Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Lofty Aspirations For Guard-Geared Bedford in 'A'

The primary question surrounding Bedford Academy this off-season?

How well they'd cushion the losses of since-graduated Darren Thomas and Layte Workman.

Thomas was a game manager, four-year starter and scoring guard who had the handle on a string.

Workman was an interior presence who averaged 15 points and 10 rebounds. An undersize 6-foot-4 forward, Workman leaned on a short-range jumper, steering rim protectors away from the paint while muscling his way inside.

At Bedford, losses must be filled by committee. There's no highly-touted transfer swooping in at the 11th hour. Sticking to the original system, Bedford built around a group that improved during a whirlwind summer and fall schedule, one which gauged its grit against high-caliber opponents.

The theme will continue this winter. Bedford has stacked the out-of-conference schedule with quality opponents. They'll play Boston power Brighton High School during a Springfield, Mass. tournament in late December.

Paced by hard-nosed rim-to-rim defense and a swift-passing attack, Bedford will be headlined by a slew of gritty guards.

Senior two-guard Ian Roach's extended range and new assassin's instinct has been promising. This much was evident during Scrimmage Wars, the annual fall tournament at the Brooklyn Dome.

The 6-foot-2 Roach, who bettered his game with a quicker release and a newfound stroke from NBA 3-point territory, has interest from Division-I programs such as Columbia and Monmouth.

 Roaming the perimeter and coming off picks ready to pull-and-pop, Roach has the essential tools to become Bedford's dagger man. Shooting off the bounce and creating his own looks have shaped the senior into a legitimate scoring threat.

The playmaking duties are now funneled down to Anthony Munson, a 6-foot-2 guard and three-year starter. Head coach Rob Phelps has challenged Munson to score at will this season, a role he deems necessary with Bedford's small-ball lineup.

A knack for surging to the rim coupled with a pull-up game has prepared Munson for a new role that entails more heavy lifting. The Division-I prospect must be more aggressive creating and scoring off the dribble on a workaday basis. Bedford utilizes both a go-go transition game and a half-court offense with numerous sets and options.

A three-year starter, Munson's defensive toughness has helped Bedford navigate into championship territory March after March.

 It's his scoring and ability to shred apart a defense that will gauge just how far this Bedford team goes. If he can adapt to a 20-PPG area scoring role, with Roach's dependable jumper guiding spreading out defenses across the city, Bedford has the potential to meet and shatter expectations.

Expanding his all-around offensive package, Munson will also take on a jack-of-all-trades role as well.

He'll have the ball in his hands more. He'll play both guard spots during different sequences of the game. He'll create. He'll handle the chore of sticking the opponent's top scorer.

With a year round focus and constant commitment to the team concept, evident through in-house camps and open gyms which sidestep the AAU route, the chemistry established.

 It's all the intangibles which don't appear on the stat sheet--leadership, late-game toughness, sustained relentlessness and focus--that will determine just how much this team will attain.

Bordering Roach and Munson in the backcourt will be guards Anthony Gibbs and Romello Ford, both of whom gained bulk in the off-season. Both are fundamentally sound and will provide pressure across the court. They'll each be tasked with operating offense, getting Munson off the ball and finding Roach on kick outs and corner treys.

Swingman Trevis Wigfall, displaying length and finishing ability, is flushed into a prominent role. Wigfall has become somewhat of a late bloomer as an NCAA prospect at the Division-II level. If he can get into the driving lanes and score as a dependable third option, more and more scholarships will be heaped on the 6-foot-2 senior.

Phelps' system is built on discipline and accountability. Four quarters of focus is demanded. Turnovers and spurts of sloppy play aren't tolerated. With that high standard set, everyone on the floor can expect a thin leash at all times.

Much to the entertainment of the fans, Bedford's rivalry with Brooklyn Law and Tech will be renewed. The two teams have been heated foes, the rivalry adding luster during last year's tense moments. As an uptick barbs and battles on NYC Basketball forum indicates, the competitiveness of this burgeoning rivalry has only grown in the off-season.

Law and Tech graduated 6-foot-3 Matt Scott (now at Niagara), a high-efficiency 28PPG scorer who defied all stereotypes regarding 'A' competition. They return a young, diminutive backcourt headlined by two promising guards in freshman Larry Moreno and returning sophomore sharpshooter Mikko Johnson.

 Johnson, like Munson, will expand from a supplementary scorer into a go-to option this season.

Like prototype New York point guards such as Stephon Marbury, Kenny Satterfield, and Rafer Alston before him, Moreno has a beyond his years savvy. At 5-foot-7, Moreno's left-handed stroke and slasher's mentality are rare for a 14-year-old. With a penchant for going to the rack against big rim protectors, the tough-as-hell guard has already surfaced as one of the team's better rebounders.

Since Bedford Academy is a highly-competitve Screening School, academic success is expected. All players are required to maintain at least an 82 average under Phelps, who doubles as the Dean of the school.