Friday, December 20, 2019

My Cavs: Good, with a shot at being Very Good

I don't want to leave folks hanging, so here's a quick update on my Community House Cavs ...

We split our games this week.

Fell behind early against our biggest rival, JM Robinson, rallied within 2 after three quarters, but ran out of gas and lost at the end. We got sloppy with the ball when we could least afford it, and also gave up two offensive-rebound putbacks on consecutive possessions. I'm already looking forward to the rematch next month!

Last night, we played well in the first half, and a half-court shot at the buzzer by our point guard Skyler gave us a 13-point lead. Her reaction was precious -- an absolutely amazed look on her face, arms raised as she ran back toward the bench, and she kept shouting, "I made it! I made it!" It was as if we had won the WNBA title.

But despite my stern reminder that we had come back from a bigger deficit just last week against Crestdale, we got a little full of ourselves thinking the game was over. The opponent, Southwest, didn't get that memo. They played harder and better than we did, and we turned the ball over several times as they pressured us a little. Just like that, we were up by only 2.

Thankfully, led by our experienced 8th-graders Skyler, Meniya and Jalayah, we took care of business in the 4th quarter and pulled away to win by 11. Meniya, whose pursuit of the basketball is relentless, finished with 20 points, the highest total by any Cav this season. I liked the defensive effort and hustle we got from our 7th-graders: Emma, Emersyn, Avery and Bryson.

So we take a 3-2 record into the break. Coulda been 4-1 if we hadn't run out of gas against JMR. But coulda been 2-3 if we didn't rally to win at Crestdale or even 1-4 if we also hadn't figured things out last night.

Yep, 3-2 is just about where we should be.

We are a good team, with the potential to be very good. We'll see if the girls (and their coach) are willing and able to make that jump in January.

Most importantly, it's a good group of kids, and a lot of interesting personalities. Very different from most of the girls I coached at my previous middle-school stop.

They do play hard, they want to get better, they want to compete. It's fun being their coach, and I'm excited about the 9 games on our schedule after break.

Saturday, December 14, 2019

A New Assignment For Coach Nadel

A couple of months ago, I received this text message from my basketball coach at Ardrey Kell High, Jeff Buseick:
Community House Middle School is looking for a girls coach. Do you know anyone that would be interested/good?
Community House is one of AK's feeder schools, and many of the best players I had the privilege of assistant-coaching during my two years at AK came from there. So it certainly was in Coach B's interest to get this filled with somebody he could trust.

I was thinking of my many coaching colleagues, and even called one to see if she knew anybody who might want to do it. And then I started thinking ...
Hmmm. I loved coaching that age group during my four wonderful years at Scholars Academy. And I want to be a head coach again. And I don't think I want to be a high school head coach because of the time commitment, especially with all the visits we have to make to our new grand-twins. ... I don't know about the "good" part, but darn right I'm interested!
I told Coach that and he thought it was a great idea. He sent out an email of recommendation, I set up an interview with the Community House AD for the next day, and the offer was waiting for me in my email inbox by the time I got home from the interview.

So I'm a middle school basketball coach again. This conference is a considerable step up from the one that housed Scholars Academy, so I knew it would be a challenge -- but a fun one.

Even though Community House is one of the largest middle schools in North Carolina, with nearly 1,800 students in grades 6-8, not all that many girls showed up for tryouts. (Only 7th and 8th graders are eligible to play.)

Our Cavaliers ended up with an 11-player roster that included 3 girls who were on last season's team (Jalayah, Meniya, Skyler) and 8 of various experience levels -- from some rec ball to having barely ever played (Alyssa, Avery, Emersyn, Emma, Chloe, Allie, Janita, Bryson).

Our season started last week and we were crushed in our opener by South Charlotte MS, whose outstanding point guard will almost certainly be a varsity starter in high school a year from now. We tried man, zone and box-and-1, and we never could corral her. Offensively, we committed too many turnovers and missed too many layups. The Cavs simply were out-played and out-coached. 

Oh, and the first points of my second go-round as a middle school coach were scored in the opponent's basket after some confusion following the jump ball. Yep, we made the layup ... and we were down 2-0.

Thankfully, one of the great things about sports is that you get a chance to play again soon. This past Monday, Dec. 9, we went to Quail Hollow MS and rolled to victory. 

Our energetic 4, Meniya, dominated defensively and on the boards; our do-everything wing, Jalayah, smoothly navigated around defenders, scoring and setting up teammates; our point guard, Skyler, ran the offense efficiently; everybody contributed; and 8 of our 11 players scored. It was rewarding to see the girls execute the things we had been working on in practice.

The boys coach snapped this photo of me in my CHMS polo during the Quail Hollow game. (My wife was like, "What? He couldn't have gotten any of the team in the photo? You look like some random bald guy standing in a gym.")

Then came Thursday, Dec. 12. We went to Crestdale MS and fell behind 20-5 midway through the second quarter. Skyler had 3 fouls. We couldn't make a shot. We were missing defensive assignments, leading to numerous layups by our opponent. 

Then a little life ... we finished the half with an 8-0 run that included Meniya's 3-pointer and much better defense. Down only 20-13, I told them at halftime that we were right in the game but needed to turn up our defensive intensity.

I started Meniya and Skyler in the second half even though each had 3 fouls. We outscored Crestdale 11-6 in the quarter to make it 26-24. It was a game now.

We finally caught them midway through the fourth quarter ... but both Meniya and Jalayah fouled out. Our role players, who had done well all game, really stepped up. Emersyn made a huge 17-footer, Chloe hit a free throw for our final point, and Emma grabbed the clinching rebound. 

Community House 35, Crestdale 34

Our bench exploded with excitement and I pumped my fist. After the handshake line, the girls went to the locker room to wait for me. I gave them a minute to let it sink in and then I burst through the door, clapping. The girls followed suit, clapping and hootin' and hollerin'. It was an incredible scene of exuberance that lasted a couple of minutes. You gotta love youth sports!

I told the girls how amazing that was: down 20-5 to a good team but battling back, never quitting, showing heart, showing skill, a complete team victory with so many contributing. I told them how proud I was of them, and that wasn't just coach-speak.

I left the locker room completely energized. It doesn't matter what level it is -- from Biddy Ball all the way to the WNBA or NBA --  a comeback like that feels awesome. 

Hey, here's an interesting aside ...

I got back to the bench to collect my things before the boys game would start, and the refs were talking to the scorer's table. It seemed the final score on the board (36-35) didn't match the one in the official book, which is always kept by the home team. I looked at the book my manager kept and noted the discrepancy: We still won, but it was actually 35-34. 

The refs signed off on it, and it was all good ... but can you imagine if they had determined that the game was tied, or that we had lost? I don't know what they would have done ... and I'm glad I didn't have to find out!!!!!!

Look, winning is not my main mission in this assignment. I want to give these kids a great basketball experience, help them improve as players, maybe even teach a life lesson or two along the way. I play every girl in every game -- all have made the commitment and all work hard in practice; they all deserve to play. I already have started 9 of our 11 players, and the other 2 will get a start soon.

Nevertheless, the scoreboard does have numbers on it, and at the end of the game one team's number will be at least 1 point higher than the other team's. So we might as well endeavor to be the team with the higher number, right?
I know I hadn't posted on The Baldest Truth in several months. A lot going on. And when I had posted, it was all about "LoJack" -- my beautiful grand-twins, Logan and Jack.

I figure I shouldn't hit the button on this without showing a few of the latest pix of these 4-month-old wonderboys.

Happy Jack
Laughing Logan

LoJack at 4 months

Life is good, folks!!