EYBL Session #3

Boo Williams Invitational

Hampton, VA

5.16.14

15u | 16u | 17u

 

In May 2014, The PSA Cardinals program travelled to make its fourth annual trip Hampton, VA.  For this year’s trip the 15u and 16u teams were invited to play in the Boo Williams Nike Invitational - one of the most prestigious national AAU tournaments of the season.  The 17u would play in Session #3 of the 2014 Nike EYBL season.  Coming out of the first two sessions, the 17u was 4-4 and looking to regroup in its hopes to qualify for the Nike Peach Jam Championships.  The 16u was also trying to qualify for Peach Jam and a good showing in Hampton would bode well in that effort.  As a program, PSA has always looked forward to playing in environments where all of its teams are present and able to support each other.  The goal of these weekends extends far beyond basketball, as we look for the experience to further cultivate our familial atmosphere.  Spending the long hours in the van, the hotels, and on the sidelines of each other’s games allows players of all ages to bond in ways that cannot be duplicated through any other means.  All in all, each team had a tremendous showing with the 16u making the championship game and the 17u winning all four of its games and solidifying themselves as a refocused force in the EYBL.

 

PSA Cardinal 15u Coach Mark Carter took some time to reflect on the trip offering perspective on his teams growth and his experience in Virginia.

 

 

 

[ photos by @psacardinals ] : [ words by andre oswald ] : [ creative direction by #charlesredwoodketant ]

@psacardinals:

How did you find this year’s trip down to Hampton?

 

 

Mark Carter:

Boo Williams was a stage I was very familiar with.  What I didn't want, given that it was one of the Nike EYBL stops, was for our kids to play out of their element.  They see a lot of these guys, they're on the Internet, they read the articles and you see these teams that you see throughout the circuit and now that they're lined up across from you, you have to remember - it's just a name.  But it's hands down one of the trips I most look forward to.

 

 

@psacardinals:

And why is that?

 

 

MC:

Because we go down as a program.  Every team - 15s, 16s, & 17s - we all pack it up into those vans and hop on I-95 or however you decide to go.  At the time of night we leave, even though most are sleeping that's where it starts.  That whole sense of togetherness begins at 161st Street + Yankee Stadium.  That's what I look forward to, going down as a collective group and having the opportunity to build and seeing these kids going through the grind together.    We don't have random kids flying in from who knows where.  This trip removes the element of "Hollywood".  And having all those teams and coaches there for one another; it's just great support all around.

 

 

@psacardinals:

It's great energy

 

 

MC:

Yea.  The 15s had [our] first game and you turn around and the 16s are there and the 17s are there, parents from those teams are there - just that love of just being together as a program there's nothing better.

 

 

@psacardinals:

Boo Williams can be a very pressurized environment, how do you think the kids respond to it?

 

 

MC:

I'm a big advocate of focus.  I remind the kids all the time that without [focus] they can get embarrassed on the floor.  I'm big on eye contact and stay focused on the task at hand.  Don't get caught up looking up in the stands at Dad, or Mom or Auntie or whoever it might be.  Stay focused on these black and white uniforms in this huddle.  I think it's just reminders after you get those kids to buy in and you show them some success.  It's a build up from the other tournaments as well.  It's good that it wasn't our first tournament of the season, so we got a chance to work out a lot of the distractions earlier on because the eyes that are on them can easily make them lose focus.  You just have to continue to remind them until it's like muscle memory.  You have to continue to remind that big brain who's boss.

 

 

@psacardinals:

What type of development did you see from preseason workouts through practice and ultimately leading into Boo Williams?

 

 

MC:

The greatest area of development, honestly, was overall maturity.  Again, the talent was always there, but we just needed fine-tuning.  I think we were strong defensively.  We prided ourselves on getting stops.  They'd here me all the time saying "3 Stops - 3 Stops".  We always wanted to get able get three stops consecutively and when you set that type of challenge consistently the kids buy in.  I think the level of maturity - from showing up to that first spring workout to the last event of the summer - it grew immensely.  They showed a lot of mental toughness.  Again at 15, your asking them to do things that 17 year olds do and 19 year old do - and it's not the easiest thing to ask of these kids, but once they bought in, it was smooth sailing after that.

 

 

@psacardinals:

Talk to me about Hassahn French – What you hoped his development would be and what you saw actually take shape?

 

 

MC:

Well Hassahn is a nice little bruiser.  Again, he came in understanding that he had played at that level the year before and we had an idea of what he could do with his brute strength – the kid is an absolute monster especially at the position he plays and at that level.  But the transition for him was knowing that to grow as basketball player he was going to have to extend his game out to at least fifteen feet [away from the basket].  Developing his jump shot and ball handling skills was major from the time he walked into the gym in the early season to the time he was able to showcase that in individual opportunities, whether it’s a Hoop Group camp or some other skill development camp.

 

From a personal standpoint, I would say Hassahn definitely became a great leader.  He was the one kid in the huddle that would consistently get after his teammates and challenge them because you knew he was one of those kids that was going to give you 110%.  And he was asked to do a very difficult task of doing “double-duty”: playing both 15s and 16s.  I would ask him to keep that same level of intensity that he had when he played up in the higher 16s level when also played 15s and it was a challenge early on but it quickly just became second nature.  He gave everything he had from the tip to the final whistle every time he touched the court and from a mental toughness standpoint that was major.

 

 

@psacardinals:

How would you gauge Deondre Bourne’s development over the course of the season?

 

 

MC:

Deondre Bourne has always been to me the silent assassin.  But he surprised me this year by just coming out and naming himself the team captain.  I thought it was pretty cool especially since he’s not one of the most outspoken kids in the program, let alone on our team.  So when he took on that task, I constantly challenged him to round up the troops, and so there was a lot of pressure on him, especially to be a direct point guard.  I talked with him and explained “Hey listen, as a team leader nobody is asking you to go out and score a whole bunch of points.  That burden has now been relinquished.  You have better talent around you now, and so you’re going to be challenged to do other things that show that you can play great.  And as a captain I’m challenging you to be a great team leader as well.  And he took that by the reigns and was excellent all season with it.

 

I really like Deondre.  The kid knows how to score the basketball.  You can tell he’s played a lot, he knows angles really well.  He came back stronger this year and one thing he did improve was his 3-point shooting, which he got away from.  He tweaked his jump shot.  He used to have a nasty hitch in his shot last year but we started working on fixing it towards the end of last season and it carried over.  He came back with a much smoother motion and was able to shoot the ball much better this year.  It was huge for our team as we didn’t go into the season with a long-range sniper, but he shot the lights out this year and that really opened up the floor for us.

 

 

@psacardinals:

Talk to me about my homeboy, Tony Boateng.

 

 

MC:

Wow!  I would definitely say that kid bleeds PSA.  I can’t think of kid who represents the spirit of PSA more than Tony Boateng.  I don’t know if it comes from his roots being a young African man, and how his parents raised him, or just the culture that he is from that makes him the epitome of loyalty.  He just is PSA.  Yes, he is vertically challenged but you absolutely know he is going to give you 115%.  You would never tell from just looking at him as bright happy kid the type of basketball player he is.  When he’s on that court that kid is just a warrior, man.  We had our little battles because the kid just wants to play and win and because of his size sometimes he’s not the first option.  But once he fully grasps the concept that it’s not all about him, and there a bunch of ways to help a team win the sky is the limit.  I respect him so much though because toughed it out and whenever he got on the floor he gave hit his absolute all.  It’s been a joy coaching him.

 

 

@psacardinals:

And what about Tyreek?

 

 

MC:

Tyreek – little Mouse.  Hearing people call him Tyreek is the funniest thing because from the time he first walked in a gym he’s just had the nickname mouse, not because he’s small but because the kid is just quiet.  Its funny because I continue to remind him “Do you know you’re one of the more popular kids in the program, not just on the team?  Everyone knows you - people probably don’t even know your real name anymore.  At first he hated the fact that we called him mouse but it’s grown on him.

 

As far as basketball, he’s a work in progress.  Coach Sean Adams spotted him down at a Hoop Group event and saw that he was scoring the heck out of the basketball.  But becoming a part of this team he quickly saw that we have a lot of guys who can score so he sat and observed what he could do to stay on the floor.  His thing became defense.  He worked and worked and by the end of the season he was probably our best defensive player.  He just caused havoc for ninety-four feet.  Just like Tony Boateng, he’s an absolute joy to coach.

 

 

@psacardinals:

And your thoughts on Mohammed Bamba?

 

 

MC:

Ah, the gentle giant, man.  That kid couldn’t walk and chew bubblegum when I first remember seeing him but he’s just made amazing strides.  Wow.  If you ever saw Mohammed mad everyone better just watch out because his smile is just always ear-to-ear.  He’s very calm, he’s not going to be loud and fiery but he plays the game with passion from within.  He just plays the game with such heart.  To see the player that he was basically under the radar and to sprout up and have the opportunity to play up not just because of his size but I think everyone was able to see the development of him just being consistent.  That’s what we challenged him to be – consistent.  Not to just rest on the physical gifts of size or athleticism.  Mohammed’s such a smart kid and I remember Coach Forde always telling him “Mo, anybody can get it!”  He wanted him to play with the same fire regardless of the environment or the competition.  His level of consistency just picked up so much this summer.  He definitely has great upside and promise and I’m excited to see the type of ballplayer he continues to develop into.

 

 

 

@psacardinals:

And your thoughts on Brandon's progression?

 

 

MC:

Brandon Randolph, I guess the first thing that comes to mind is "Against All Odds".  The kid is a just class act all around, both on and off the court. Brandon has truly developed in all aspects of life. Walking through the doors of Mullaly [gymnasium], he must have been no taller than 5'6" & now to be standing almost 6’3” (sighs).  He's an absolute assassin on the court offensively and he responds and works at whatever challenges him. And it makes sense - he comes from from a strong household with parents who are all about professionalism, basketball knowledge & experience.  Brandon definitely has high hopes and dreams of becoming the best student athlete he can be and I know he'll exceed even what he expects of himself.  He’s not really a young man of many words but his smile can certainly light up a room.  If he keeps his strong willed approach and persistence he'll continue to develop. His ultimate goal is to play Division 1 basketball and if he just sticks with it, I know there's no telling how far he can go.

 

 

 

@psacardinals:

And of course Mr. Jordan Vidal

 

 

MC:

I wanted to choke him everyday lol!  No just kidding, he’s an amazing kid.  You want kids to ask questions and Jordan is like the girlfriend from hell.  He will ask you SO many questions that don’t necessarily pertain to basketball.  And because he’s a point guard you sometimes forget how awesome it is that this kid asks so many questions.  And I didn’t embrace it early on to be honest with you.  My reaction was more like Jordan you talk too much, this needs to be quiet time, but I learned there’s absolutely nothing that you can say to that kid that’s going to shake him and that is so awesome in a point guard to have that quality.  You can tell him Jordan you’re playing like a trash bag today and he will just say “OK cool” and not like he’s shrugging you off.  He’ll listen and respond in such a steady way and he’s awesome for that.  That’s part of why he got the opportunity to play up during the summer’s live period.  He was another kid who was challenged to show maturity and consistency this year and he met it head on.  He’s matured a ton.  He was a wild card – no one knew what to expect but we have always believed in him and that’s why we gave him that challenge and he proved us right.

 

 

@psacardinals:

What will you take with you from this year’s Boo Williams experience?

 

 

MC:

It was definitely a turning point for our program this year.  Our kids got a chance to be down there and see those 16u and 17u groups come alive.  The 17u team went undefeated (4-0) that session and that was unbelievable to watch.  The 16u group lost a heartbreaker in the championship and I just remember there was a great speech that Coach Rivera gave during halftime and it stands out because it was huge for that group as a family.  The group has been together awhile.  You see them do everything together.  You see them laugh, see them fight, you even seem them cry because they’ve put so much into being together for so long.  That speech was like the summation of everything those guys have been through and I was happy to see them continue to fight for him and for each other. 

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