The high school student-athlete lives in a different world than previous generations.
Those serious about improving their game, helping their team for the upcoming season, can ply their trade nearly every week of the year now, not just in season.
That’s why eight area high school basketball teams, including all four in Hanover County, converged at the Steward School in Henrico’s West End Tuesday for another full night of Summer League Basketball. Rising ninth graders, plus JV and varsity players from last year, come together to build experience, continuity and, hopefully, chemistry, for when November, and the regular season, arrives.
“We are trying to get better,” said Patrick Henry head coach Randy Anderson, who looks to improve this winter on a 6-13 campaign in 2014. “We’re looking for growth and development. Wins are important, but we want to see guys improve from their starting point here in June to the end of July.”
The Patriots found improvement in their matchup against Hanover in the final 12 minutes of the game, hitting two important three-pointers and free throws down the stretch to turn a 21-21 tie in a 42-33 victory. For rising junior guard, and returning starter James Pinder, the game, and the league, is his chance to grow into who he wants to be on the court, and improve the Patrick Henry program.
“I just want to get better. By coming here, we’re getting better as a team because we’re bonding more,” Pinder explained. “That helps when the season comes. Last year not everyone would come to summer league, and we didn’t play together like we should have last season.”
Pinder feels many of his fellow student-athletes don’t truly understand that playing to your fullest potential, creating opportunities for college scholarships to better your adult life, takes a year-long commitment.
The commitment is bigger now for coaches, whose stipend to cover their work in the season is quite small when you consider the hours put in, for example, basketball, from season’s end in February to tryouts in November.
Hanover head coach Darren Thornton uses the league as a tryout, as his Hawks look to not only replace nine departed seniors, but also standout guard Jalen Elliott, who transferred to L.C. Bird in March.
“We want to see what guys can do, the upcoming JV players as well as taking returning guys and trying them in different positions,” Thornton pointed out. “Tonight was the first time in a couple of weeks where we had everybody back due to vacations, playing baseball, and guys being out of shape. We really haven’t been in sync at all.”
Thornton’s remark brings up an important point on how student-athletes’ time can be divided in many more directions in this age than in past generations. Star Hawks guard/forward Cutch Ellis will miss the rest of the league due to AAU commitments.
Another thing to consider: when do these teenagers have fun? This is where Steward School does a good job providing a great locale in a laid-back atmosphere for teams, coaches, and players to perfect their craft, all while enjoying the experience. The participants are very appreciative.
Atlee used a big run early in the second half to put away from rival Lee-Davis 54-33. Returnees for Atlee contributing to the win included Corey Osman, Brett Ayer, and Jarris Hendricks. The league continues tonight at the school on Gayton Road as Hanover faces Steward at 5:30 and Lee-Davis plays Henrico at 7:30. The final week of the league begins Tuesday.