Thursday, May 4, 2017

Checking in on the Soldiers 16U squad

After going 4-0 at a Gerry Freitas-hosted event in southern California, the Soldiers 16U team headed to Indiana last weekend as part of the Nike EYBL tournament. The outcome: three consecutive victories sandwiched between a pair of three-point defeats.

On Friday, they lost by three points to the Las Vegas Prospects. 

It was a trifecta of wins on Saturday versus All Ohio Red, Texas Pro Skills and the Indiana Heat.

Team United defeated the Soldiers by three points on Sunday.

According to Coach Don Manning-Fuimaono who teams up with De La Salle Coach Justin Argenal on the sidelines, "we have a very gritty team that grinds out wins with strong guard play and a dominant inside presence."

Maybe best of all is "it's all business with these guys. We don't have a 'stats guy' and nobody cares who starts. We're trying to get them to stay away from social media and remain focused. Call it a combination of high character and good chemistry. They're learning the importance of resting their bodies, stretching, icing, what to eat, and we don't have to remind them of curfew. It's a great group."

Despite a lack of height, "we didn't play a possession of zone. We rotate guys around to keep everyone fresh. Obviously we want to win but it's important that we focus on development and playing the game the right way. Winning becomes a by-product."

Here's what Manning-Fuimaono said about some of the individual efforts:

* "Lavelle (Burbank High) Bailey played with a bad ankle yet averaged a double-double every game. He's 6-foot-4 now and played the 1-5 spots. He was a mismatch problem against every team we played. We ran isolations for him against bigger guys off the dribble and posted him on the block to go against guards and smaller players."

* "Salesian Prep guards Jaden McClanahan and Jovon McClanahan are the best on-ball defenders in northern California. Jovan emerged as our leader and hit several big shots in clutch moments throughout the weekend. He's worked hard on his pull-up jumpshot and it was deadly all weekend.

* "Prince (Fresno High) Gilliam was our leading scorer. He was dominant in every game. He destroyed anybody he was matched up against. He's gifted inside with great footwork and thunderous dunks. By the second game, teams were running doubles and he still couldn't be stopped. He was also very solid defensively with several blocks in each game."

* "Tyler (El Cerrito High) Dixon El Cerrito High can jump out of the gym and he had some great strong and aggressive drives to the basket at clutch moments. He earned his way into the starting line-up by shutting down the other teams best player."

* "Kimari Smith was a spark plug offensively. He would come in and score in bulk. He's gifted offensively and scores at all three levels. He made great plays with the ball in his hands and hit big shots off the ball. He had a great weekend."
* "Earvin (Burbank High) Knox ran the pick and roll with Prince to perfection. Most of their possessions together resulted in easy dunks for Prince. He was able to get everybody involved in the offense and create easy scoring opportunities for his teammates. He led us in assists in every game he played."

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