UPDATE: This blog was written earlier this week. This morning I was notified we will NOT be making the trip to NJ for the Nike Prime Time Shoot-out because of the inclement weather.
It all started three weeks ago, when we luckily escaped with an overtime win against a team we should have pounded, because our players had a casual and arrogant attitude.
Then we traveled to Orlando and lost two games in a row at the Montverde Academy Invitational Tournament. We suffered our first lost because of a handful of critical errors… and the second lost because we laid down and played soft.
Upon our return from Florida, our leading scorer and a potential All-American, Terrence Ross, unexpectedly withdrew from school and transferred to a prep school in Arizona.
And towards the end of last week, the DC area was hammered with 20+ inches of snow. The Blizzard of 2010 Part II started last night as we were hit with additional 15+ inches.
We have not played a game since our second loss in Orlando on January 30th. We have had four games cancelled since the snow began. The snow has been paralyzing. We have only had two practices since we got back from Florida and only one practice in the past 7 days. That was yesterday and we only had the 7 players who could make it to school. Our top two players both live in Fredericksburg, VA (about an hour and half away from school) and have been completely snowed in. Given the current weather conditions, we won’t be able to practice for the rest of this week. That means our players will have been off for almost two straight weeks!
Why is that a problem?
We are scheduled to play St. Anthony’s HS in Trenton, NJ at the Nike Prime Time Shoot-out this Saturday. St. Anthony’s has been one of the nation’s top HS programs for the past 30 years… winning over two dozen state titles, a handful of national titles, and produced numerous All-Americans and Division I players… several of which have played in the NBA. They are lead by Coach Bob Hurley, who in my opinion is one of the top 5 basketball coaches on the planet… and that includes college and NBA coaches. I have admired Coach Hurley from afar since I was in high school and have read The Miracle at St. Anthony twice. I got an opportunity to have dinner with him this past fall as our clinic speaking schedules intersected in Minnesota and Iowa. It was a real honor. He is a tremendous clinician and overwhelmingly passionate about the game of basketball. I have an immense respect for Coach Hurley, not just for everything he has accomplished, but because of the way he has accomplished it. He is pure class. He is not just a coach, he changes lives. He represents everything that is right with sports. He is one of a kind.
But I will have to put my admiration aside for a few hours on Saturday, because we have a game to play! If you know anything about Coach Hurley’s teams, they are always one of the toughest teams in the country. They play up tempo, smothering defense. They press, they trap, and they never, ever quit. They are relentless. When they smell fear in their opponent, they go in for the kill. Currently, they are our polar opposite. While we are facing some internal adversity, they are playing their best basketball and playing with a potent swagger. Last week, they beat DeMatha HS by two. DeMatha was ranked in the top 5 in the country by ESPN at the time. St. Anthony’s has climbed up to 23rd in the nation (ESPN), while we have plummeted to 45th.
The odds are stacked against us to say the least. I am not saying that for pity or to make excuses, it is just a reality.
With all of that said, the million-dollar question is… how will our team respond to our recent adversity?
Only one of two things will happen… there will be no grey area. Either we will come out with passion and pride and play like we have something to prove (which we most certainly do) and make it a competitive, intense game between two of the country’s premier programs…
We will trudge in with our tails between our legs… mentally fragile…full of excuses…and walk right into the lion’s den and get smacked by 30. If we come in like that, trust me, St. Anthony’s will embarrass us.
Albert Einstein once said, “In the middle of every adversity lies opportunity.”
I hope our guys understand that. Lord knows I will be doing everything in my power to get that point across. I will also make sure they understand that the more adversity they face in life, the more positive they have to be. A positive attitude and collective, sincere enthusiasm can conquer many things. I also want them to know that many times, adversity is a prerequisite to major accomplishments. Look at Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints. Drew, as well as the city of New Orleans, went through severe times of adversity in the last several years… and now they are the Super Bowl champs!
Our players need to take pride in overcoming difficulties. They need to view them as challenges and rise to the occasion. They need to look at Saturday’s game as an opportunity to “fix” everything we have been going through and to show the world what we are really made of. They need to look at it as a chance to put this season back on track.
And when I say “fix”, I am not at all concerned with the final score. My entire focus will be on how we play and how we respond to the adversity we have been facing. If we come out with passion, pride, and compete to the final buzzer… it will be one of my proudest moments since joining the program 7 years ago... regardless of whether or not we get the W. If we cower, and wallow in our own self-pity, and get mutilated and humiliated… it will be the most disappointing moment I will have experienced with Montrose.
And for the record, please understand I keep all of this in its proper perspective. Basketball is my driving passion, and the Montrose players and staff are very, very important to me. But my overall happiness in life isn’t dictated by a scoreboard or a W-L column. Sure, I get poopy-pants when we lose. Of course food tastes better when we win. But I learned a long time ago not to pin my own happiness on the shoulders of 16, 17, and 18 year old boys. Life is too short for that. And while I love the game of basketball about as much as anyone can and I am an extremely competitive person by nature… it is just a game… and I recognize that. I am very well aware that the “adversity” I have been writing about pales in comparison to real adversity… natural disasters, death, unemployment, sickness, etc. I don’t have it twisted, I know where things stand.
But on that note, over the course of the past three weeks, I have received dozens and dozens of unsolicited emails from coaches and players who have offered kind words of support for our program and have shared similar experiences of the basketball adversity they have faced this season. For that, I am truly grateful. I appreciate each and every time someone reaches out… and I am eternally thankful to be in the basketball coaching fraternity.
Whether good or bad, next week I will report in with a full recap of our game with St. Anthony’s.
And as always, check out (and subscribe to) www.YouTube.com/StrongerTeamDotCom. Last week I posted a video of a Nike Skills Academy Warm-up. I will post the second part of that later this week.
If you would like the two songs I have been using in all of my recent videos - “Game Time” by S.K. and “Hoop Connection” by Chip Da Ripper, send me an email and I will gladly send them to you. They are great for pre-game warm-ups or to listen to on your iPod during an - individual workout.
As always, if you need anything else, or if I can be of service in any way, don’t hesitate to email me at Alan@StrongerTeam.com. I will respond as quickly as possible.
Play hard. Have fun.