Key court time for Suffolk players
Published 8:40 pm Saturday, April 23, 2011
By late April, most basketball fans are into what Kobe Bryant and Paul Pierce will do in the homestretch of the NBA season.
High school hoops is a month or more in the rear view mirror, except many area players, including for Suffolk’s squads, who are already in full preparation for next December.
At Hampton’s Boo Williams Sportsplex this weekend, dozens of AAU teams were in action in multiple age groups.
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Three Suffolk-centered teams, two Suffolk Blazer teams and Team Evolve, were in action in their opening games of AAU district tournaments late Friday night. All three played in a two-game span on the same court at the eight-court complex at Boo’s big house.
In the tourney for rising ninth graders, the Suffolk Blazers beat Team Evolve 58-46. Both squads went on to play group games, one Saturday and one Sunday, and perhaps more Sunday should they advance into the tourney’s bracket stage.
“That’s our goal all the way around, to play the maximum number of games we can,” said Team Evolve head coach and Nansemond-Suffolk’s boys varsity head coach Clint Wright.
Wright started Team Evolve last year but his project is really taking off this summer as he’s going into his second season coaching the Saints.
Wright talked to junior varsity players at NSA and young Saints are the base of Team Evolve.
“We have six or seven NSA JV guys and some King’s Fork guys, too,” Wright said.
“You’ve got to play through the summer to get better,” Wright said.
The first couple AAU tournaments, with all of the NSA players being AAU rookies, were “eye-opening” said Wright. Adjusting to the high level of play has been relatively quick though he said. The primary goal isn’t necessarily winning games or trophies, but, “as our schedule is for this summer, we’ll play about 24 games. That’s the same as a high school season,” Wright said.
The 17-and-under Suffolk Blazers played a Boo Williams AAU team in one of the first group games of the rising 11th grade tournament.
Despite being outsized by Boo Williams and the Blazers being a little shorthanded, with only six players on hand, because of the Easter weekend, the Blazers were in the game down to the last couple minutes before falling 70-57.
The 17U Blazers are coached by King’s Fork’s girls varsity basketball coach Maurice Fofana. The Blazers, of course, include Bulldogs, along with players from Western Branch, Churchland and Wilson.
Younger AAU groups are a little more toward the middle of their seasons, for the 17-and-under division, teams are just getting underway on a summer loaded with tournaments and travel.
“This team is at the beginning. This is only our second tournament,” Fofana said.
Varsity-age teams can’t start until the whole high school season is done, state tournaments and all.
Partly because of the talented and deep opponent and partly because working hard and improving are the big goals as there are many games to go from now until August, Fofana was happy with his six Blazers even after Friday’s loss.
“Every game is a chance to make ourselves better. We want to learn something out of every game to take back to our high school teams,” Fofana said.
Boo Williams jumped out to an 11-0 lead in the first four minutes. The Blazers fought back by pressing and trapping, then turning turnovers into quick baskets, with lots of three-pointers, on the offensive end.
The better the opponent, the more of a learning opportunity the Blazers can get.
“We’re always a small team, but the way we play, it doesn’t show. All five guys get down in there and get rebounds with the big guys. Then on the other end, we work on pulling (the opponents) away from the basket and using our strengths,” Fofana said.
DeAndre Demiel hit three treys in the first half and scored 13 points in all. Boo Williams led 33-30 at halftime. The Blazers trailed 44-40 before a 10-0 Boo Williams run late in the third period.
Boo Williams had a squad of 12 players, with no slack at all even when five subs were in the game. As the second half moved on, the pressing and trapping turned against the Blazers as fatigue and size took a toll.
Demiel finished with 18 points. KF’s starting point guard Jaylen White had seven points. Steve Tingam, the Blazer center at 6-foot-2, scored 14 points.
“We played a Texas team last year and their smallest guy was 6-4. We beat them by 15 points,” Fofana said.
Besides the intensity and level of play during tournaments, more court time at practices equals more time to teach.
“The best thing is all the practice time,” Wright said. “The kids get there early and are already working by the time I get there.”
For the most part, basketball has been a seasonal sport for NSA’s athletes.
“The kids just did other things with the summer. Often it’s been other sports, but not basketball, until now,” he said.