Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Legendary Gustus, Phelps Spread Shooting Seed at Bedford

Few of Rob Phelps' current players know of his exploits as a record-slaying scorer at Nazareth High.

 A multi-faceted 6-foot-5 gamer who ascended New York City's all-time scoring ranks, Phelps was once a maddening 3-point dagger man.

 As one of just two four-year starters during a prosperous era for NYC's prep scene, Phelps eclipsed the 2,400-point milestone.

Now the head coach at Brooklyn's Bedford Academy, the homegrown product doesn't find himself reminiscing or revisiting vivid details of his legendary NYC buckets binge.

The locals do enough of it themselves.

"Coach, you absolutely torched my team back in the day," says one devout New York City basketball fan, referring to Phelps' 35-point eruption during Nazareth's upset of nationally ranked Christ The King in the early 1990s.

"Rob, they have no idea what it was like back then," says another fan, waxing poetic about the ultra-competitive, hothouse environment New York City hoops was during Phelps' heyday.

Before Sebastian Telfair and before Lance Stephenson, Kenny Anderson and Phelps were the city's No.1 and No.2 leading scorers, respectively.

New York City was the Division-I launchpad, a national force and undisputed proving ground for the world's elite.

 Nazareth's program revival didn't take place without the necessary labor and new pieces.

The arrival of Canarsie product Ted Gustus, coupled with the ascension of Phelps, helped resuscitate a dormant East Flatbush program that routinely languished around the .500 mark.

 Refusing to wither under pulse-less mediocrity, Gustus swooped in and installed an around-the-clock program.

The gym doors stayed open. Gustus imparted shooter's wisdom, giving Phelps an enormous green light.

Assimilating to every position from two-guard to center, spraying 3-pointers with an assassin's instinct, Phelps piloted Nazareth to prominence.

The transformation didn't happen overnight. Gustus and Phelps worked mercilessly at coming off screens ready to pull and pop. They worked on catch-and-shoot drills, ensconced in the warm gym during brutal winters.

Now, 25+ years later, Gustus is still orchestrating laborious shooting drills. This time, it's Phelps in the teaching role alongside his mentor.

Both Gustus and Phelps have helped cultivate that same knockdown presence in Bedford's senior off guard Ian Roach.

"The main thing with Ian is just getting that muscle memory down and just getting a lot of reps up," said Phelps, who preaches consistency.

"The biggest change for him is that last year he was more of a spot-up guy. Now, he's going to have to be more of that leader and be more of that guy with a total game. He's going to have to score in different ways, a little more off the bounce and getting to the basket more."

Roach showcased the new touch during Saturday's SCRIMMAGE WARS.

Eleven seconds into the game, Roach deposited Anthony Gibbs' dish into a deft 3-pointer.

On Bedford's ensuing possession, Roach ran off Anthony Munson's screen and darted to the corner. Off a quick catch-and-pull, he dialed from 26 feet out.


Like that, Roach registered his presence with the refined touch.

Roach also canned a pull-up jumper and was more aggressive in hunting for his shot.

Bedford's identity is substance over flash and results over aesthetic value. They are built on workmanlike basketball, a roster filled with certifiable defensive pests called on to play badgering defense for prolonged stretches.

The program's emphasis on high-level academics and defensive relentlessness is ubiquitous. If you don't strap up, if you don't maintain at least a solid B average (most of Phelps' players are in the 90s range), kindly find the seat on the bench or sidelines that suits you best...

The magic number is 500 for Roach.

 That's how many shots he launches each night, keeping the regimen intact throughout the fall.

Most nights are spent shuffling between school work and steady shootouts between himself and his driveway rim, one complete with a chalk-inscribed 3-point line.

"We have him beyond the arc and even further," said Phelps of Roach.

"We have him taking NBA threes. That's why I told him, 'when you take a high school three, it's going to be a layup.' Don't be surprised if you see him pulling from NBA range. Because that's what we've been practicing. I don't mind him taking it from that far out because that's what he's been practicing."

Roach, who holds a 90 average and has interest from Columbia and Monmouth, is putting the ball on the deck more. He's expanded his handle. He's adjusted to creating his shot off the dribble.

He's been in the film room more frequently, studying NCAA shooters and how they locate the right shot.

"I worked at not just being a spot-up shooter but at being more of a 1-2 dribble and a pull-up guy," said Roach. "I look for the mid-range shot now. People guarding me think I'm just a 3-point shooter. I've worked a lot on mid-range and working off a few dribbles."

 Roach drew a roar of approval from the bench when he laid out for a charge with 17:23 remaining.

With Munson as the centerpiece, the onus is on Roach to spread the floor out.

Bedford's system is predicated on spacing, ball-screens, and moving without the ball.

A number of plays should run through Munson and Roach.

Munson, arguably the best on-the-ball defender in PSAL-A, is a double duty threat with a nose for the driving lanes.

 An impressive showing at Dean Street, which saw Munson operate offense and finish effectively with both hands, has bolstered the well-built guard's stock. Bedford and its numerous foes have established chemistry and readied themselves for the long grind of winter in fall Scrimmage Wars, brought to you by Game Over.

Featuring a "who's who" of Bedford's local foes, Scrimmage Wars features non-stop action. The hourly games and open-clock scrimmages are simply portent of what's to come this winter, a competitive environment with the opportunity to establish identity.

Catch a final tune-up of Brooklyn area teams at Scrimmage Wars this Saturday, at the Brooklyn Stuy Dome on 312 Kosciuzo Street.