ZS: Kenny, it’s no secret West Oaks has traditionally thrived with stellar back court play. In the SIAA and in high school basketball in general, success tends to be predicated on good guard play. Maybe it’s because many of the bigs aren’t yet as developed as they become in college, but the general consensus is having good, gritty guards is a major plus. In consistently ascending the national ladder, West Oaks Academy has exemplified that. How would you describe the importance of guard play in the system you employ?
KG: The SIAA is filled with high-major guards. In order for West Oaks to be successful with multiple high-major guards, these players have to understand that in order to win everyone has to sacrifice. (Electrifying Rutgers Guard) Corey Sanders, (2015 state tournament MVP) Andres Feliz, Richardson Maitre, LJ Figueroa, Sylvain “Frenchi” Francisco all had the talent to average 30 points a night. They sacrificed individual stats for team success. Guard success at West Oaks is not determined by points and assists, but how much you put in, in a collective effort to win.
ZS: What has been the identity of this Team Breakdown squad? Where do you envision this team going and how high is the bar set?
KG: My secret ingredient to having good guard play is securing a guard from the New York Area. NY native PJ Person was just what we needed. When he arrived, he had all the tools. PJ was strong, fast, athletic, and he definitely brought that New York swag.
We spent this year helping him add to his arsenal by teaching him to play under control, to limit his number of dribbles, and truly embrace the role of playmaker. On the other hand, PJ’s toughness and defense spread throughout the rest of the team. After playing a year in the SIAA (Sunshine Independent Athletic Association) and a summer with Team Breakdown, he is ready to be among the nation’s elite point guards.
Rankings are cool, but championships determine a true #1. Right now Team Breakdown has a starting guard trio of (Louisville-commit) Anfernee Simons, Oldsmar Christian’s Elijah Weaver, and PJ Person. They are electrifying because they can score, defend, and play way above the rim. The depth of our guards is crazy, especially when you consider that Cordrayius Graham and 6-foot-5 shooting guard Bryce Beamer were previously the leading scorers, posting the country’s best record and going 20-1. This is despite 17 of those 21 games being played against shoe sponsored teams from Nike EYBL, Adidas, and UAA teams.
ZS: How do you describe the style of play West Oaks enforces, which keeps you guys in national relevance? Obviously pressure all across the court is major component that yourself, coach Diane, coach Arias preach with an iron fist. How do you go about making this priority no.1?
KG: West Oaks has two major factors that have allowed us to be successful and winning championships. Those are defense and just how hard we play on an everyday basis. My philosophy is fairly simple: If you can’t stop your man, you can’t get on the floor. That is not a figure of speech but actually how it goes. There have been many times throughout the year where I’ve said “If your man scores on you, be ready to come out of the game.”