A lot of sports notes from the weekend. I should probably split this into a couple different posts. But it is a holiday and we all have a little extra time. So one extra-large post it is!
L played in her first-ever AAU tournament over the weekend. Or rather it was a “shootout”: a one-day, round-robin event focused more on getting teams games than declaring a champion.
Her coach told us that this was just a chance to get the girls together for the first time and get a feel for the roster. Seven of the ten girls played together last year. The girls haven’t had a proper practice together, just some light work at the end of their program’s twice-monthly, age-group training sessions. Making it even more fun, L’s team is a 7th grade B team and this was an 8th grade A shootout. The coach stressed not to worry about the results, this was just about getting the girls on the court.
L had been really impressed with her teammates after their training sessions. After the most recent one she came home raving that all the girls were good and, most importantly, all of them knew how to run the offense. It drives her nuts that half the girls on her other team – let’s call them Jr T’s to differentiate – don’t run the plays correctly. We had a talk about playing time last week. She claimed she was fine not playing as many minutes for a chance to play with better players. I was glad that was her mental state. I told her if she doesn’t start and/or play much, that will give her the motivation to work harder to improve.
Her squad had three games Saturday. First game we played a team that was at least mixed with seventh and eighth graders. But their eighth graders were big. BIG. L had played against some of these girls in CYO ball before and I’m pretty sure they smoked us then.
We had eight of our players for game one. L’s St P’s buddy started, as she is our tallest player, but L was on the bench. The game started ugly. The other team pressed the hell out of our girls and we could not break it. We were down 8–0 or 10–0 before we even got a shot up. L checked in and didn’t help much, mostly because she didn’t get the ball. Another girl played lead guard spot and was not used to looking at L for help.
L played one shift without doing much. She came back in with about 5:00 to play and we were down 15–0. She got the ball in the deep corner, went baseline, and threw up a little floater than she has gone about 1–50 on this academic year. This time she swished it and we were on the board. She had a little grin on her face as she ran up cord.
A few moments later she got ahead of the break, received a great pass, and laid it in. In the last minute of the half, she got open on the wing from about 15 feet and drilled the J. It was 21–8 at half and L had six of the points, going 3–3 from the field.
She started the second half. She wasn’t as lucky this time, missing a tough layup, having a short jumper blocked, and badly bricking two free throws. She seemed to be meshing with her teammates more, though. We lost 43–20 but, again, expectations were low. She was pleased after the game.
Following an hour break and quick trip to Chipotle, it was back on the court against and all–8th grade team from Terre Haute. These girls were even bigger, and better. Everyone knew where to be on every play. They would get an offensive rebound, whip it to an open girl behind the arc, and she would drain the 3. Or the girl with the ball would draw the defense and then hit a cutter with no one on her. We lost this game 62–11 and it really wasn’t that close.
L started and again scored six points on a layup, a jumper, and two free throws. She also rebounded pretty well despite their size, made a couple nice passes, and even blocked the shot of one of their biggest girls.
Another hour off before the last game, against another big, all 8th grade squad. These girls looked super impressive warming up. Just as big as the previous team but more athletic and with a couple fast, small guards.
That team did not play to its ability. Or our girls just figured something out. We only had seven players for this game and they looked gassed at times. But they played hard, never trailed by more than 15, and closed strong to only lose 46–37. L started and scored seven this time, including a nice and-one that she cashed the free throw for. She also missed the front end of a one-and-one in the final minute putting her at 3–6 from the line for the day. She rebounded her ass off, probably her best rebounding game ever.
Her St P’s buddy – her name also begins with L so I need to come up with a way to identify her – had a nice basket at the hoop that she converted despite getting mugged. After the ref called the foul, L ran over and shoved her buddy, and sent her right into the girl that fouled her. That girl was not as excited about the play as our girls were. Fortunately L started laughing so there was no drama.
So a pretty good first day with the new team. L went from sitting the bench to starting five-straight halves. I’m not sure how good the two girls we were missing are. One of the other dads told me the coach had told him whoever started the third game would be his starters going forward. Who knows how that will work and when this team will play again, but I was proud of L for at least putting her name in the mix.
She struggled a bit in the half court sets. But, to be fair, most of the team did, even the returning girls. There was a lot of two girls standing in one spot or someone away from the ball bringing their defender to the ball instead of away. That will get worked out in time. When we got home I showed her videos of Kansas and Golden State running their weave offenses so she could understand how to pass in those sets. She kept bounce passing rather than tossing or handing off since she had never seen that kind of motion offense before.
She proved to her teammates and coach that she deserves minutes. In fact, this was probably the best she’s played this school year. By my math she scored 28% of their points for the day. On the way home she noted, “It’s kind of weird I played better against 8th grade teams than I have against 7th grade teams.”
I’m hoping she can take that confidence and apply it to her Jr T’s team, which is all seventh graders from several Catholic schools. She was super frustrated about her play after their game last week. They play again tonight so we shall see.
Her AAU team may not play again for awhile. Most of the girls are on some kind of school team at the moment. They’ll have skill sessions and light practices every two weeks. The coach said they won’t really dive into things hard as a team until March and most of their play will come over the summer.
There was also a sixth grade boys shootout going on, and they played on the other courts and between L’s game. Those games are nuts. It’s all pressing and running flat out and chucking threes. Some of those kids are insanely talented, light years beyond what anyone I ever played with or against in sixth grade could do. I’m usually pro fast-paced offense in all sports (see below), but this was a little much. And those games are sooooo sloppy. Most of the coaches are psycho. Another check in the Better to Have Girls Than Boys column.
L got her top braces put on last week, so these were her first games with them in. I asked her orthodontist if she should wear any kind of protection. Neither of her sisters played a contact sport when they had their braces so I never worried about it. He said you can get special guards, but he didn’t think it was worth it. At her games Saturday I noticed more than half her team had braces, and no one was wearing a guard. OK, then. I broke my glasses multiple times, and had to get stitches once when the frames sliced my eyebrow open, playing middle school ball. Teeth were never my issue.
I missed the KU-West Virginia game while sitting through all the AAU ball. I did get the nervous texts from friends about the Twitter rumors that Remy Martin was out for the year. Wouldn’t be a college sports season without some kind of off-the-court drama.
I won’t get into the Remy stuff for now since it seems confusing and a little over-the-top at the moment.
I followed the score and then watched the recording on Sunday morning. That was a great performance by KU, likely their best of the season. It was, I think, the first time all year three players have balled-out at the same time. Who would have guessed that David McCormack and Jalen Wilson would be two of those?!?! I don’t think West Virginia is as good as their 13–2 second coming in indicated. Still, to hammer any Big 12 team by nearly 30 this year deserves a few minutes of satisfaction.
And on a day when Baylor lost their second-straight conference game, and Texas Tech also lost. A week ago it looked like Baylor would run away with the league. They might still do that; when healthy they are probably the most complete team in the conference. But, as Kansas State beating Tech and Iowa State being a couple shots away from being undefeated show, the Big 12 is going to be an absolute meat grinder this year.
I like that the conference is good, but I hate the way it is good: with seven or eight teams playing insane defense. That turns games into ugly slogs that are hard to watch. I guess that’s a good thing for the tournament, as playing non-conference teams will seem like a breeze after getting worked over by Big 12 teams for nearly three months. I certainly won’t complain if KU somehow comes out of this with another conference title, since that almost guarantees a one or two seed in the NCAA’s. I do reserve the right to complain about the aesthetics along the way. Especially if KU turns into a pumpkin in four or five of these games.
The only game I watched much of was the Niners-Cowboys game, which was awesome as a neutral. The final, what, 18 minutes, were just tremendously stupid and entertaining.
Long-time readers will recall that I grew up a Cowboys fan, but have deserted them a couple times in my life. It’s been 12–14 years so I fully abandoned them because of Jerry Jones’ nonsense. But two of my college buddies I constantly text are Cowboys fans so at least watch their games these days so I can keep up with the conversation. I do enjoy watching the Fighting Jerrys lose, though. Especially in painful manner.
That was about the most painful loss possible. Get down big, early, at home. Get a break or two that allows you back in the game. Do some dumb stuff along the way. Then have your final shot to attempt to win the game taken away in a truly unique way. Running a quarterback draw with 14 seconds left and no timeouts, then watching the clock run out while the referee sets the ball has to be one of the five dumbest ways to lose an NFL game.
As I said above, I’m generally pro-offense, and enjoy all these wide-open offenses that make football so entertaining. But do we have to label all these coordinators and coaches as geniuses when they are constantly getting in their own way by trying to be too clever? Dallas converts a fake punt and then keeps the punt team on the field to try to confuse San Fransisco and ends up with a delay of game penalty that means their next fourth down is too far to go for it. And the Niners send a tackle in motion on a fourth and inches, which caused an illegal motion penalty and forced them to punt and give Dallas one final chance to win. Neither play was remotely necessary, and just examples of coaches thinking “Hey! I’ve got this great look no one has ever thought of before!” And using it in a high-stress situation that it has never been practiced under. Just dumb all around. And terribly fun to watch since I did not care who won.
I’m no expert, but the Bills-Chiefs game seems like it could be pretty good.
- We didn’t put a ton of research into picking a travel hoops program. We just asked a parent we knew where his two girls played and signed up there. But L’s program just had their first “graduate” commit to a D1 program. And it was a doozy. A high school junior who is ranked in the top five in the country committed to UConn two weeks ago. Girl must be a badass if she’s committing as a junior. I’m expecting nothing less than a full-ride for L now. ↩
- I even sent her a GIF of KU running it and told her to watch it five times a day. ↩