After watching features where viewers can follow elite high school teams like Simeon basketball and Providence football, I thought it would be enlightening and informative for those interested in youth and high school basketball to follow an average team in an average conference for an entire season and see how they work together to try to accomplish the goals of their program.
We hope this in-season blog will provide meaningful insight into one high school program and hopefully show that preparation, correct practice methods, in-game coaching, and constructive communication with players can be utilized to create the synergy needed to attain team success. And of course we’ll highlight all the fun and life lessons that go with being teammates in a sport. Enjoy!
I am an assistant basketball coach at Jones College Prep in Chicago. Jones is a selective enrollment school, which means that the students must take a test in order to be considered for admission. Our student body is ethnically and culturally diverse with varied interests. The school is not an athletic factory.
We play in the Blue Division of the Chicago Public League, which is the third of four tiers. We have average sized kids with average to slightly above average athletic ability. We don't have dunkers or super quick and fast players. There are no AAU coaches sitting behind our bench during games. We have student-athletes in the most definitive sense of the word. They are committed to academic and athletic excellence. Just because they don't play in an elite conference doesn't diminish the importance of the season for our players.
They have proven to the coaches through effort and commitment to the program that they want to succeed, individually and as a unit. It motivates everyone in the program to be as knowledgeable and prepared as possible to help achieve those goals.
Because of our collective coaching experience, we are able to structure offenses and defenses based on our players' physical ability and basketball intelligence. In other words, we adapt to what players can do and teach them accordingly. We do not try to fit them into a system that won't work for them.
During the 2013-14 season, Jones finished 3rd in the Green-North conference. We lost in the IHSA regional finals to Westinghouse by double digits to end our season. Only one starter graduated from that team.
In the summer, the team played in a tough league and finished .500.
In the fall league, Jones lost in the semifinals. I watched one game with the head coach to monitor progress and scout some of our new varsity players. We saw many of the same problems that plagued us the previous season: poor shot selection, defensive breakdowns, and sporadic effort.
Coach G: Head Coach with over 30 years of high school basketball experience and numerous coach of the Year awards. Won two Chicago Public League championships and finished 3rd in the IHSA tournament with Westinghouse High School. Since he arrived at Jones the basketball program became very competitive. Elected to the Chicago Public League Hall of Fame in 2014.
Coach Z: Assistant or Head Coach at varying levels since 1974. Coached adult AAU, CYO, middle school, high school, and one year at Carthage College in 1995-96. That's me!
Coach Mike: Assistant Coach at Jones for 7 years. Loyal and enthusiastic.
Coach J: Sophomore Coach for 4 years. Knowledgeable and dedicated.
Ellington: Senior Guard/Forward. Most talented player on the team. Best rebounder, best passer, best defender, best driver, and the only player that can dunk in the program. Extremely bright, has been awarded the Posse Scholarship. But he has also been an enigma. He has had melt-down incidents on the court resulting in technicals and silly fouls and at times quit on his teammates. Yet they still support him and it seems he is less self absorbed than in the past as shown by his summer and fall attendance of games.
Chidi: Senior Guard/Forward. Intense and tenacious, drives well and defends on the ball with ferocity. Gets to the free throw line frequently, but has a below average percentage. Gets upset at referees and teammate for varying reasons, which distracts him and his play suffers.
Devon: Senior Forward. Good stand still shooter with decent post moves. Does not have great lateral range as a defender, but is a fair rebounder and okay passer.
Bryson: Sophomore Guard. Part-time starter as a freshman who plays AAU ball. Loves to shoot 3's and cherry pick for layups. Not especially quick, but has a knack to get to the basket. He is an average defender and is trying a lot harder to improve in that area. He seemed lost last year, but understands our offensive and defensive sets better this year.
Adrien: Junior Point Guard. Adrien is a transfer student who has fit a major need for this team. From what I saw in the fall he plays good on the ball defense, handles the ball with confidence and is a good passer to get our sets started, which are all skills that none of our players exhibited last season. Plus he shoots the three-pointer well, drives well, and is an excellent free throw shooter with superb technique. He could be the solution that will help us win our conference.
Justin: Senior Guard. Another kid who is a puzzle. At times he is the fastest player on the court, slashing to the hoop for layups, rebounding in traffic and getting steals on and off the ball. Other times he looks disinterested and distracted. When this happens he takes wild shots, turns the ball over, and gets lost on defense whether we're pressing or playing man-to man. He also tunes out any kind of constructive coaching if yelling is used.
Will: Junior Forward. High-energy player who really hustles on both ends of the court. Good open court finisher but is out of alignment often in half court play and does not make good decisions passing the ball, which has led to numerous turnovers. Also sensitive to criticism.
Gabe: Senior Forward. Very good outside shooter who doesn't take enough shots and loses confidence quickly. Thin in stature and gets pushed around under the basket. Teammates love him because he's unselfish in every way. Has two bad hip sockets and will need surgery after the season.
Vic: Junior Forward. Very good midrange shooter and decent post moves. Passes well out of the post areas. Undersized and not in great shape, he gets torched defensively off the dribble and in the post areas. Below average rebounder because of lack of jumping ability and foot quickness to get in a position to block out.
John: Sophomore Forward. Player with a lot of skill, but inexperienced in organized competition. He is a quick study and could be very productive by the year’s end given his innate skill.
Keith: Junior Forward. Has some rebounding and shot blocking ability but he is adjusting to varsity basketball and has trouble being in alignment on both ends. Poor shot selection, should be a layup or nothing with him until he learns how to shoot within the framework of what we are trying to do offensively.
Chris: Junior Forward. On the ground player with decent touch 15 foot and in, but is undersized and slow. Good understanding of our system.
Isaac: Junior Guard. Played point on the sophomore team. Right now the game and players are too fast for him. Needs a better understanding of our system.
Preston: Senior Guard. Decent midrange shooter. Has trouble with our sets and struggles with ball handling and passing.
Jian: Senior Guard. Transfer from Lane Tech, has trouble guarding quick players and making passes against them. Decent standstill shooter.
Ellington is a two-year starter and Chidi, Devon and Bryson have started for one season. No player is over 6'2".
NEXT WEEK - Part 2: Tryouts and Practices