Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Bedford, Brooklyn Teams Tune Up With Scrimmage Wars

For the Bedford Academy boys basketball team, the recurring them of unity has not fallen on blind eyes this fall.

Though the squad is two months from the regular season, Bedford's fluid ball movement and a motivational brand of all-inclusive, Ziplock-tight defense has them looking in mid-season form.

Not exactly an advocate of AAU, head coach Rob Phelps has planted the seeds for a 12-month program to grow and prosper in the 'A' division.

And though they'll never be confused with the true Division-I launchpads of New York, Bedford traditionally comes out with a flair for hazardous pressure, canvassing all 94 feet of hardwood. That's what renders them a perennial contender.

"We still have a lot of work to do, but we look very together thus far," said Phelps, who helps orchestrate Scrimmage Wars, one of Brooklyn's primary basketball barometers of the fall.

"We want to make sure that we're very much on the same page. We're getting to know each other's timing and where guys like to get the ball. We implemented the idea for Scrimmage Wars because we wanted our guys to get more work. We wanted the area's top teams to come out. It's well organized and everyone is saying the competition is good. It's turned out to be a great idea."

This basketball environment is rife with the teaching aspects, with extra attention on detail. Coaches and assistants work hand-in-hand with players, occasionally halting the action for a demonstration or to illustrate vital points. The teams play every hour, with 20-minute halves and an open clock.

"The whole objective is just to get better," Phelps said.

Will Bedford be better in the 2014-15 campaign?

Such an answer will envelope Anthony Munson, one the league's elite on-the-ball defenders.

With hyper-aggressive defense the innate calling card for Bedford, it's only fitting that the program's poster boy is a ball-hawk. Constantly swiping at an unprotected Spalding and creating his shot off the bounce, Munson will now assume some ownership of the program.

 Bedford won't jack the score up to the 90s. The likely won't bury you with a 3-point hailstorm. They won't float up alley-oops at an Isaiah Whitehead-to-Desi Rodriguez rate. They will, however, fracture ball movement and render it an uncharacteristically ugly game for foes.

"The great thing about Anthony is that he's handling the ball more, he's concentrating on distributing and developing a consistent jump shot," said Phelps of Munson, the team's most acclaimed returning starter. .

"I'd be doing him a disservice if I don't get the ball in his hands."

Bedford will feature a knockdown shooter in Ian Roach. Tuning his game up and becoming more active in hunting for his shot, Roach enters the season as a catch-and-stick weapon.

Sequestered in the gym with his team all summer, Roach has become more adept at his shot creation.

 More polished with his handle, Roach has evolved into a dependable 1-2 dribble-and-pop threat. Phelps has also implored Roach to attack to the rim more, assuring he's not leaning too heavily on his shot.

"He'll be groomed as a specialist at the next level," said Phelps of Roach.

 "His identity is that of a shooter, but he's added on in all facets. He spent the summer working on his strength, conditioning, and rebounding."

Augmenting the back court is a pair of guards in Anthony Gibbs and Romello Ford.

Gibbs, who has added bulk onto a spindly frame while shedding the tag of diminutive, is flushed into a leadership role. He'll be operating offense, creating for Munson and feeding Roach on kickouts.

Ford, another fundamentally sound guard, will be another source to engineer the run-and-gun attack and lock up at all times.

Phelps has a supplementary scoring piece in Trevis Wigfall, a 6-foot-2 senior with length and the potential to become a sturdy on-the-ball locksmith.

Though minutes were inconsistent for Wigfall last season, his shooting and ability to finish through traffic has prepared him for a scorer's role. The trio of Gibbs, Munson and Wigfall have played together since they were eight-year-olds grasping the niceties of the game with the Staten Island Ironmen.

CHANGE OF LAW: Few teams in the season absorbed as rough an off-season blow as Brooklyn Law & Tech.

The Jets lost arguably the New York's most perilous buckets-in-clusters scoring threats at the Class A tier in 6-foot-3 guard Matt Scott. Scott is now at Niagara, leaving behind a legacy which witnessed him vault Law and Tech into relevance following years of obscurity.

Then, as the head coaching vacancy surfaced at Lincoln, the perennial Division-I launchpad that's churned out the likes of Whitehead, Sebastian Telfair, and Stephon Marbury, NYC mainstay Kenny Pretlow took the Shore Parkway up to Coney Island. Pretlow replaces close friend Dwayne "Tiny" Morton, under whom he served as an assistant the past few years.

Scott stuffed the stat sheet to the tune of 28 points, 11 rebounds, and six dimes in 2013-2014. His game exploded during the season's stretch run.

 Three-point marksman Juan Ramos, also claimed by 2014 graduation, caught flames during a late-season shooting spree.

Scott emerged into a marked man extracting a double and triple teams while ascending the upper crust of the city's top scorers.

Dispelling the notion that Law and Tech feasts on the dregs of meager competition, Scott proved his worth with a 30-point game against Christ The King and a 22-point game against Lincoln and the aforementioned Whitehead-Rodriguez tandem.

While no individual player will replace the stats of Scott or the stroke of Ramos, both losses that must be filled by committee, Law & Tech features one of the city's most unheralded little guards in sophomore Mikko Johnson.

After seeing meaningful burn as a freshman, Johnson's shooting and play-making defies any concerns regarding his 5-foot-6 height.

Johnson dropped 14 points and doled out six assists during a recent 64-39 trouncing of Newtown at The Beacon.

While the Jets are without a single senior, Johnson has help with plenty-tough freshman Larry Moreno.

 A lefty with a knack for going to the rack amid bigger bodies, expect immediate contributions from the 5-foot-7 Moreno.

Law and Tech also returns a cerebral 6-foot-4 junior in Zephrinus "Z" Hippolyte, who scored 14 points to go with 10 boards in the Newtown drubbing.

Conventional wisdom tells us that head coach Michael Levy will run the program in similar format as Pretlow,  as full throttle a sideline coach as there is in NYC. .

"I'm excited for the challenge," Levy said.

"People are doubting both myself and the program. I'm determined to prove them wrong. I couldn't have asked for a better mentor. To be around the best coach in the city is truly a blessing."