Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Winter Break thoughts

Well, the break is almost over, and it’s been long enough since I’ve shared my thoughts last. So, in preparation for Saturdays upcoming game and in light of the impending excitement of what good things 2010 may have for our Warriors, I’d like to expound a little on the last couple games of 2009.

First, was the Avon game. Wow. Any doubts anyone had, including any critiquing I had done about anything, went right out the window this game.

The first half started out as all of us had expected. It was intense and close. The lead changed hands a few times and it looked as if it was going to be a bloody duel to the end. Then the second half something magical happened.

The boys, who have worked so hard and relentlessly for six months or more, finally clicked and began firing on all cylinders. The unselfishness was glaring. The confidence and fearlessness went hand in hand. Travis dominated inside the paint. Tyler couldn’t miss. Jordan showed no mercy or fear. Michael was quick and seemed to be everywhere. Kyle was stoic and defensively unbending. Luke…oh Luke. Luke looked like he had always been here and assured us that he was going nowhere. And everyone else, was with the program and just fell right into place. It was the kind of effort you might expect in February and hope for in March, but not one typically expected in the second game of the season.

I don’t think Avon really knew what hit them. The players looked out of sync and confused. That is to be expected with any player in this situation. It was coming at them from all angles. That’s what coaches are for. Take a timeout. Reassure your players. Get them to quit trying to save everything like a hero. Avon’s talent speaks for itself. They are all kids that want the ball when the chips are down. They needed someone to pull them together and get them to buy into a team plan to stop the bleeding. For whatever reason, I don’t think that happened. And that particular night, I’m not sure it would have mattered. The Warriors put up 30 points in the 3rd quarter alone en route to a dominating win.

It was a very promising win. However, we may see Avon again and it always has the potential of being nasty.

The next four games, Southmont, Cascade, Lebanon and Plainfield were displays of more of the same. Complete domination from start to finish. Each player doing what they do well and then some. The score never in question, never any threat of losing control and most importantly, the boys never, ever let up and you could tell they were still having fun! Oh, so fun to watch!!!

Now, we come off break, have one game (Mooresville) and then onto the Hendricks County tournament.

I will check back in from time to time as the year progresses. For right now, I just have to say that as good as things are, I can’t wait to see what the rest of the season brings. Typically teams get better and better. I can only imagine what that will mean. In the meantime, I’m keeping my fingers crossed that we will be watching our boys cutting down nets in less than two weeks.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Breaking the Ice (Danville vs. TriWest)

One down, the rest of the season to go.

Last night the Danville Warriors hosted the TriWest Bruins in their season opener. Despite a season with high expectations, all bets go out the window with a season opening, conference game with an intense rival that has a natural playmaker like Tri-West Senior, Randall Lowe (Huntington University). Last night proved to the be the roller coaster ride the Warrior fans had feared it might be.

The Warriors jumped out to a quick start. Tyler Hall (13 pointsts, 8 rebounds, 7 assists, 2 steals) initiated a spark with the first rebound, first steal and first bucket all in the opening minutes. With rounded out scoring (almost the entire starting five had scored within 3-4 minutes) from Senior Travis Carroll (16 points, 14 rebounds), Senior Jordan Weidner (16 points, 6 rebounds) and Senior Michael Humphrey (6 points, 3 steals, 3 assists), and a much improved, intense defense, the Warriors jumped out to a 22 point lead.

In a textbook, and in my opinion the correct, move, Coach Brian Barber (204-89 overall, 166-65 in 1tth year at Danville) opted to go deep in his bench early and rest his starters and expose the talented, yet inexperienced Junior class to some much needed varsity time.

However, unable to foresee a few questionable calls, an uncanny and rare shooting slump by his players and the scoring rampage forthcoming by Lowe (25 pts), the Warriors found themselves in danger of losing control late (The Warriors led the entire game).

After cutting the lead to within 3, the Bruins momentum was interrupted when Lowe went down with a leg cramp. The Warriors took advantage and started to pull away...until a very hard, and dangerous, leg cutting foul by TriWest, against Danvilles Jordan Weidner (Indiana Wesleyen) not only went essentially unpunished but Weidner was also called for a technical foul for, rightfully so, being upset with the undercut. Nevermind, well, nevermind period. At least we're not Carmel football fans this morning. They really have a reason to be upset with IHSAA sanctioned referees.

Here are a few more thoughts on the game:

First of all, kudos to TriWest. In a season that will begin with uncertainty because of a loss of personnel and a first year coach at the helm, they played hard. They showed no signs of fear or worry about they hype. Despite Lowe carrying the scoring load (which they will most certainly have to get away from to an extent) they seemed to play hard and work together. Hopefully a sign that new coach Adam Bontreger (previously of 1A Southern Wells) has injected some much needed passion and energy.

Next, dare I say it? Free throws...ouch. I would imagine that will be addressed in practice Monday. Enough said.

Also, it was only the first game, I understand, but the offense looked a little sluggish and occasionally confused at times. Very uncharacteristic for this talented group, and very un-Barberish overall. But it's very early and with many new faces, it is only natural that they still have to find their new offensive identity. No doubt that will come.

Carroll (Purdue) needs a few more touches. Now, with this group, where anyone can put up double figures on any given night, that can be an argueable point. However, in a philosophy much like in football where the run game sets up the passing game, so goes basketballs "inside/out" strategy. With a high profile, 6'10", dominating player like Carroll who demands so much attention it only makes sense to start there. Make no mistake, that is also something that I'm sure will also be addressed Monday.

Another offensive point that I've noticed is that this team picks very well. However, just about like every other high school player I've ever seen, they don't receive them well. A good pick must be set well but more importantly the man receiving needs to get close and set his man up to be rubbed off. I think that small dynamic may certainly help this team progress throughout the year.

With that said, Senior Michael Humprey had an off shooting night. That's going to happen. He is an invaluable offensive assett and could have very easily been in double figures and more. No worries there. It'll come.

Jordan Weidener looked aggressive and strong as we knew he would. He drove to the hoop strong and drew several fouls. Fearless.

Tyler Hall sliced through TriWest's man to man defense with a burst of speed and ease that will undoubtedly come in to play throughout the year.

Finally, Senior Kyle Mackey's (4 pts) stoic demeanor came into play down the stretch when he hit several key freethrows.

Defensively, I'm sure Barber may object after letting Lowe go on a scoring rampage in the 3rd, but I think, personally, that last night was a glimpse into just how much better defensively this group has gotten in the off season. Lowe is slippery and good at not only creating his own shot but initiating contact to draw fouls. He is going to get his points. However, overall I thought it was an encouraging effort.

Overall, I'm going to give this performance, with all things considered, a B. First game, conference game, questionable officiating, etc. They did fairly well, but have some room for improvement. However, we must remember that there are a lot of new faces and there are a lot of offensive threats here. It will take some time for these boys, and Barber, to figure out what their dominant role will be this year and settle in.

Next game: Friday December 4th @ Avon H.S.

Danville 61, Tri-West 56
Travis Carroll and Jordan Weidner each scored 16 points, heading a balanced attack for the Class 3A No. 3 Warriors in their home-court victory over the Bruins. The Sagamore Conference game was the season opener for both teams.
Tyler Hall chipped in 13 points for the Warriors, who built a 20-point lead in the second quarter. Tri-West's Randall Lowe was the game's high scorer with 25 points and teammate Joe Pierle added 15.

Tri-West 6 10 12 28 -- 56
Danville 14 16 11 20 -- 61

Tri-West -- Lowe 25, Joe Pierle 15, Waite 7, Keck 6, McVicker 3, Chastian 0, Moore 0, Moxley 0, Josh Pierle 0. Totals: 19 14-24 56. 3-pointers: Joe Pierle 3, McVicker.
Danville -- Carroll 16, Weidner 16, Hall 13, Humphrey 6, Chalfant 4, Mackey 4, Schaffer 2, Leonard 0. Totals: 19 22-33 61. 3-pointers: Weidner.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Season on the brink?

Ok hoops fans, here we are, on the brink of a new high school hoops season. Here in Danville, the off-season has been filled with bitter-sweet anticipation of what the opportunities the new season will offer these boys coming off last years surreal sectional upset by an aggressive, yet over achieving North Montgomery team last season.

Last week, the Warriors went to Speedway to test the waters in a scrimmage match of two teams of polar opposites. Danville, essentially on the rise and approaching what many presume to be their peak, have been brewing a concoction of talent, coaching and success, in hopes of making a run deep into the state tournament this coming season. Speedway is a team loaded with athletic and basketball talent, particularly but certainly not limited to, the senior class. Despite their lack of size, they have enough role players that should complement a very tough starting five, to make them deep and dangerous in their otherwise weak conference. Their athleticism and intelligence showed signs of brilliance. However, all of that will once again be over-shadowed by selfishness and lack of discipline that can only be attributed to lack of unity which ultimately points to the lack of overall leadership from the bench.

Danville started out slow, with a few bad passes, lack of hustle to get back on defense, and some missed defensive assignments. Indeed the product of the brilliant strategy of Head Coach Brian Barber. Barber had attempted to somewhat deflate his teams growing egos with a strong lecture of humility and hard work the night before the scrimmage while forcing the boys to run until they almost vomited. No doubt, a fantastic maneuver to tire them and force them to rise above their fatigue and turn a otherwise routine scrimmage into a tough Friday night/Saturday, back to back game scenario. Well done.

However, despite a slow start against Speedway, the Warriors, true to form, finally found their groove. Utilizing a second wind, they increased their intensity, tightened down on defense, forced too many passes, and forced shots, at times making Speedways offense look orchestrated and confused. Offensively, they began pushing the ball up the floor and utilizing their offensive arsenal that may prove difficult for many teams to handle throughout the season if they execute properly. Though only a 17 point overall difference on the “scoreboard”, had it been a real game involving strategy, time outs, defensive changes, proper substitution, this would have been no contest as a regularly scheduled, season game.

Player recap from Thursday:

This scrimmage was the “homecoming” of 6’3”, junior guard, Tyler Hall. After transferring to Danville his freshman year, Hall has anticipated this scrimmage for well over a year (last year Speedway cancelled citing football reasons).

Hall, did a great job of working through the anticipation and awkwardness and focusing on the tasks at hand. He was able to put together a solid pre-season performance with several assists, several rebounds, reliable shooting and intense defense, showing why he posted respectable stats in four categories (ppg 11.1, rebounds 5.3, assists 3.2, and steals 1.3) as a sophomore. Thus proving, his versatility and his well rounded game.

Hall is being recruited by Ohio, Valpo, Indiana State, Penn University and IPFW to name a few. He is un-decided.

Purdue bound, 6’10”, senior, Travis Carroll. Though despite apparently fatigued from practice the night before, Carroll still was too much for Speedway to handle, which may be the theme most of the year. With his uncanny and balanced footwork, intelligence and understanding of the game, and increased mobility up and down the floor….he was just too much. Carroll carried the bulk of the scoring responsibility last year, and will continue to this year but with less pressure to do so.

Michael Humphrey, 5’11”, senior guard, was no disappointment. He is one of four, quietly dominant, solid all round players in this backcourt. He is a natural leader that understands sometimes the best leaders must also lead by following. He is a true team player that can penetrate, shoot and find the open man. He is a hustler with an unbelievably upbeat attitude.

Jordan Weidner, is a 6’2” senior guard (transfer from Franklin Central) is a man amongst boys. Weidner may be the most physical guard on the roster. He plays bigger than he is and knows how to use his strength to get what he wants. It makes him extremely versatile and will definitely cause matchup problems.

Kyle Mackey, 6’0” senior guard showed what we all know he is capable of. A deadly shooter, with a beautiful stroke. Mackey, despite going through a small mental slump last year, at times came up big. He is a threat anytime he holds the ball within 22 feet of the basket. His shooting skills, combined with the force of Carroll, and the other trio of slashing guards (Hall, Weidner, and Humphrey) will be a defensive nightmare.

Mackey is being recruited by Wabash, Hanover and Depauw.

Other Danville players to watch:

Senior Austin Chalfant is a strong and fearless player. He is aggressive and smart and will prove to be a physical asset on defense.

Senior Trent Schaffer is an all around athlete. Known more for his football ability, he is an intelligent player with good athleticism. He will be a key role player that won’t hurt you in critical situations but more importantly will be able to help maintain unity and intensity on the floor.

The junior class: Logan Cooper, Drew Mitchell, Luke Fields, Jordan Leonard, Steve Konechnik, Jon Pedigo…..these kids can play. This is a class that has been overshadowed by a particularly bright starring cast of upper classmen to this point. However, they will be responsible for helping maintain continuity throughout the year, while developing into a very strong senior class next year. It will be fun to watch them grow and develop during this highly anticipated season.

This team has everything in place. The talent is here, the coaching is incredible, the teamwork and dedication is there. The only things that can hold this team down (we don’t talk about injuries here) is selfishness and/or arrogance. I don’t see that happening with these well adjusted, dedicated kids, especially with Barber at the helm. With a little luck……

Bradley Hall
Independent Fitness Consultant
AAU Coach
Freelance Sports Writer

Bradley has coached AAU for many years, including North Centrals Terone Johnson (Purdue), Hamilton Heights Austin Ethrington (IU), Danville’s Travis Carroll (Purdue), Randall Lowe (Huntington University), NC Christian Marshall Plumlee, Brownsburg’s Torrey Nibbs, Perry Meridian’s Max Landis, Howe’s PJ Boutte, Howe’s Giovante Hazelett, Zionsville’s Chris Welker, Plainfield’s Chris Page, Ben Davis’ Dwight Cliff, Ben Davis’ Bradley Elam, Noblesville’s Michael Deines, Danville’s Tyler Hall.

Bradley is an independent fitness consultant and basketball trainer for hire. He also is a free lance sports writer for the Crawfordsville Journal-Review.

In addition he is a firefighter, husband, father to three beautiful children and a full time student.