|Demontrez Hawes scored a combined 27 points|
last Friday and Saturday for a surging Westside
If the coaches of these teams believe their seasons have not met their standards for success, they may find comfort from two thoughts swirling in my head as I decided which Friday game to attend (the top candidates were Butler at Westside and Josey at Glenn Hills):
1) Finishing outside the top 3 of the region 3A race does not constitute a failure. I believe Josey, which currently occupies the fourth position, is our area's fourth best team. That is how strong the region is.
2) The teams occupying the fourth, fifth, and sixth spots in region 3A are loaded with key contributors who have eligibility remaining after this season ends. Glenn Hills' young guns nearly led the Spartans to victory in a recent game (see here) at Aquinas. And the subjects of the rest of this (possibly premature considering the current season is not yet over) post are the 10th and 11th graders who will lead Josey and Westside into the future.
Four of the first six players in Josey's rotation will return next season. Playing major minutes before full crowds against some of the state's best teams, and being a fortunate bounce or two away from success, has undoubtedly made this foursome feel like veterans. The player who has looked most comfortable this season has been junior Donald Jordan. In games versus Butler, Richmond, and Laney, I watched the 6'2" wing confidently knock down three pointers and successfully attack the basket. Jordan has been the most impressive player on the court during some of the season's most pressure packed moments.
Another Josey guard with no fear of the bright lights is sophomore Jonathan Butler, who often enters games and immediately lets it fly from all angles. He is equally effective shooting from deep and making floaters after blowing by defenders. And he finishes with both his left and right hands.
I mentioned Westside's slow start in region play. Junior Demontrez Hawes's suspension was undoubtedly a factor. I don't know whether he hit the ground running immediately after rejoining the Patriots weeks ago, for Friday and Saturday's home losses to Butler and Josey, respectively, were my first viewings of the Patriots this season. But one thing is certain: Hawes has found a good rhythm approaching the season's final stretch. His shooting stroke is solid. He makes threes and mid range jump shots, and he looks like he'll never miss a free throw. His size and athleticism allow him to score through contact in the paint after crashing the offensive glass. I'm glad I got to see him play. For some time I have considered him to be among the area's best perimeter players. My mind has not changed.
I first met sophomore Elijah Brown when I coached him in a middle school all star game. He immediately distinguished himself by being polite, listening carefully, and not only playing very fundamentally sound basketball, but playing extremely hard. The next time I saw him was months ago in a random fall league game where he laid out for a loose ball, putting his body in harm's way. Anybody who knows me knows that immediately registers. Friday and Saturday, Brown showed he has continued to develop his winning habits. In addition to impacting the game through sheer effort, he showed the ability to shoot from long range, use good footwork around the basket, pass effectively, and defend.
All teams have point guards. The ball has to be advanced up the court in some way. So all teams have players who dribble a lot. This doesn't mean they all dribble well. But Westside's sophomore floor general Christian Robinson is a very good ball handler who gets his teammates the ball in the proper positions on the court. He also has the ability to get to the basket and score or get fouled. And his shot is solid. As he continues to get comfortable and his team continues to improve he should be a great asset for coach Marvin Fields's Patriots.
The future is bright for Josey and Westside. But any region 3A team looking past them in next week's highly anticipated region tournament will be sorry in the present.