Saturday, February 4, 2017

In Buying Into Team Component, TCA Red Has Thrived

Their roster may not possess heavily recruited star power or surefire Division-I appeal as others throughout Florida. They may not have the acclaimed, high-rising guard or the five-star recruit or the 7-foot rim protector who has drawn national attention and media coverage and fanfare.

Yet TCA Red has become a sleeper this season, a surprisingly effective guard-heavy core which has ripped off eight straight wins. Ryan Rodriguez has helped forge a piecemeal collection of guys from across the world into an overall developed unit. This team has a unique blend of bench depth and balance, with all 13 guys playing meaningful minutes and getting a piece of the action in high-pressure moments.

While unfortunate aspects such as selfishness and disinterest tend to sully teams in the prep environment, TCA Red has suddenly become illustrative of the team component.

 Rarely in this atmosphere, where guys who have never played together before must get acclimated and play a slapdash, condensed schedule from November to March, do you witness this quality of togetherness. 

Placing extra emphasis on effort and sustainable defensive aggression, there are times when they play above and beyond their perceived competitive level.

Down the roster and off the bench, each and every individual buys. Because of it, the squad has exceeded the less than lefty expectations it entertained at the season’s start.

On Thursday, a layer of poise and late-game savvy cemented a pair of come-from-behind victories. 

Against Champions Academy in Fort Lauderdale, Karn Goraya hit back-to-back tie-breaking 3-pointers and later connected on an eight-foot floater that proved to be the go-ahead bucket.

The team wound up gutting out a wild, 76-73 victory. Champions would ultimately  squander a 16-point first half lead, one in which they appeared to have a considerable upper hand.

Conrad showed crunch time grit in a previous win against SCORE Academy. TJ Gittens, a 6-foot guard out of Houston, splashed a go-ahead 3-pointer.

Gittens later sank a pair of free throws with 11 seconds left, solidifying a win after falling behind by as many as 13 in the first half. Goraya’s presence was pivotal in this one as well, as he hit a trio of timely treys during a key stretch. Mathis Sellin had a critical tip-in which helped Conrad stay alive during those edgy late-game sequences.

A well-built 6-foot-2 guard out of Reno, N.V., Goraya may have been a casualty of the inexact science that is high school recruiting.

A consistent scorer and 3-point shooter, Goraya has put together several 30+ point scoring onslaughts this season.

With his scoring acumen and the fact that he won’t have to make the same transition strength-wise as most freshmen, his coaches see Division-I potential in him. If he does get passed up on, there’s still the possibility of becoming a primary piece at a reputable Division-II program.

There are options with Conor Seville, a scrappy guard/forward who can play multiple positions and provide interior scoring and rebounds. Running parallel to the team’s ascent has been the much improved play of Shaq Doctrine, who has evolved into a shooter while providing another leg of scoring.

 The aforementioned Sellin has become active on the glass and around the rim, while Lenny Maguir has been a serviceable combination guard with contributions on both sides of the court. Adrien Audoin has shown glimpses lately, as he's another versatile threat with a soft touch and a penchant for crashing the boards consistently.

While Gittens and Goraya lead by example in the backcourt, there is notable depth in that category. Rodriguez has also made sure to hold each player to a high standard, holding a quick leash and a natural intolerance for defensive lapses. In a variety of cases, prep school can be an experiment turned disaster.

 Consider that everyone is looking for a scholarship, which often results in stats-padding and jealousy and division. There is also cases of guys adjusting on the fly who just don't commit to the team concept. Since prep programs of this ilk don't have a great deal of time together and do have scholarship-thirsting, me-first individualists, some of these post-graduate programs are rendered a place where team basketball goes to die.

These issues have never occurred with TCA Red, which has the look of a tight-knit team that will gladly sacrifice individual desires for team success.