I have tried my hand at "community building." No easy task. But like all experts, Alleluia head coach and community builder extraordinaire Dennis McBride makes it look easy. I am happy to say I have gotten to know the players and families associated with the Alleluia basketball program. And it is an impressive bunch. Through all the years of hosting basketball activities, the Alleluia Community School is the only place that allowed me to use its facility rent free with no strings attached to offer the free basketball leagues and programs to Augusta's schools and children. And after I stopped coaching the GAIS Eagles, Dennis even allowed me to coach his guys during a recent fall league, meeting whatever urge I may still have to teach the game to young people.
Today is Dennis' birthday, so I'll repay him for everything he has done for me with this analysis (what a bad birthday present!) of his exciting 2014-15 Alleluia Angels, the team I call "pound for pound the most skilled group of basketball players in town." The core of this group has been taking its lumps in "AugBball off-season leagues" for over three years against the city's best teams and players. But the guys have recently established themselves as a force. And after an opening weekend split of games in a tournament hosted by Victory Baptist, I can't wait to see what kind of damage the Angels will do this season in GICAA (Georgia based private school league) action.
McBride has installed a new offensive system. And he has done it the right way, using almost every minute of available preseason practice time to drill the principles from the ground up. As each day and week passed, the players' use of the "read and react" principles became more advanced and second nature. I visited a practice roughly two weeks before the team's opening game, a narrow loss to the homeschool Augusta Eagles team. Between that practice, the practice shown in the video footage below (taken roughly a week later), and the team's first game (about another full week later), the players' grasp of the required spacing, cutting, passing, and reading of the defense has progressed significantly. Watch the guys put into game use the principles learned in practice here:
Of course it's easier to get a lot out of a passing and cutting offense when your players are highly skilled and extremely unselfish. Almost everybody on the team can shoot from deep. Sophomore Ben Dresser is probably the most dangerous long range bomber. I have him pegged as our area's best long range shooter. See here:
As shown below, Junior Mac McBride takes on a lot of responsibility, initiating the offense, penetrating the defense to get to the foul line, and giving teammates easy looks.
Hayden Hebert is a very versatile forward who gives inside players fits with his ability to face the basket, shoot from deep, and penetrate and finish with either hand.
I underestimated Steven Milligan's ability to score. His instincts are great. He is always moving without the ball, and putting pressure on the defense. He consistently makes shots from long range and finishes in the paint after a dribble drive or a pass from a teammate.
The Angels are scoring over 70 points per game after the season's opening weekend. After playing in a tournament this weekend in North Georgia, Alleluia returns to face Curtis Baptist Tuesday, November 19.