2016-2017 State Tournament Class Changes by CTHoopsNews

By: Nate Rubinstein (@Nate_Rubinstein)

 

With the Connecticut high school basketball season right around the corner, there have been some changes in the classes for the state tournament.

 

Some of the highlighted moves, due to the success rule, include the following:

 

·      East Catholic (CCC Conference) has moved to Class LL

·      Sacred Heart (NVL Conference) has moved to Class L

·      Immaculate (SWC Conference) has moved to Class M

Photo credit: Robbie Goodrich

Photo credit: Robbie Goodrich

 

All three of these teams won their respective former classes’ state championship, but because of the changes that were made, only Hillhouse will have the opportunity to defend their state championship crown from the 2015-2016 season. 

Check Yourself by CTHoopsNews

In decades past, when the basketball season ended it was on to the spring sports. Whether they were lacing up the cleats or shining their clubs, players wouldn’t consider touching a basketball until late summer. However in today’s demanding world of youth sports, kids are making decisions before they hit puberty to focus on one sport all year round.

When it comes to AAU basketball, it is no joke. Teams invest time and MONEY to travel the country looking for top competition.
This circuit started out as simply a tool to keep kids playing in the off-season, and now it has evolved into this whole separate juncture that does more than just offer games.

However, is spring and summer ball good for these developing players? Hall of Fame legend “Pistol” Pete Maravich is known for being obsessive in the gym. He would spend 7 hours a day during the summer practicing his shooting, ball handling, passing, and all other fundamentals to improve himself come basketball season.
With AAU, it is instilled into young minds that they need to play games during the off season to get better at their craft, not by working individually. The more AAU gets recognized, the more players will steer away from learning core skills and migrating towards nonstop gameplay.

 


Unfortunately, college coaches utilize AAU to the maximum since it is their off-season too. These tournaments don’t give the coaches the full picture though.

“How is this kid’s work ethic?” “How much time does he put in the gym lifting and working on different parts of his game?” These are two questions that will always be unanswered to college coaches when they are sitting in the bleachers at a tournament.

The developing basketball players of this generation need to make sure they have their priorities in CHECK. Sure, the AAU circuit will give great exposure to colleges, and outstanding competition. But to get to the next level, it all starts with what the player is doing when no one is WATCHING.

We have a duty as members of the basketball COMMUNITY to instill a mindset into players that putting on a CBC jersey all summer doesn’t serve as a placeholder for an offseason regimen. Too many players at a young age have all the talent in the world, and wind up playing their most significant games in high school.

Read up on some past high school rankings. Most of them become very good at the college level, but less than 1% of them make it in the league. The ones that do are the most diligent. They all are born with ability, but very few want it as bad as they say they do.

A great book by George Dohrmann, Play Their Hearts Out, gives a perspective to its readers on this exact aspect. I’ll spare you a book review, but if you ever get the chance to read it, you’ll understand the point we are making here.

You’re only as good as your last Miken Drill.


By: Nate Rubinstein

Why CT Needs a Shot Clock? by CTHoopsNews

The countdown. Humans are conditioned to associate it with chaos, confusion, scrambling to pull everything together in those final few seconds before the buzzer sounds. The countdown before launch. The countdown before the New Year. The countdown before Jack Bauer’s time runs out in 24. But what if these countdowns did not exist? What if the clock ran seemingly indefinitely? How would we coordinate the launch? When would we know the precise moment to embrace our loved ones and friends on New Years? What would Jack really be working against?

Sports are not immune to this countdown, most notably football with its play clock and basketball with the shot clock. Basketball is even more of an outlier than football in that time plays a key role in a variety of rules within the game: backcourt violations, time spent in the key (also known as the three-second area), and multiple five-second violations are tied into the counting of time. Time is an integral part of the game.

Of the aforementioned rules, none are removed from gameplay at nearly any level save for the shot clock. These rules are in place to serve as learning tools for young players coming up who are hoping to understand and perfect the game. No league removes traveling because it is hard to remember that you need to dribble before beginning to move or the double dribble because it is far easier to dribble with two hands or with your hand below the basketball. Imagine telling a player after years of not playing by the truest rules that he or she will now need to abide by a set of guidelines COMPLETELY foreign to him or her. If this is such an unimaginable scenario, why then is the shot clock not used at the high school level in Connecticut?

The shot clock was widely adopted over six decades ago in order to avoid perpetuating the type of game play that was plaguing professional leagues at the time: extremely low scoring games with very few attempted shots which were intended to limit the effectiveness of one or two opposing players. Similarly, many high school coaches set out to create this type of strategic advantage and to the detriment of the development of players. Players can glean little from a game if a majority of the strategy employed entails keeping the ball in as few players hands as possible for as much time as possible. Proper spacing is not the four corners offense.

 

Some will argue that including a shot clock along with all of the other rules is too much too soon, and I agree. But by the time players reach high school, soon has become the present and players need to begin developing beyond dribbling minutes off the clock before attempting a wide open jumper or uncontested layup made only possible by a whirling dervish of a guard hell-bent on finding his or her way to the rim after dribbling the air out of the ball and lulling the defense into a stupor. This is not good basketball and it is not good for development. This type of play is acceptable only at the youngest of recreation league levels when the priority is teaching basic fundamentals and where the aforementioned whirling dervish would be lauded as ahead of her peers, or in the driveway at the family picnic against Uncle Rich who swears he started varsity in his day.

The idea behind implementing the shot clock in Connecticut high schools is simple: players are forced to become efficient. Coaches at every level are desirous of efficiency, whether that is at the free throw line, from the field, or with the game clock. When allowing an indefinite amount of time for a shot to go up, each of those efficiencies suffers and the players’ ability to develop in turn suffers. Taking 500 jumpers from the wing or 1,000 free throws after practice helps a player to learn form, but nothing can replicate game speed and game conditions. If coaches are very simply able to allow their players to take the air out of the ball, there is no opportunity for players to truly develop that wing jump shot or to get to the rim and draw a foul to get to the free throw line.

A notion will persist that the shot clock will do the opposite: players will rush into shots, force plays, and the hectic nature of the rocket launch will play out for thirty-two minutes. Like Jack Bauer, we all need to have some faith that the will of those involved conquers all. The lack of a shot clock actually benefits sloppy play and poorly run offenses rather than its use causing those issues. Think of all of the frustrating times that teams are able to score after the opposition has played solid defense for forty-five seconds. No penetration, maybe a few tipped balls but no steals, and suddenly a batted pass trickles to an open big man on the block who lays it in. Situations like this exist due to the fact that shot clocks are not being used. It gives a false sense of accomplishment to the offense which in turn reinforces bad habits while penalizing the defense. While there will undoubtedly be a transition, players will make an adjustment and the level of play will benefit immensely.

There have been numerous outspoken critics of the direction of youth basketball in America and that our European and South American counterparts are passing us by. This perception is largely fueled by the AAU culture of showboating and self-promotion. Implementing a shot clock would go a long way to begin dispelling this notion and improving the quality of play at the high school level. Instead of just a few players on the court being the controlling INTERESTS, a team game designed to get a good look within the thirty seconds permitted by the clock would prevail. Regardless of this implementation, the best players will still thrive and many will get better faster, a scary yet intriguing notion.

 

Take for example Connecticut high school basketball alums Andre Drummond and Ryan Gomes. Imagine Drummond being able to develop a post or pick-and-pop game or Ryan Gomes becoming not just a great scorer but also a great facilitator. Neither scenario was able to play out because opposing coaches were permitted to hold the ball on offense and reduce Drummond’s touches, and Gomes was simply able to score at will no matter how long it took. Gomes went on to play at Providence where he was a highly effective scorer for four years but never developed as a passer. When it came time to move onto the NBA, Gomes was seen as a tweener forward without enough skill as a small forward but without the size to guard power forwards. His score-at-will tendencies that were encouraged by the lack of a shot clock came back to bite him as his journeyman NBA career recently ended. Drummond has the size which Gomes lacked which has enabled him to thrive as a shot alterer and rebounder both in his year at the University of Connecticut and now in the NBA with the Detroit Pistons, but he is still struggling to find himself offensively. There is no denying his growth has been stunted by the ability for coaches to utilize a lack of a shot clock against him during his developmental years.

No more showboating, no more self-promotion, no more four corners offense for four quarters. Efficient team games ensue and thus players, even the best, are ready to plug into nearly any system. With the implementation of the shot clock in Connecticut high school basketball, the true chaos of sloppy play and bruised basketballs currently at hand subsides. Besides, we could all use a few more buzzer beaters.


By: E.J. Bachinski

Let's Have a REAL State Champion by CTHoopsNews

As all of us know, college football made a drastic change in the format of their post-season structure. By forming a playoff that consisted of the 4 finest teams in the nation they created the first “actual” national champion.

Similar to the previous college football post season, the CIAC has a playoff that does not crown the undisputed champ. For those who aren’t familiar with Connecticut basketball, there are four classes that place schools based on how big the school population is. If a perennial powerhouse emerges from one of the lower classes, a set number of “students” will be added to the school’s total in attempt to move them to a higher class.

This is a chance to shift PROGRAMS to their rightful division, but in any given season one of those powerhouses may take shape. Since “LL” includes the largest schools in the state, people assume that the winner of that class is the top team. But why do we have to assume? Can’t the winners of each class face off to see who the real number 1 team in the state is? Would Mohegan Sun not benefit from packing their Arena two weekends in a row to find the undisputed champion?

 

Every Connecticut basketball player’s dream is to make it through, what people call, “The Run to The Sun”. They want their name called in a packed arena with the trophy on the line. However, with all of these private schools emerging in the CIAC, the talent in the smaller classes have started to grow, and public schools don't stand a chance.
In the 2014 class “S” tournament, Sacred Heart High School (Waterbury, CT) went on to WIN it all, lead by sophomore Pittsburgh commit Mustapha Heron. In 2012 Immaculate High School (Danbury, CT) beat Capitol Prep High School (Hartford, CT) with less than half the team actually coming from Danbury. These teams run through their brackets with no problem, and sometimes have competition in the final.

One year of dominance doesn’t warrant a change of division, but it shouldn’t leave them without a chance to prove how good they are. It is a disservice to our yearly state champions to just assume who’s the best, to just leaves people wondering “what if?”

Adding a “Tournament of Champions” would bring excitement to the high school post season as private schools CONTINUE to rise and attain the top players in their areas. If they had this tournament last year would Bridgeport Central High School (Bridgeport, CT) be able to shrug off Sacred Heart? We will never be able to know.

To have a banner in a school’s gymnasium saying “#1 Team in Connecticut” would be an honor for the players and coaching staff, the athletic director, and the student body.

Lets find out who the undisputed champion is.


By: Nate Rubinstein

Let's Restore CIAC Basketball by CTHoopsNews

Basketball in the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference (CIAC) has stumbled into a new era, and it isn’t reminiscent of generations passed.

The days when greater Hartford tangoed with southwestern Connecticut in LL Championships have disintegrated. Gone are the trembling limbs of those who draw an NVL powerhouse in the early rounds. Our state basketball reputation is transforming from abundantly talented to grossly uniform. Everyone who’s followed it through the decades understands this, but the begging question is why?

Don’t get me wrong, the talent within our state is still as tremendous as it has ever been. However, with the exception of Mustapha Heron (Sacred Heart), no other public school player has committed to a high major Division 1 PROGRAM. Where our broadcasted talent now lies, is within the prep school circuit.

It is safe to say that the perceived credibility of Connecticut basketball, at least from an outsiders perspective, starts and ends with the New England Prep School Athletic Conference (NEPSAC). In fact, out of the top 15 graduating players in the state, according to several recruiting , only 3 are still at a CIAC school. In the Junior rankings, only 1 player in the top 10 is at a CIAC (Heron).

Schools such as St. Thomas More, South Kent, and Putnam Science Academy have whisked away the top tier talent and created a cycle that will be hard to break. Despite the high COST, prep schools can OFFER elements that public schools simply can’t match.

Patrick Quinn, assistant coach of prestigious St. Thomas, OFFERS his take, “Prep school has a tremendous structure about it. Its coaching reputation coupled with strong discipline provides a recipe that student-athletes can take advantage of. It’s the best preparation for being an NCAA athlete.”

While it is hard to ignore the insight Coach Quinn has provided, I have found that it even goes deeper than that. A source close to the NEPSAC told me, “It isn’t just the esteem of prep school that draws players in, it’s the inefficiency of public school to help them get noticed. Every NEPSAC practice there are 5 to 10 coaches in the gym recruiting players… You’d be lucky to find 1 coach at a public school GAME.”
It sounds surprising, but the current division 1 rosters in Connecticut CONFIRM it. Out of 7 division 1 PROGRAMS in the state, there are only 12 Connecticut natives. From those 12 I found that only 6 came straight from a Connecticut public school to their respective PROGRAMS. So if the schools in our own state aren’t recruiting from our public schools, who is?
While we know the prep basketball has captured some brilliant players, I find it hard to believe that the Nutmeg state is COMPLETELY bare. The brand of Connecticut Basketball is my greatest motive in running CTHoops News. I want to bring awareness to these players who seem to be lost among the masses, with little to no recognition.

In our future we will provide everything from game summaries to state wide rankings. We want to find out who has what it takes, don’t you?

 

By: Brent Pelella