Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Bedford's Munson Adapting To Leadership Role

Defense, defense, defense.

Academics-crazed Bedford Academy knows the recipe for overcoming lack of size and blue chip power entails pints of rugged team defense. 

That model has helped Bedford sustain a stranglehold on PSAL "A" teams the past few seasons.

Minimizing penetration, vanishing the passing lanes, closing out on shooters, and pursuing the ball through 94 feet has shaped Bedford into a perennial contender. 

For junior guard Anthony Munson, who adjusts from Supplementary Sophomore to Jumbo Junior, defensive grit was never a question. 

Munson enters the 2014-15 as one of the league's fiercest on-the-ball hounds, a well-built 6-foot-2 guard known for altering shot selections throughout conference play. 

It's the kingpin role that the incoming alpha dog must acclimatize to. 

Filling the gap created by since-graduated Darren Thomas and Layte Workman, Munson's evolution as a more aggressive scorer is necessary. Now a three-year starter, Munson will shoulder leadership responsibilities at an around-the-clock rate. 

It's on him to take high-pressure shots and to call his own number during heightened moments. When the stakes soar, when Bedford looks for a much-needed spark, Munson will be called upon to supply the fireworks. 

Spurring the team with confrontational defense and clutch, game-altering shots is the role he truly covets.

It's also the role Phelps has envisioned for him since last season ended.

"We need him to step up from being a 12-13 points per game scorer to being more of a 20-points per game scorer," Phelps explained. 

"He has to really bear the load of scoring points, him and Ian (Roach). That's where a bulk of our scoring is going to come from."

Roach was locked inside the gym all summer.

Firing 3-pointer after 3-pointer and extending his stroke well beyond the 3-point line, the 6-foot-2 off guard has subscribed to a 500-600 shots per night regimen. 

Roach's new range and increased catch-and-stick acumen was evident throughout Scrimmage Wars

Munson, a consistent double-digit scorer for a loaded New Heights team featuring 6-foot-3 Virginia-commit Ty Jerome at point guard and Duquesne-commit Kai Sanders, has interest from Division-I schools such as Brown, Holy Cross and George Mason.

Tournaments such as the Sunflower Showcase in Kansas City and the UAA finals in Georgia, a showcase event which New Heights won, kept Munson active in a basketball-centric environment.

While he was flanked by star-spangled recruits on the AAU circuit, Munson knows its loyalty over royalty.

And so he'll compete for his third PSAL 'A' championship in as many years with the same kids he's played alongside since he was nine.

Anthony Gibbs, Romello Ford, Trevis Wigfall and Munson are a hoops quartet. Their feel for the game first developed with the Staten Island Ironmen.

Meshing since the good old days, this inseparable basketball clique has now made championships the key chapters in their lifeline.

"The chemistry that we have together is outstanding," Munson said. "It's always great to have your closest friends, like your brothers, on the team to keep you motivated. We keep playing."

Now, Phelps hopes Munson will run his mouth as effectively as he runs the floor. He must become more vocal, commandeering the offensive flow through action and words. 

Given Munson's knack for splitting open the driving lanes and scoring via self-creation, expect the ball to be in his hands more. 

Bedford's year-round team focus, underscored by day-long open gym runs and team camps throughout the summer, helps enhance the squad's offensive fluidity. 

 Munson will do his decent share of quarterbacking, kicking in the extra pass and flinging it to Roach on kickouts and perimeter spot-ups.  

His game has even earned the plaudits of the bordering Brooklyn area competition.

"Munson is probably the best on-the-ball defender in the A and probably guarded (28.4 PPG scorer) Matt Scott better than anyone else we faced," Brooklyn Law and Tech coach Mike Levy said. 

"He made (Scott) earn every point he scored. Munson has always been the backbone to that team. Even as a freshman, you could see the toughness in the kid. You could see that he was a hard-nosed player. His hustle and aggressiveness is emblematic of what Bedford does. It really spreads to the whole team."

One of the city's elite academic schools, Bedford has translated the intellect to a cerebral on-the-court identity.

 Poised to fend off high-scoring teams with innate toughness, Bedford places extra emphasis on preparation. 

The grind begins with Phelps' dreaded early bird workouts, which routinely has Bedford's roster hitting the alarm clock as early as 5 a.m. and 4:45 a.m.

"The first week of morning workouts, everybody has to get used to it," Munson said.

"It's a good way of getting you ready for the season. It gets you stretched out, conditioned.  Your body gets used to it. I don't know any other teams in the city that do that and practice that early. It just shows how good and committed we are as a team."

Phelps, a cyborg-like scorer at Nazareth High and a hot-shooting role player at Providence in the Big East, isn't exactly an advocate of AAU or its murky underworld.

He runs this team in the style of a small college program. Weight room work, defensive work, laborious drill sessions in which they won't even touch the basketball, and team concepts are necessities.

Since Bedford features just two scholastic sports, basketball and track, Phelps is almost never short on numbers during spring and fall workouts.

It creates a winning formula.

"The main thing I've improved in my game is my dribbling and my shooting," Munson said.

"Last year I was kind of a slasher, an everything to the rim kind of player. This year, I'd like to improve more on the shooting and ball handling."

The intangibles are equally as pivotal.

"I'd like to be more vocal with the team because this year because we have more sophomores and incoming freshman that are trying out," Munson said.

 "I've got to get everybody involved and keep us confident and on the road to the chip."