workout gear — Nike high-tops, baggy basketball shorts and a sleeveless T-shirt that hung loosely on his 5-foot-5, 110-pound frame. Inside a small gymnasium near the entrance of his apartment complex, he got right to his practice routine, one he has maintained for the last four years, seven days a week. He began by dribbling a basketball around the perimeter of the court, weaving it around his back and through his legs. After a few minutes, he took a second basketball out of a mesh bag and dribbled both balls, crisscrossing them through his legs. It looked like showboating, Harlem Globetrotters kind of stuff, but the drills, which Trier discovered on the Internet, were based on the childhood workouts of Pete Maravich and have helped nurture his exquisite control of the ball in game settings — and, by extension, his burgeoning national reputation.

One of the Web sites that tracks young basketball prospects reports that Trier plays with “style and punch” and “handles the pill” — the ball — “like a yo-yo.” He is a darling of the so-called grass-roots basketball scene and a star on the A.A.U. circuit — which stands for Amateur Athletic Union but whose practices mock traditional definitions of amateurism.

All youth sports now operate on fast-forward. Just about any kid with some ability takes road trips with his or her team by the age of 12, flying on planes and staying in hotels. That used to happen, if at all, only after an athlete was skilled enough to play in college. Now it occurs in just about any sport organized enough to form into a league. But basketball operates at a level beyond other sports, and in recent years, the attention, benefits and temptations that fall on top high-school players have settled on an ever-younger group...

Go here for the remainder.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Watch out for Cal State East Bay

Cal State East BayIt's sort of tucked away in the college corridor that runs from San Jose State to Santa Clara University all the way to UC Berkeley -- it being Cal State East Bay in Hayward. Will Biggs heads the men's basketball program there and has done so for a number of years. Not a lot of people know but the Pioneer went 19-8 overall, 14-2 in the Cal Pac Conference.

In 2009-2010, Cal State East Bay will begin play in NCAA Division II and the California Collegiate Athletic Association (CCAA), awaiting approval from the NCAA for eligibility to compete for the various conference championships. The CCAA members include Cal Poly Pomona, CSU Dominguez Hills, CSU Los Angeles, CSU Monterey Bay, CSU San Bernardino, CSU Stanislaus, Chico State, Humboldt State, San Francisco State, Sonoma State and UC San Diego.

Leading Pioneer returnee Tauran Moore is a transfer from Consumnes College. He returns for his senior season in Hayward after being named Cal Pac Conference Men's Basketball Player of the Year. Moore scored 15.7 points per game, shooting 43% from three-point range.

Junior-to-be Will Freedman is also back after being selected as a first-team, all-conference member. He put up 10.9 points per game and grabbed 5.4 rebounds a contest.

Guard Andrew Ritchart is on the roster, he being the older brother of Forest Lake Christian's senior-to-be Josh Ritchart, a likely D-1 recruit.

Biggs plus assistant coaches Devin Aye and Ray Villegas have been working -- locally and state wide -- to bring additional talent to the Pioneer roster. Merritt College's 6-foot-5 Matt Busch is a top recruiting target as is Alex Harris, a 6-foot point out of El Cerrito High.

Berkeley High's Mark Samuels, a Section Sports All North Coast second team selection, has signed on as a Pioneer. A great 'get' by CSEB, Samuels will be able to play in front of family and friends. He nabbed over 100 steals as a senior while also averaging 18 points per game and six assists per contest. Samuels has been lauded for his leadership.

Martin Keitt, another Consumnes River product who was a freshman there in 2006, has also officially signed with Cal State East Bay. He checks in at 6-foot-6 and 275 pounds and prepped at Bella Vista High in Fair Oaks.

6-foot-3 backcourter/wing Donovan Jackson out of El Toro High is another coming to Hayward. He received interest from UC Riverside among others after displaying solid outside shooting and a top basketball IQ.

5-foot-9 Efren Sifuentes from Ripon High is also headed to the East Bay. He's another player with the reputation for long-range shooting.

Also, 6-foot-2 Josh De La Torre of Washington High in Los Angeles is arriving to aid the backcourt. He scored just under 20 points per game last season and was rewarded for his accomplishments by being named as a member of the second-team, all-city squad.

It will be interesting to see how the Pioneer adjust to the new 'family' of opponents. There's a core of solid returnees and the promise of helpful talent arriving. Another 19-8 record will be difficult to achieve but the underpinnings to springboard into a new conference are in place.

A Wendell McKines update

Let's hope former Richmond High star Wendell McKines gets his academics back in order at New Mexico State. Here's a brief mention of his status:
Marvin Menzies likes latest additions in Aggie 2009 recruiting class
Jason Groves
Las Cruces Sun-News

...With the release of spring semester grades last week, there are players who have an uphill battle to return to the court in time for next season.

The biggest name is Wendell McKines, the Aggies' sophomore power forward who led the Western Athletic Conference in rebounding last season and averaged a double-double for Menzies.

Menzies said McKines' academic status for the 2009-10 season will not be determined until November and it's possible he could redshirt...

It's Creighton for Greg Allen

Eureka High's Greg Allen has signed a letter-of-intent with Creighton University. We talked with Greg last night and we'll will have an article upcoming at soon.

He did visit Hawaii and USC was about to jump into the mix until a point from back east came aboard there.

Here's a link to the Eureka Times Standard article covering Allen's press conference.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Eureka's Greg Allen to decide this week

Since passing his SAT, backcourter Greg Allen of Eureka High has seen recruiting interest pick up. He recently tripped to Hawaii but the following makes it appear that Creighton is in the lead.

Eureka's Greg Allen Creighton bound?
Ray Aspuria
The Times-Standard

Eureka High school basketball star Greg Allen is mulling over signing with Division I Creighton University and possibily other teams.

Allen has a letter of intent in hand from Creighton but also has interest from Hawaii and others.

At this point, Allen said he isn't sure when he's going to make a decision to put a pen to the papers...

Go here for the remainder.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Peter Pappageorge to Cañada College

The most valuable player in the San Mateo area boys basketball ranks -- Peter Pappageorge of Burlingame High -- has committed to play at Cañada College for Coach Peter Diepenbrock.

Here's a San Mateo Times article on Pappageorge.

Sac State getting help from junior college ranks

Brian Katz Entering his second year, Sacramento State Coach Brian Katz has landed a handful of JC transfers -- some from California -- and also a Bay Area prepster. Here's a nice summary of Katz' recruiting haul, a number of which he would like to redshirt:

Hornets bolster hoops hopes
John Schumacher
Sacramento Bee
May. 14, 2009

As Brian Katz assembled his recruiting class, the Sacramento State men's basketball coach kept one eye on next season and the other on a few years into the future.

So after signing 6-foot-8 junior center Alpha N'Diaye earlier this week, the seventh and final member of the Hornets' recruiting class, Katz said he felt good about next season's prospects and even better about Sac State's chances two and three years down the road.

"We did get some immediate help, but we also set ourselves up in the long term," said Katz, whose team struggled to a 2-27 record in his first season with the Hornets. "I would be disappointed if we didn't redshirt three of those guys..."

Go here for the remainder.

Chris Busch heads to Colorado

Chris Busch played junior college basketball at Merritt and Santa Rosa after graduating from San Leandro High. After a season at Eastern Washington in the Big Sky Conference, Busch is now headed to Colorado State University Pueblo (CP) to finish out his college career.

CP is a D-2 athletic program and plays in the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference.

Small forward Mario Balinton, out of Deer Valley High and Los Medanos College, just finished up there.

6-foot-7 Matt Fochtman, a Mills High and Skyline College grad, is also headed to CSU - Pueblo.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Ohlone's Alpha N’Diaye to Sac State

 Alpha D’Diaye
(photo by Sac State Athletics)

Brian Katz is loading up on new talent in his project to establish Sacramento State as a player in the Big Sky Conference. He just added a junior college transfer from the Bay Area.


The Sacramento State men’s basketball program added its seventh player of the 2009-10 recruiting class Monday after signing Ohlone College center Alpha N’Diaye, it was announced today by Hornet head coach Brian Katz. N’Diaye will enroll at Sacramento State as a junior in the fall.

N’Diaye joins Fresno City College point guard Sultan Toles-Bey (signed May 1), Riverside Community College guard/forward David Norris (May 1), Highland Community College forward Duro Bjegovic (April 16), San Joaquin Delta College guard/forward Walter Jackson (April 16), Fairfield High School guard/forward John Dickson (April 15) and South Elgin High School center Dani Lopez (early signing period) as the seven players to sign with Sacramento State...

Go here for the remainder.

Salesian's Simmons to play for Romar

Desmond Simmons
(photo by Dave Kiefer)

This certainly seems like a great choice as Desmond Simmons' versatility will fit in very well with the offense that Coach Lorenzo Romar runs at UW. Congrats to Desmond.

Desmond Simmons To The Pac-10
Dave Telep
National Recruiting Director
May 11, 2009

Desmond Simmons' strong play this spring was rewarded with a scholarship offer. Actually, he reeled in a bunch of them but on Monday night he accepted the one that made the most sense.

The Washington Huskies, on Monday night, added a versatile player to its 2010 recruiting class. Desmond Simmons, the East Bay player of the year out of Richmond (Calif.) Salesian, committed to the Huskies...

Go here for the remainder and a Scout subscription is required.

VC's Max Hooper to Mater Dei

Not only is Max Hooper heading south but longtime Valley Christian Coach Jerry Cotton is moving over to coach the VC girls team.

Hoops coaching shuffle at Valley Christian; Hooper to transfer to Mater Dei
Dennis Knight
Mercury News
May 6, 2009

Valley Christian girls basketball coach Richard Harris is stepping down to focus on his new job as a counselor on campus and he wil be replaced by boys coach Steve Cotton.

Valley Christian athletic director Eric Scharrenberg hopes to name a replacement for Cotton by the end of the school year...

Go here for the remainder.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Jared Cunningham stars in Feinberg All American Classic

Jared Cunningham
Jared Cunningham
(photo by Dave Kiefer)

There weren't many 'northerners' on the court but San Leandro High's Jared Cunningham (headed to Oregon State) put up some quality numbers in a recent all-star contest featuring graduating California basketball seniors (plus a few kids from around the nation) who also posted very solid grade point averages.

Cunningham's line: 8/14 fg, 3 reb, 2 ast, 4 blk, 2 stl, 2 pf, 17 pts

Modesto Christian's Reeves Nelson authored these numbers: 4/10 fg, 3/5 ft, 12 reb, 7 ast, 3 blk, 2 stl, 2 pf, 11 pts

Here's the full story and a Rivals subscription is required.

A feature on Christian Williams' signing with Jackson State

Christian Williams
Christian Williams signing
(photo by Ward Sports Development)

Just came across this at Ward Sports Development:


Christian Williams, Sierra’s all-time single-season scorer, signed a national letter of intent to join Tevester Anderson and the Jackson State Tigers Tuesday evening.

Jackson State, an NCAA Division I outfit and perennial championship contender in the
Southwestern Athletic Conference, was just one of a handful of D-I suitors vying for Williams’ services after the point guard concluded what many considered the best two seasons ever played at Sierra High.

In the end though, Williams chose to follow his heart back to his home state of Mississippi where many friends and family members haven’t had the opportunity to see him play...

Go here for the remainder.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Not NorCal-related, but a fascinating read

Came across the following and found it a must-read:

One step back, big step forward
More parents are choosing to hold back their sons a year or delay their start in school, resulting in an athletic advantage
Mark Zeigler
San Diego Union-Tribune
May 10, 2009

Remember the names. Tyree and Tyrell Robinson.

They are eighth graders at the Rock Academy, a Christian school in San Diego, and they are poised to terrorize high school basketball beginning next fall.

They both attended the Jr. All-American Camp last summer in Chantilly, Va., and received high marks. Some basketball recruiting Web sites rank them in the top 10 nationally at their positions.

“Just excellent, excellent players,” says Clay Dade, the president and founder of the Jr. All-American Camp, which annually assembles the nation's top sixth-, seventh-and eighth-grade players. “I would say from my years of experience, both of them have very high-potential futures in high school.

“Those kids are big-time talents...”

Go here for the remainder.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Phillip Thomas to Portland State

We haven't confirmed it as yet but word has reached us that former San Leandro prepster Phillip Thomas has signed with Portland State of the Big Sky Conference. Thomas received a basketball scholarship from Idaho out of high school, played a season for the Vandals and then transferred to the College of Eastern Utah after a coaching change.

We hope to have more from Thomas in the near future.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Justin Standley to New Mexico State

Justin Standley
Justin Standley
(photo by Dave Kiefer)

We aren't related to Justin Standley nor has he graced our wallets with greenbacks -- we offer this from the heart: it's is wonderful news to hear that he is heading to New Mexico State on a basketball scholarship.

Some may say that high school transfers are one of the seven signs of the apocalypse and the bane of basketball but consider how it worked for Standley.

Obviously, no one knows if he would have received the New Mexico State offer had he played and finished out high school at Amador Valley but having just one season of of varsity basketball experience (exposure) under his belt (due to injury) sure makes the move to McClymonds (a team that attracted many recruiters to a large number of games) appear to be quite the wise one.

But ultimately, it is who he is and what he did on and off the court that cinched landing a scholarship.

Everyone should be happy when good triumphs and it certainly did in this instance.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Meet Phil Handy -- better yet, train with him

Phil Handy, basketball trainer
When Phil Handy talks about coaching or training, people listen

You may not have noticed Oklahoma's Blake Griffin, the odds-on favorite for player of the year in college basketball in 2009, working out in San Francisco this past summer. Yes, he is 6-foot-10, weighs in at 250 pounds and therefore generally difficult to overlook but there was nary a cellphone photo or on-line video appearance of Griffin going through his paces. But the larger question is why was he here? Two words: Phil Handy.

If he was based in southern California, Phil Handy would be labeled "Trainer to the Stars." But such a label or niche is not what he is seeking. Handy's goal is working with middle school kids all the way to NBA players, attempting to elevate the basketball skills and therefore the future opportunities of his clientele. He wants those dedicated to improvement.

Handt has worked with Duke's DeMarcus Nelson, former Golden State Warrior and longtime NBA-er Tony Delk, Hilton Armstrong of the New Orleans Hornets, Anthony Randolph and Marcus Williams of the Golden State Warriors, Stanford's Anthony Goods, Dior Lowhorn of USF and Detroit Piston Aaron Affalo among many other players and receives referrals from a number of college and high school coaches throughout northern California. He has also traveled abroad to ply his trade such as working with Australia's Nathan Jawai, now of the Toronto Raptors.

However, Handy is also the head coach of Team 94, a local club basketball team that participates in the usual spring and summer tournaments throughout the country. This allows him to remain in touch with the pulse of local and regional basketball. Now remember the emphasis above on improvement? In just three years of competition, 13 players from Team 94 have earned D-I scholarships around the country.

So what are Handy' s pet peeves? "Kids that don't work hard," he said, "if you are going to play, then play hard." He added that this relates to defensive effort more than anything else. "Too often there's a misconception about work ethic -- what it takes to get to certain levels. It involves discipline and hard work."

Handy went on to say that besides Griffin and actually his brother Taylor who also plays for Oklahoma, three of the hardest working players he ever trained were DeMarcus Nelson, Tony Delk and East Bay native Eddie House. "They each had the drive to want to improve and did something about it in the right manner."

Continuing on about what raises the blood pressure of coaches, Handy said, "There is also bad shot selection and playing selfishly. Passing is just as important as scoring but it's a fundamental that is being lost."

About how to improve one's basketball IQ -- a greater court awareness of what to do and when -- Handy advises, "It [basketball knowledge] can be learned and then applied, it's not simply something instinctual. Some players have great instincts while other players need to play more to gain better basketball instincts." He advises young players to watch and break down film but after learning what to look for.

Regarding breaking down film, what is it that is to be looked for? Handy said, "When watching film, players can gain a lot of insight into many things. Like how they are being guarded, do they take plays off, is their shot selection go od, do they see the floor well, do they practice good footwork and balance, how do they defend, are they aware of help side, are they aware of screens, do they turn their head on defense, do they box out. Watching film is like a photograph -- it doesn't lie! I used to hate film sessions while playing college and pro ball because it showed me all the things I did wrong throughout the game and most times it always looked worse on film in front of the entire team. But I became more aware of my shot selection, of missed opportunities or just plan bad decisions. Watching film not only of yourself but other players is something that is very important to be successful in higher levels of play. Kids nowadays can break their games down really quick with some of new technology. Now most players are only interested in their highlights but watching film and being your own critic helps in understanding how they are playing the game and where they can improve."

Two other areas that Handy says are fundamental to playing productively are footwork and balance. "Basketball is a contact sport and you can't play well without mastering both," he advised.

As for footwork, Handy said, "there are a number of drills that can improve [it] but one of the biggest things is knowledge. Most players today do not even realize that they have bad footwork and it's not entirely their fault as some coaches are not great with footwork either. In a match between a great athlete with no footwork v ersus a subpar athlete with good footwork, who wins? Some will say the athlete but I will take the subpar athlete with good footwork because in the end they will get to spots on the floor quicker and have better balance. Footwork and balance go hand-in-hand in this game. There's footwork and balance to everything you do on the court -- layups, jumpshots off the dribble, spot shooting, defense, post play, attack moves, using screens, even something as simple as shooting a free-throw. Football and soccer players have the best footwork of all athletes and the best players in basketball today have the best footwork.

Handy recalls his own development, something that allowed him to play professionally. "I watched guys like Michael Jordan, Walter Davis and Tim Hardaway when I was younger and tried to emulate what they did best by being a student of the game."

Asked about the sense or the fallacy -- whichever way you land on this one -- that the Bay Area typically produces tougher kids than say up in Sacramento, Handy offered, "Some of that is lifestyle. If kids come from a tougher area then that tends to translate into how they live their lives. In everyday life, they have to compete and have that edge to them. This tends to also carry over into the sports world. Inner-city kids are more intense when it comes to sports, they are more physical and more aggressive. Sacramento has some great talent but the kids from the Bay generally play with more urgency.The Sac versus Bay Showdown is=2 0evidence of this as the Bay has a commanding lead in this event."

So there you have it. The rest is up to you.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Merritt is on the move

There's soon to be a new sheriff in town — he's the deputy right now — and that's all the better for Merritt College and the T-Birds men's basketball program.

Merritt A.D. Maurice Compton just completed the season as interim head coach and will remain in that position for another go-around. But Assistant Coach Keenan McMiller is the designated heir and will move into the top spot come the 2010-2011 season.

Keenan McMiller
Keenan McMiller
(photo by Candice Phrogus)
A graduate of San Francisco State as well as Merritt, McMiller is infusing energy into a program that has been dormant yet is situated in n geographical area long known for producing basketball talents in large numbers. He wants to play a part in the resurrection of Merritt's men's basketball program and make the T-Birds a junior college power in California.

One item kindling the rebirth is that the Merritt gym is receiving a new floor. According to McMiller, "the weight room is soon to be expanded." He is also instituting a study hall, emphasizing that the off-court effort of the players needs to equal what is demonstrated during practice and games. The entire Merritt coaching staff emphasizes a positive coaching tact.

Five local kids reside on the Merritt roster. Sophomore Matt Busch, out of San Leandro High, is attracting attention from Chico State, Chadron State (Nebraska) and University of Alabama-Mobile. Busch was an All-Bay Valley Conference selection this season after averaging 14.8 points per game and 8 rebounds a contest.
Matt Busch
Matt Busch
(photo by Merritt men's basketball)

6-0 guard Lamont Horston (Castlemont High), 6-6 forward Joshua Hatcher (Berkeley High and 6-4 Mike Mitchell out of Marin City (Mt. Tamalpais High) each retain further eligibility while 5-9 Javarius James (Encinal High) has just completed his alloted time.

"We want high caliber kids coming to Merritt," McMiller said, offering that he has interest in 6-foot-5 Felix Mapanda of Patterson High (17.9 ppg., 11.1 rpg.), 6-foot-6 Eric Brown out of Las Lomas, an All-League member of the Diablo Foothill Athletic League squad and Las Lomas' Trent Archer, who McMiller calls a "real sleeper" and whose uncle was the late Phil Smith of USF and NBA fame.

McMiller also has some imports attracting attention. "We have seven sophomores graduating and five have been offered scholarships," he said. Besides Busch, there are 6-foot-1 Kerel Mitchell out of Brooklyn who was fourth in the state in three point shooting at 47%. 6-foot-8 New Jersey native Joe Powell averaged 13.6 points a game and 14 boards each time out. Mitchell is deciding between Chadron State, Pittsburgh State and Southern Illinois-Edwardsville while Powell must choose from Utah Valley State, Central Connecticut, Coppin State, University of Tennessee-Martin and Southern Illinois-Edwardsville. Both Mitchell and Powell were chosen to the All Bay Valley Conference team.

Andre Martin, a 6-foot-4 backcourter out of the San Diego area who redshirted this season, is headed to San Jose State.

Hope springs eternal but dreams combined with action determines reality. McMiller is bringing the whole package to Merritt.