Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The System goes to Long Island!

OK, so it's the second year that girls' coach Keith Freund at North Shore HS in Glen Head, N.Y., has run this exciting style, but I just loved that headline.

On Saturday, he and his team held their first scrimmage and had some early success. They played six, 10-minute quarters with a running clock and reset the score after each period. The Vikings won each mini-game, including an 18-point margin in the final one, and totaled about 50 points more than the opponent. Pretty sweet.

Now, not sure what the competition was like, and Coach Freund was quick to point out that a pressing defense early in the season (or especially before the season even begins) often has the advantage. Still, he saw plenty he liked, and when North Shore played this team in the regular season a year ago, it came up on the short end by four points.

Another neat thing was that prior to the final period, he asked the opposing coach if he would like the Vikings to play more conventionally. You know, perhaps a little 2-3 zone so the other coach could actually work on some offense. When Coach Freund's players heard this, about nine of them asked to sit out if they were going to have to play slow! Amazing.

Coach Freund was kind enough to take some time to answer my questions, which likely will seem a bit familiar to my blog-ites out there (I think I just made up a word). Still, I'm always interested to see how a coach came to this style of play and what he or she thinks of it. Also, it's interesting to hear how much many of these newcomers rely on the Godfather of The System, Grinnell coach David Arseneault, or Olivet Nazarene women's coach Doug Porter, or even others.

Here we go. This was just an amazing interview, and I hope all of you enjoy it as much as I did:

(What was the genesis to your conversion to The System?)

Coach Freund: "Two years ago we had a 6'1" post-up player who averaged 18 points and 14 rebounds a game. After she graduated, I knew that we were going to have to change our style. We played uptempo with her, but if we did not get a quick layup, we pulled it out and got the ball into the post and she would either score or draw a double team.

"We were very successful that year, we were 15-4 and Conference Champions, but I knew that the next year, no one on our team would be able to draw a double team in the post or score with their back to the basket. In addition, we were returning 12 players (almost all of whom were around 5'7") and of those 12, 8 could be considered very athletic, but not great 'basketball' players.

"Therefore, I was on Championship Productions and I was buying videos and books on fast break basketball and I found Coach A's original book in the clearance section. I bought it just on the title alone - 'The Running Game: A Formula for Success.' I didn't know about The System (it does not get much press on the east coast) and so when it came in the mail, it was probably the third book that I read. When I read it, I had to read again to understand what I was reading. As I was reading, it seemed to be serendipity. I knew that this style was perfectly suited for our team and I emailed Coach A and he responded back in about 10 minutes and he hooked me up with the Run-N-Gun yahoo group and the website and once I started reading the posts, I knew that this was for us."

(What other type of research did you do before switching?)

Coach Freund: "Once I read the book and emailed Coach A and joined the yahoo site, I bought Coach Porter's 4 DVD's and emailed him several times. I then bought the Run-N-Gun clinic videos and with the two of those, I put together a 200+ page binder of System stuff. I then read the old posts to try and answer questions that I had without having to ask the same questions that I was sure had been discussed several times in the past.

"I then met with the AD and showed him the YouTube clip of Grinnell playing (84 points in the first half). He loved it and told me that I was crazy if i DIDN'T do this. He knew my girls and he knew they could do this. I then met with the coaching staff and gave them a copy of the binder and we discussed its pros and cons. They were all for it and also agreed that it was the only way for us to play. Having support and agreement from the AD and the entire coaching staff made the decision much easier (even though I probably would have done it even if they did not agree).

"After that, I bought the Grinnell game DVD's and after watching them, I made a highlight video that I put to music. I showed it the team in June and starting selling it to them six months before the season began."

(Looking back, do you wish you had come to this sooner, or was the timing perfect?)

Coach Freund: "I admit that I am not the typical System coach. While I do really love the outcomes of The System, I would not run this style unless it was the best choice for my team. If my team could not press effectively, then I wouldn't press. This style is the best style for our team right now. It was the best style last year, this year and next year. I am not sure in two years, if it will still be the best for us.

"I will never, however, be able to play walk the ball up the court offense. I know for the rest of my career we will run on offense, I cannot promise that we will always press and trap the entire game. I guess what I am trying to say is, last year was the absolute best time for us and I wouldn't change that."

(What is your favorite thing about The System?)

Coach Freund: "IT IS FUN! My goodness, this is how basketball should look. Get up and down the court and have the fans cheering and the bench is excited. Last year, we played 17 girls in a playoff game. 17 PLAYERS TOOK PART IN A PLAYOFF GAME! What is better than that? Every kid had an effect on every single game. When we met the next day to discuss the game, I was speaking to every kid. Not just eight, but every kid.

"The fun factor and the participation are my favorite things. In addition, they are also the girls favorite things. I can't speak for boys, but I can say that girls are very happy that all their friends are playing. They love the fact that they don't have to feel like they are apologizing to their friends who sat the whole game.

"On a side note, my wife's favorite part was watching the bench cheer the whole game and not feeling uncomfortable in the stands as some parents were talking about me and their daughter sitting."

(What are the biggest drawbacks, if any, with The System?)

Coach Freund: "The biggest drawback is blowouts. Both against you and when you are blowing teams out. When you're getting blown out, there is no major adjustment to make. The only way to get back in the game is to press and shoot and that got you down to begin with.

"We lost a game last year 76-35 and it was team that was even with us talent-wise, but not that night. With any style of play that night they would have beaten us by 20, but a 20 point loss looks a lot better than a 41-point loss when you are still pressing in the 4th quarter. (BTW-we played them again 2 weeks later and beat them 68-45 - the girls last year were so resilient and I think was partly because they played from behind so much early in the game and were used to coming back in the second half).

"In addiion, when we blow a team out it is a tough balancing act. When your kids are already sitting half the game anyway and everyone is playing, how do you handle it? Do you keep pressing and shooting or do you walk the ball up the court and pack in your defense? Never mind the fact that once your kids enjoy playing this way, they never want to do anything else and everyone volunteers to sit out when have to walk the ball up the court."

(You had a great post on the message board last year after your loss in the playoffs, about how much fun your team had all season and how no one wanted it to end. Is it impossible to create that kind of chemistry again? Is it something you can create?)

Coach Freund: "Team bonding is something that we always do, but The System definitely made us closer. We always do fun things as a team, as I believe that every team should do, but every girls team MUST DO. This is the stuff they love. Girls love the feeling of a team. They love the relationships and the sense of community. So we skip practice some days and go to an indoor air castle place or an arcade. We go bowling and then to Friendly's.

"In addition, my family hosts a holiday dinner for the entire team and their families every year. The girls do a secret santa and they play with my kids and I get to talk to the parents. I try to avoid basketball talk (but it always comes up) and we talk about their families and such and their daughters that I coached in the past and how they're doing in college. I also always have little sisters of the girls on my team keep stats for us. We really try to stress family with the girls and make basketball an enjoyable experience for every kid on the team.

"That being said, however, The System makes it so much easier. The kids LOVE the fact that everyone plays.The kids LOVE the fact that this is so much fun. They LOVE when their teammates do well in this style and that is certainly not always the case. There is so much less jealously and much more of a sense of a team. No one feels like if one player is taken off the team the whole team would go down the drain. It is a real team in the highest sense of the word and even I feel like I am part of a team and not a coach on a team.

"So when we lost last year and we had one last bus ride together, I didn't want to spend it crying and being sad, even though we were. I wanted them to have one last opportunity together to think about the season and how much fun it was. I told them that this was my favorite season ever and I thanked them for being the wonderful human beings that are and told them to never change and I hoped they enjoyed this season half as much as I did. I finished by saying that I was watching a documentary on the 'Miracle on Ice' team and after they won everything and met the president and were on the plane heading home, one of them started crying and when his teammate asked why, he said, 'Because it's over.' Even if we have been heading home on bus after winning a state title, I would be crying. I wasn't crying because we lost, but because it was over. Sorry so long, but yes we do things to encourage team unity, but it is definitely also an outgrowth of The System."

No problem there, Coach Freund. Simply wonderful stuff. I have the feeling your teams would play for each other and have the the type of chemistry you describe playing any style. We're just lucky you're running The System. Good luck this season.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Georgia prep coach continues with The System

Meet Chris Wolski, the boys' coach at North Paulding HS in Dallas, Ga., who is in his fourth season of, as he puts it, "running and gunning." Previously, he had run everything from Princeton, to Blocker-Mover (that sounds interesting!), to Flex, etc., looking for anything to help. He settled on a hybrid of the Grinnell style, as created by coach David Arseneault, and the old Loyola Marymount stuff employed by then-coach Paul Westhead.

So far, he and the Wolfpack are off to an 0-2 start, with a game against Walker HS on Tuesday night. Coach Wolski is in his 14th year of coaching, and in his fourth season with the program, which began exactly four years ago with only freshmen. This will be his first team with seniors.

I caught up with Coach Wolski via e-mail, and here is all you need to know about him and his team:

(How did you come to The System?)

Coach Wolski: "I was at a small school that had no chance of competing. I started researching the philosophy of basketball with kids that had trouble winning and came across Coach A's philosophy; therefore, I was exposed to his system. Previously, I had known about Coach Westhead's philosophy, but nothing about Coach A's philosophy."

(What was your research like when you made the decision?)

Coach Wolski: "As I stated above I researched the philosophy at a previous school. I contacted Coach A and he was awesome in answering my questions via e-mail. I also bought his book and DVDs."

(What has been the biggest challenge at your school?)

Coach Wolski: "The biggest challenge has been getting the parents to buy in to the style. The previous school I was at I was fired because of the system. Literally, I had one board member that didn't think it was 'basketball,' and got me fired. Here, since I opened the school as coach, there has not been as much resistance. It amazes me, though, how much people still do not buy in to the system."

(What about staff? Administration? Players?)

Coach Wolski: "My staff is totally on board. We have control of 6th - 12th grades; therefore, I have 6 teams running and gunning. I really believe this will help sell the system in the long run. My sell to the staff and administration is the fact that we DO NOT have real basketball players. In grades 6-12 I have a total of 5 year-round basketball players. The rest are just good, or great, athletes. Therefore, this system, LMU, gives us the best opportunity to be successful."

(What do you want to get out of The System?)

Coach Wolski: "Ultimately, I want the kids to know what it feels like to totally outwork someone else. They are buying in to it this season wholeheartedly. We are 0-2 to start this season, but they grasp what we are doing and know it is just a matter of being in better shape to do what we do."

(What's been your best experience so far?)

Coach Wolski: "My best experience came the year I was fired. We were up 32 going into the 4th quarter and we have the mercy rule in Georgia. They put 6 minutes on the clock and my players started flipping out about why. I told them why, and one of my least talented kids looked at me and said, 'But coach, down 30 points in a quarter is NOTHING.' Kids believing that they are never out of it is by FAR THE BEST PART OF SYSTEM BALL!"

Amen to that, Coach Wolski. I appreciate his time, and wish him and his team the best of luck during the rest of the season. I'll do what I can to keep you updated.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Galesburg HS continues to roll

The 3-pointers aren't going in quite as much as they did last season, so those home fans aren't taking advantage of the "Three-diculous" promotion to get free McDonald's triple-cheeseburgers (more on this later). Still, the girls' team at Galesburg (Ill.) HS appears to be "Streak-ing" at the moment and using The System to dominate opponents.

On Saturday night, Jessica Howard made six 3s and scored 21 points, leading the Streaks past Rich East 86-55 in the their own Thanksgiving tournament, their third consecutive victory overall. Galesburg (4-2) made 12 3-pointers in all, tying its season high but falling short of the 13 required to give participating students the coupons for the free burgers. Remember from last year? "Triple-cheesburger" has 13 letters, the Streaks shoot a bunch of 3s, so a local McDonald's agreed to be a part of this. Neat stuff.

Here are the Formula stats, and remember, the final quarter had no clock stoppages:

- Attempted 67 shots (goal is 72)
- Attempted 40 3-pointers (goal is 36)
- Rebounded 57 percent of its own misses (goal is 40 percent)
- Forced 29 turnovers (goal is 26)
- Attempted 12 more shots than Rich East (goal is 20)

Pretty impressive stuff, as was the halftime score: 59-27 favor of Galesburg. Howard was her usual spectacular self, and she had tons of help up and down the roster, with Jessica Lieber (15 points), Jamie Johnson (12 points and 15 rebounds) and Tai Peachey (nine assists) helping out a bunch. Others chipping in included Myra Diggins (nine points), Sadee Hamilton (six points and six rebounds) and Emma Junk (season-high eight points and five rebounds, all on the offensive end).

Here are some thoughts from coach Evan Massey, courtesy of his blog: "I don't know if it is just the quality of this group or if it is the nature of playing 12 kids regularly but at this point in the year, they are extremely unselfish. It seems like they all know they are going to get a chance to play so they are not worried about personal stats. Definitely fun night!"

I couldn't have said it better myself. Of course, I wasn't even there, so how could even comment? Hmm, weird. Anyway, way to go, Galesburg. Coach Massey and the Streaks are off until Thursday night, when they host undefeated Rock Island at 8 p.m. EST. I'll have an update.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Grinnell moves to 4-0 with road victory

The shots might not be falling as much as coach David Arseneault would like, yet the NCAA Division III Grinnell Pioneers improved to 4-0 with a 100-83 victory at Wartburg on Saturday night, the first one on the road for the nation's highest-scoring team.

Talk about balance -- Matt Skelly led five players in double figures with 16 points (4-of-7 on 3-pointers), with Matt Chalupa (12), Marques Valdez (11), Griffin Lentsch (10) and Jesse Ney (10) getting in on the fun, as well. Lentsch played 17 minutes, the most of anyone, and 13 other players got at least 10 minutes of run. In all, 18 players got on the floor for the Pioneers, who set an all-division NCAA record in their previous game when 19 different players made a 3.

No such luck in this one, not that it mattered. Grinnell finished 14-for-46 from beyond the arc, with Lentsch, Ney, Chalupa and freshman Aaron Levin making two in addition to Skelly's outburst. Here are your (actually, Grinnell's) Formula stats:

- Attempted 85 shots (goal is 94)
- Attempted 46 3-pointers (goal is 47)
- Rebounded 41 percent of its own misses (goal is 33 percent)
- Forced 32 turnovers (goal is 32)
- Attempted 29 more shots than Wartburg (goal is 25)

Again, it's easy to see, if you've been paying attention, that the vital goals are offensive rebounds and turnovers. Meet those numbers and that gives you more possessions in which to shoot. And it's even more prevalent with the Pioneers, since they have been particularly adept at "squeezing the orange," as CBS college hoops analyst Clark Kellogg would say. They turned it over only 13 times themselves in this game, a pretty amazing figure when you consider how fast they push the ball up the court.

Grinnell took control with a 12-2 spurt shortly after the midpoint of the first half, keyed by 3s from Levin, Ney and Dominique Bellamy, that broke the fifth and final tie to make it 37-27. The score was 56-43 at the break, and when the Pioneers scored the first six points of the second 20 minutes, they were off and running. Brian McManamy got three the old-fashioned way with an and-one from in close, followed by a 3-pointer from Valdez, to make it 62-43.

The lead never got lower than nine the rest of the way and Kale Knisley's layup in the final minute pushed Grinnell to the 100-point plateau. That makes Coach A's squad 4-for-4 in reaching that number this season, and it is average more than 117 points so far.

The schedule continues to get tougher, with a Midwest Conference road trip next weekend to favorites St. Norbert on Friday and to Ripon on Saturday. St. Norbert was ranked 10th in the d3hoops.com preseason poll. Good luck to the Pioneers, and you can check back here for the results.

Galesburg rolls again, Eisenhower plays well in loss, McQueen opens with W

The System keeps getting better and better for the girls' team at Galesburg (Ill.) HS. Of course, coach Evan Massey is one of the reasons why, along with solid efforts from his players.

On Friday night, the Streaks beat Metamora 78-47 at a neutral site, on the court at Knox College. Sadee Hamilton had 18 points and five rebounds, Jamie Johnson added 13 points and six boards and Galesburg forced 29 first-half turnovers on its way to the victory.

Here are your Formula goals:

- Attempted 75 shots (goal is 72)
- Attempted 40 3-pointers (goal is 36)
- Rebounded 51 percent of the misses on offense (goal is 40 percent)
- Forced 41 turnovers (26 is the goal)
- Attempted 34 more shots than Metamora (20 is the goal)

So despite making only nine 3s (23 percent), the Streaks roll by hitting all five goals. Nice effort. On his blog, Coach Massey called the first-half performance "without a doubt, the best half of defensive pressure we have had since going to 'The System.'" The score was 48-24, and only a bit of a stumble in the third quarter kept the final margin down.

Coach Massey also praised the defense of 1,000-point scorer Jessica Howard (six steals) and Tai Peachey (four steals), while also pointing out how well the point guards have been controlling the ball: in the past three games, Peachey, Paige Klinck and Baylie Boyer have a combined five turnovers, pretty impressive for this style of play.

Galesburg finishes out its Thanksgiving tournament Saturday against Rich East, with game time scheduled for 7 p.m. EST. Hope it continues to go well for Coach Massey and his team.

Elsewhere on Friday night, the boys' team at Eisenhower HS in Blue Island, Ill., lost the final game of its season-opening tournament 94-75 to Leo Catholic HS, a private school in Chicago that featured two 6-foot-7 players in the starting lineup, with a pair of 6-5 reserves on the bench. Tough matchup for any team.

Here are how the Cardinals (2-2) fared on four of their goals:

- Attempted 96 shots (goal is 80)
- Attempted 47 3-pointers (goal is 32)
- Rebounded 24 percent of the misses on offense (goal is 35 percent)
- Attempted 29 more shots than Leo

Not sure how many turnovers Eisenhower forced, but those four statistics look pretty promising for a first-year System team.

As always, here are the thoughts of coach Mike Curta:

Coach Curta: "What is really hurting us right now is our offensive rebounding and penchant for fouling. We turned over a pretty good team tonight, but the shot differential is skewed because of the amount of trips we are sending teams to the line. Also, this defeats our goal of wearing them down. It seems like when teams are on the verge of melting down, we let them off the hook and give them a rest. With a week of practice we are looking forward to correcting these areas.

"On the positive side, we would have never been in the game tonight playing conventionally. We let it get away in the fourth quarter, but would have been buried earlier the old way. Also interesting to see how more talented teams actually become defensive when playing against this system. (They) were sending two and three guys back to stop our rush. Best question I keep getting is, 'Are you really going to keep playing this way all of the time?' My response, 'Only if someone can find a way to play faster!' I also use the quote a former player of mine made famous everytime someone asks me why we are shooting so many 3s: 'Because there are no 4s.'

Coach Curta and the Cardinals are off until Friday when they play Thornton Fractional North from Calumet City, Ill. Good luck to them.

Finally, the girls' team at McQueen HS in Reno, Nev., opened its season with a 77-57 victory over Truckee. Coach Joe Bischopink was kind enough to share some details, including the fact that the Lancers averaged only 41 points last season. They hit 10-of-25 from the 3-point line and rebounded 40 percent of their misses on offense in the opener

After leading by only five entering the fourth quarter, McQueen pulled away down the stretch. Congratulations to Coach Bischopink and his team, and I'll keep you updated on their progress.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Update on new gig for System guru Dave Arnold

You remember him, right? He led Whitmore Lake HS in Michigan to a 14-7 record last season while putting up huge numbers, then took his talents to Monroe HS, also in Michigan. Just a reminder of what Coach Arnold saw his team do last season:

- Averaged 90 points
- Made a school-record 356 3-pointers
- Set a Michigan record with 29 3-pointers in a 117-80 victory over Morenci on Jan. 21, 2010
- Enjoyed a 10-game winning streak late in the season, during which his team averaged 94.8 points

I checked in with Coach Arnold to see how it was going getting The System installed at Monroe; he doesn't open his season until Dec. 10, so he has a little more time to prepare. Here is what he e-mailed me:

Coach Arnold: "So far, things are progressing about as expected. Offensively, they're picking up the concepts in drills. However, when we kick into 5-on-5 situations, we still tend to revert to disorganized playground ball. Defensively, we just started with the basic structure this week, so that's a work in progress, but I can tell we have a ways to go in terms of understanding the effort and intensity needed to drive the press. All-in-all, they're picking it up pretty well, but the real test will be the scrimmages (Friday) and next Friday."

Good luck to him and this new set of Trojans (that also was the mascot at Whitmore Lake, in case you forgot). Hopefully, we'll get some info on those scrimmages.

Another exhilarating victory for Eisenhower HS

At this pace, I might have to drive to the Chicagoland area to watch Coach Mike Curta and the boys' basketball team at Eisenhower HS, based in Blue Island, Ill. They simply are doing amazing things so far in their first season with The System, and as always, I'll allow Coach Curta to fill you in on Game 3 of this magical start (I've taken the liberty to edit it a bit, I don't believe he will mind):

Coach Curta: "Wednesday night was Game #3 against our other district rival and we go double overtime for a 115-113 victory.

The total of 228 for both teams ranks #15 in Illinois state history for combined score for two teams. Our opponent now ranks in a tie for seventh in state history for most points in a game by a losing team. We combined to score 57 in the fourth quarter to also squeeze into the top 20 in state scoring for a quarter by both teams. We tied the state record for threes in a game with 21. The combined total of 28 threes now ranks second in state history. In our second game of the tournament we broke the state record for three's attempted with 67.

"I will have to check the stats on film because our trainer, who does a great job of keeping shift stats, had to take care of a player who needed stitches for a cut to the head. He missed about 3 1/2 minutes of the third quarter while taking care of the young man (who is fine).

"Please forgive me for rattling off the numbers but our fans, kids and parents are going crazy for this kind of basketball. We are getting absolutely killed on layups and easy baskets vs. our press right now because the kids' legs are like lead after these three games. To their credit they have found a way to hang in games and do just enough to get the win. Tonight we trailed throughout the game until our sophomore shooter nailed a 3 to tie the game at 87 in regulation.

"We went back and forth in the first overtime and led by 2 with :13. We had a breakdown defensively in the halfcourt and our opponent scored the basket to lock it up at 95 going into the second overtime. Our opponent went up 6 immediately and got it to 9 with 2:14 to go in the second overtime. In the past we probably would have broke down and packed it in for the night, but not playing System Ball!

"Down 106-97, we came back to take a 111-107 lead with :28 remaining in double overtime and possession. Our intention was to salt the clock and win the game at the free throw line. What I did not take into consideration was the short amount of practice time in implementing The System and concentrating solely on the basics. We programmed our kids to shoot when open so well that one of our preferred shooters decided to launch a three with us up four and trying to kill clock. He canned it to go up 7 and the game was over.

"Sorry for the diatribe, but in these three games we have done more for our school, community and program than would have been possible without converting to The System. Alumni are talking and the stands are starting to fill with people curious to see what we are doing.

"As I told our coaches and kids after tonight: When our kids from this team are sitting around with their families many Thanksgivings from now they will be able to tell their own kids that they achieved something significant that no team had ever done before in our state's history. How great is that?"

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

All-division NCAA record for Grinnell, Galesburg gets first conference W

For the 11th time, the Grinnell Pioneers have an NCAA single-game record. This one is for all divisions, too.

In their 137-103 victory over Faith Baptist College on Tuesday night, the Pioneers had 19 different players make a 3-pointer, shattering the mark of 14 set by the University of the Redlands on Jan. 29, 2005, against Cal Tech. The Bulldogs won that one 155-107, and the Grinnell game might not have been as competitive as that one.

The Pioneers tied a school record with 88 points at the half (the score was 88-38) and essentially called off the dogs in the final 20 minutes. Talk about a no-layup rule: Grinnell took 55 shots in the second half, and 54 of them were 3s. Meanwhile, Faith Baptist shot 79 percent after the break and "won" the second half 65-49.

No matter. The Pioneers (3-0) took care of business in that first half, making 35-of-62 shots from the field and 12-of-34 from behind the line. Pretty impressive.

Now, here are The Formula goals:

- Attempted 117 shots (goal is 94)
- Attempted 88 3s (goal is 47)
- Rebounded 42 percent of its own misses (goal is 33 percent)
- Forced 44 turnovers (goal is 32)
- Attempted 31 more shots than Faith Baptist (goal is 25)

All in all, a pretty dominant effort for Grinnell. And with 19 players making a 3-pointer, you know everybody had a chance to contribute. Griffin Lentsch led the way with 20 points in only 10 minutes of playing time, making six 3-pointers, Marques Valdez added 14 points and Jack Adams and Xander Strek had 12 apiece. Adams played 16 minutes, the most of any of the 20 players who got run, and everybody got at least 6.

The only one who failed to make a 3 was Tyler Brotz, who missed all six of his attempts. He did make one from inside the arc, so at least everyone scored. Kale Knisley led the D with five of the 29 steals and Brian McManamy had a team-high six rebounds.

Tyler Terlouw led Faith Baptist (5-4) with 26 points.

Grinnell travels to Wartburg on Saturday before opening Midwest Conference play the next weekend. Game time in Waverly, Iowa, is 5 p.m. EST. Good luck to coach David Arseneault and the Pioneers.

Also in System action, the Galesburg (Ill.) HS girls' team had a nice victory in the Western Big Six Conference opener, winning on the road at Quincy 81-36 Tuesday night. Jessica Lieber made five 3-pointers, Sadee Hamilton continued to excel at the back of the press with seven steals and the Streaks forced 22 first-half turnovers.

Formula goals:

- Attempted 69 shots (goal is 72)
- Attempted 44 (goal is 36)
- Rebounded 67 percent of its own misses (goal is 40 percent)
- Forced 40 turnovers (goal is 26)
- Attempted 15 more shots than Quincy (goal is 20)

As coach Evan Massey pointed out on his blog, Galesburg (2-2, 1-0 WB6) went to the free throw line 29 times, which kept it from reaching the total shots and shot differential goal. He pointed out that the 67 percent total on offensive rebounds was the highest his team has had; Myra Diggins led the way with eight, Jamie Johnson added six and Hamilton got four.

After four games, the Streaks have four players averaging more than six total rebounds a game, which Coach Massey attributes to his team's hustle. Nice going. Galesburg returns to play in the Galesburg Thanksgiving Tournament on Friday, facing Metamora at 5:30 p.m. EST. Good luck to everyone.

The Eisenhower HS boys' team from Blue Island, Ill., lost its second game with The System, falling to Marist 87-79 Tuesday night. Coach Mike Curta was kind enough to send his stats and some reaction from the game.

Formula goals:

- Attempted 95 shots (goal is 80)
- Attempted 52 3-pointers (goal is 32)
- Rebounded 26 percent of its own misses (goal is 35 percent)
- Forced 29 turnovers (goal is 26)
- Attempted 34 more shots than Marist (goal is 24)

So all in all, not a bad performance, as the numbers show. Here are Coach Curta's thoughts:

Coach Curta: "Just did not play anywhere near as hard as last night (in the opener). Didn’t have guys sprinting for one another and right now we aren’t executing much in the half-court.

"They went some zone and we were able to get them out of it, but they just abused us against our press. Threw back to the inbounder off the initial trap and we weren’t rotating/gambling to take it away. Just kind of accepted the game being played at a reduced speed.

"The big stat for us was the offensive rebounds. They are a well-coached half-court team and got physical with us. Once we absorbed contact we didn’t give the requisite second, third efforts to go get the ball. Another huge issue was our fouling tonight. They were in the super bonus the whole second and third quarters. Never could wear them down because it became a game of stops and starts and resting for them.

"Play game #3 Wednesday night against our other district rival. Should learn from this and perform with a better effort level tomorrow."

Here's hoping the Cardinals (1-1) have better luck Wednesday.

In Bowie, Md., the NCAA Division II Glenville State women's team had a tough night, losing to Bowie State of the CIAA 64-57, a very low-scoring night for coach Bunky Harkleroad's team. Unfortunately, not much was working for the Pioneers (3-3), who attempted only 61 shots and committed 31 of their own turnovers.

This led to a negative shot differential of six, and despite leading for much of the middle portion of the game, Glenville State dropped its second straight. The seemingly never-ending road trip doesn't get any easier, with a trip to Division I Liberty next Tuesday.

That's followed by a West Virginia Intercollegiate Athletic Conference game at Bluefield State on Thursday, Dec. 2, and I plan to be in attendance to root for the Pioneers. It should be great fun, and I can't wait. Good luck to them until then, and Happy Thanksgiving to everyone out there.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Grinnell keeps it going, and two high school teams open with victories

Last season, when NCAA Division III Grinnell had its struggles, a trip to Buena Vista led to a 41-point loss. It wasn't pretty.

Yet the return engagement might have made up for it. This year, instead of playing in the friendly confines of Darby Gym, as quaint a location as you'll ever find, Pioneers coach David Arseneault moved the game down Interstate 80 to Des Moines, Iowa, and Wells Fargo Arena. Grinnell and Buena Vista served as a preliminary game for the Iowa Energy of the NBA Development League. I'm guessing the fans at the game enjoyed the action.

Matt Chalupa made six 3-pointers and Jesse Ney and Matt Skelly added four apiece to lead the Pioneers to a 113-105 victory Monday night. Winning any time is great; doing so when one of your best players (Griffin Lentsch) shoots 2-for-21 from the field and 2-for-15 on 3s is even better.

Others helped out a bunch, as always in The System. Chalupa led six players in double figures with 22 points, with Ney (13), Skelly (12), freshman Aaron Levin (11), Brian McManamy (11) and Marques Valdez (10) all chipping in for Grinnell (2-0). Other numbers were just as impressive as scoring, with Kale Knisley (eight rebounds in only 9 minutes of run) and freshman point guard Patrick Maher (five assists, five rebounds and three steals) helping out in other ways.

Of course, even the players doing the scoring filled up other portions of their stat sheets. McManamy added four rebounds, four assists, five blocks and two steals and Chalupa finished with five assists and two steals. Now, on to The Formula goals:

- Attempted 106 shots (94 is the goal)
- Attempted 74 3-pointers (47 is the goal)
- Controlled 35 percent of its own misses (33 percent is the goal)
- Attempted 38 more shots than Buena Vista (25 is the goal)
- Forced 35 turnovers (32 is the goal)

So, let's see, that appears to be 5-for-5 on the goals, which, according to history, leads to a victory 95 percent of the time. Count this one among that number.

Despite that, this one wasn't easy. Buena Vista used two free throws from Sam Moser to take a 79-69 lead with 12:55 left in the second half before Grinnell rallied. Maher made a 3 and McManamy got inside for a layup to cut the margin to five, then a couple of minutes later, consecutive 3-pointers by Levin and Skelly gave the Pioneers a 90-88 lead.

Buena Vista took its final lead when Trent Fisher converted one of two at the line for a 101-100 advantage before Levin put Grinnell ahead to stay with two free throws of his own. When it again was one at 104-103, Chalupa stepped up with a huge jumper from outside the arc to increase the lead to four, and the Pioneers never looked back.

Quite a turnaround from last year's game, when Buena Vista won 126-85.

Oh, and by the way, that professional game later in the night? The one involving the NBA Development League? The Energy beat the Dakota Wizards 111-103 -- there were four more combined points in the Grinnell game! Nice.

Anyway, Coach A and his team has a quick turnaround and will host Faith Baptist on Tuesday night at Darby. Game time is 8 p.m. EST, which is coming up soon. Good luck, Pioneers.

Now, a couple of high schools running The System for the first time opened their seasons Monday night, and the results were stunning. Mike Curta from Eisenhower HS in Blue Island, Ill., an recent interview subject for ye ol' blog, watched his team beat Richards HS 97-95 in overtime. I would try to explain it, but I thought it would better to let Coach Curta do so. He was gracious enough to send a report on the game shortly after midnight:

Coach Curta: "First game running The System. Opened up tonight against a district rival who we haven't beaten since 2004. They had won the state championship in 2008. We won 97-95 in OT. The most unbelievable game I have been a part of in years.

"Don't have all the stats as far as our goals because my assistant coaches lost their minds trying to keep up. Easily took 80 shots and made 19 3s for the game. Our goal was 32 attempts from the 3 and we blew that out of the water. I am sure that we met our turnover goal of 26 because we forced 18 in the first half before our coaches got fried! Our preferred shooter in our first group had 29 points and made 6 3s. He missed his last four before canning a 3 with 4 seconds left in regulation.

"Then to make matters all the more fun on a personal level, my son cans his third 3 off of the jump ball in OT and we never look back. Game was 7 with 28 seconds to go and we allowed a couple of buckets because they couldn't stop the clock. (Richards) nearly reached their melting point, but a scoring dispute in the third quarter delayed the game for five minutes and they got a second wind. We also put them in the super bonus for the whole fourth quarter, but found a way to get the win.

"More importantly, the students at our place were going crazy the whole game. Parents loved it, our kids were going crazy and it was just a blast. Of course the win made it really sweet, but as I told our AD during the game. I can guarantee that our gate is going to be bigger tomorrow. Word of mouth is going to spread about the craziness at our games."

Oh, yeah. Coach Curta and the Cardinals get to do it all again Tuesday night, playing Marist at 8:30 EST. Go get 'em.

Finally, Atwood-Hammond HS in Atwood, Ill., also opened a tournament with a huge victory, winning 100-55 against an opponent to-be-determined. Actually, obviously, the opponent was determined, I just don't know who it was. Coach Bill Lyons posted the results, which I wanted to get to you, but he left out who his team played. Probably being nice.

Atwood-Hammond finished 40-for-110 from the field, including 9-for-50 on 3-pointers, rebounded 53 percent of its own misses and forced 34 turnovers. All that led to a shot advantage of 49. Hard to lose with those numbers.

Good luck Coach Lyons and his team, and I will do my best to provide regular updates on them.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Glenville State, Galesburg HS both have tough days Saturday

I would imagine there are no easy ways to lose a game. Blowout, close one, something in between, I'm guessing they all sting pretty badly. Two of my favorite teams each lost Saturday in two entirely different ways: the NCAA Division II women's team at Glenville State lost on a free throw with essentially no time left (0.4 seconds), while the girls' team at Galesburg (Ill.) HS gamely stayed with the second-ranked team in its state before losing by a large margin.

Fans are prone to disappointment when their teams lose, and I'm no different, yet as North Carolina coach Roy Williams is fond of saying, what do I have invested? I have no doubt that Glenville State and Galesburg have much better days ahead.

In Millersville, Pa., the Pioneers coached by Bunky Harkleroad lost 80-79 when Domonique Stroman made the second of two free throws literally in the final second to give the Millersville Marauders the victory in the second day of their annual Tip-Off Tournament.

Beth Deren came off the bench to lead a balanced attack for Glenville State with 15 points, with Danielle Woodmore (14), Tenisha Wilson (12) and Autumn Davis (11) also in double figures. Woodmore added four rebounds, eight assists a four steals in a nice effort.

Turnovers continue to plague the Pioneers -- they had 28 in this game to only 23 for the Marauders, leading to a shot differential of only plus-4 for The System team. And since only 13 of those turnovers turned into steals for Glenville State, they rarely lead to the open looks relied upon in this style. Of course, this is the perspective of a former sportswriter turned banker who never has coached anything other than rec league. What do I know?

The start really couldn't have gone much better for the Pioneers. They were forcing mistakes, making 3-pointers and otherwise dominating the game, leading 18-4 after less than 5 minutes had run off the clock. It doesn't take a math genius (certainly not someone the caliber of my brother) to see that leaves about 88 percent of the game, during which Glenville State managed only 61 points. That sometimes is the total in one half, so obviously Millersville did a great job controlling the pace from there on out.

Once the Marauders got back in it, they forged the sixth tie of the game at the half, with the second half nip and tuck until the Pioneers seemingly took control. Deren did all the damage, connecting on three 3-pointers in about 3 minutes (wow, that's a lot of "3s") to give the visitors a 72-65 lead with 7:12 left in the game.

Yet Glenville State again went through a scoring funk, managing only seven points down the stretch, and fell behind by two when Leola Pinkney made a layup with 25 seconds left. It was 79-77 at that point. Kenyell Goodson worked inside for a basket in close to tie it, setting up Stroman's final free throws.

She missed the first but calmly made the second, sending Glenville State (3-2) to its second loss in three games. Don't worry, it's still early.

Coach Harkleroad's team is on the road again Tuesday night at Bowie State, part of an eight-game road trip to open the season. This one starts at 5:30 p.m. EST, and you know I'll let you know how it goes for the Pioneers.

Meanwhile, Galesburg struggled to stay with the Springfield Senators and lost 90-62 in its own Thanksgiving tournament. The margin was only 13 entering the fourth quarter before Springfield took over.

One bright spot for the Streaks was senior Jessica Howard, who reached 1,000 points for her career to place her 13th on the all-time scoring list at the school. She finished with 17 points and got her milestone near the end of the third quarter on a free throw; she now has 1,006 points. There is video of this moment courtesy of the Illinois High School Sports Network. Congrats to her!

Here are The Formula goals put up by Galesburg:

- Attempted 58 shots (goal is 72)
- Attempted 33 3-pointers (goal is 36, this is the lowest output of the season)
- Rebounded 41 percent of its own misses (goal is 40 percent)
- Forced 19 turnovers (goal is 26, this is the lowest of the season)
- Attempted seven fewer shots than the Senators (goal is 20 more)

Reaching these numbers obviously was tough, as Coach Massey pointed out on his blog:

"It would be easy to say that this must have been a bad game for Galesburg," he wrote. "But for three quarters this may have been our best game of the year. But the inability to reach our numbers is really a tribute to how outstanding Springfield is as a team."

Galesburg (1-2) takes a break from the Thanksgiving tourney to open Western Big 6 conference play Tuesday, traveling to Quincy. Game time is scheduled for 8 p.m. EST, and I'll check back in for all those fans out there. Go Streaks!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Galesburg HS gets on track with first victory of the season

Congrats to coach Evan Massey and the Galesburg (Ill.) High School girls' team, which beat East Peoria 67-58 Friday night in the Galesburg Thanksgiving Tournament. The Streaks now are 1-1 and face a tough game Saturday at home against the No. 2-ranked team in Illinois, Springfield HS, which features highly touted point guard Zahna Medley.

That's the next game, however. Let's talk about the victory and get right to the Formula stats for Galesburg in this one:

- Attempted 79 shots (goal is 72)
- Attempted 58 3-pointers (goal is 36)
- Rebounded 49 percent of its misses on offense (goal is 40 percent)
- Forced 36 turnovers (goal is 26)
- Attempted 32 more shots than East Peoria (goal is a shot differential of 20)

My simple math tells me the Streaks were 5-for-5 on the goals, which in this case translates to a victory. Last season, with Coach Massey's team finished 17-14, they were 6-1 when reaching all five. Make that 1-0 this season.

The shooting was a bit better in this one, too, after Galesburg finished 6-for-60 from behind the line in the opener. Against the Raiders, the success went up to 12-for-58 (25 percent), which isn't where any coach would like to be but it was an improvement. It should continue to move in that direction as the players get more accustomed to the fast pace required by The System.

Jessica Howard, who is closing in on 1,000 points for her career, had a team-high 19 points in this one, and on his blog, Coach Massey listed many others who contributed. I'll go ahead and give them props (do people still say that?) here:

- Sadee Hamilton finished with six offensive rebounds, six steals and four blocks. According to Coach Massey, he had a few conversations with Olivet Nazarene coach Doug Porter in the past week about Hamilton's position in the press, sometimes called the "safety." Coach Porter encouraged him to change this to the "flyer," and as Coach Massey put, "Sadee was most certainly a flyer tonight."

- Megan Young, who is listed at 5-foot-6, had to play exclusively in the post because of an injury to Myra Diggins. Young got after it and totaled 10 offensive rebounds. Coach Massey again: "I am sure GHS has had some kids play as hard as Megan but not any harder." Nice.

- Point guards Tai Peachey, Paige Klinck and Baylie Boyer had stellar games running the offense and helped keep the turnovers down to 12. According to Coach Massey, that total would have been great back when his team's played more traditionally, with about 60 possessions per game. The Streaks had more than 100 Friday night and still had only 12. Nice going.

- Each Galesburg player has a goal for each game of six offensive rebounds and four steals. Last season, the first with The System, there were games where no one reached these totals. So far in 2010-11, through two games, 10 players have accomplished this. Simply amazing.

Good luck to Coach Massey and the Streaks against Springfield. I'll be rooting for them.

Remember, we have two teams in action today, with NCAA Division II Glenville State facing Millersville on the road at 4 p.m. EST, along with the Galesburg game at 8 p.m. EST. I plan to have updates on these as quickly as I can.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Olivet Nazarene wins again, so does Glenville State

Two separate days, yet two stirring victories for The System.

On Thursday night, the Olivet Nazarene NAIA women's team got by Cardinal Stritch 102-81 behind a dominant performance from Danielle Tolbert. The sophomore guard from Pontiac, Mich., put up some monster numbers in her 17 minutes of run: 21 points, six rebounds, five assists and five steals. Her point total, assists and steals were team highs, and her boards tied Denita Phelps and Sandy Cabadas for the most. Not bad, right?

Tolbert got help from several teammates. Holly Schacht and Malory Adam each had four steals while providing some scoring, as well; Adam went for 11 points and Schacht had 10. Rachel Kearney also was in double figures with 12 points for the balanced Tigers, now 5-1 on their season-opening seven-game road trip.

Oh, and I haven't even mentioned the NAIA Division I record coach Doug Porter's team set -- ONU finished 15-for-78 on 3-pointers, the most attempts ever from beyond the arc. Its total broke the previous mark of 76, set by (you guessed it!) ONU on March 2, 2010, against Holy Cross College. The record before that? It was 73 from Nov. 3, 2006, when (wow, I'm sensing a theme!) ONU did the trick.

Not bad. Here are the final "Formula" numbers for the Tigers:

- Attempted 112 shots (made 33)
- Attempted 78 3s (made 15)
- Rebounded 33 of their misses (42 percent)
- Forced 46 turnovers (what?!)
- Attempted 31 more shots than the Wolves

All in all, a pretty dominant performance, on the road, against a pretty darn good program. Stritch finished 30-3 last season - including a 94-88 victory over ONU - and reached the Elite Eight of the NAIA Division II tournament after winning the regular season and conference tournament titles in the Chicagoland Collegiate Athletic Conference's D-II division. So you have to give Coach Porter's team the credit for going on the road and putting up these numbers.

Lisa Lawrence had 17 points and 12 rebounds for the Wolves, and Angela Gray added 15 points.

The only possible concern out of this game for the Tigers might be the status of point guard Danielle Pipal. She played only 4 minutes, and despite that, she had four assists and two steals. Pretty efficient. Hopefully, it's nothing too serious and she's back on the court the next time ONU hits it.

That is a while down the road, as the Tigers take a well-deserved break. They travel to 25th-ranked McKendree University on Nov. 30, with game time at 6:30 p.m. EST. You know I'll have an update for you, don't sweat it. Should be a good one.

Congratulations also goes to coach Bunky Harkleroad and the NCAA Division II Glenville State women's team, which opened the Millersville University Tip-Off Tournament with a 98-95 victory over West Chester. Tenisha Wilson had 27 points and Autumn Davis added 23 for the Pioneers, who improved to 3-1 this season while handing the Golden Rams (2-1) their first loss.

The final stats of this one seem a bit off for us System fans. Glenville State took only 74 shots (making an impressive 51.4 percent, however) and had 31 turnovers to 20 for West Chester. That led to a shot differential of 14 in favor of the Golden Rams, but when the shots were dropping, it hardly mattered.

Davis made 5 of 10 from the 3-point line and the Pioneers finished 14-for-33, while 11 different players broke into the scoring column. LaToya Hambrick had 11 rebounds, seven on the offensive end, and Catherine Butcher led the way with three steals. Danielle Woodmore had six assists. It sounds as if this was a true team effort, doesn't it? Spreading the love, which is one facet of The System that we all love.

I would love to give you more details, but I can't find a play-by-play for the second half. I will let you know that Glenville State led 56-47 at the break despite a late layup by Shamyra Hammond right before the horn for the Golden Rams. They had a pretty nice balance, too, with Alex Lennon (21 points), Jillian Keefer (19), Megan Stewart (18) and Allison Hostetter (11) all in double figures.

Not enough, however. Coach Harkleroad and Glenville State take on the host team, Millersville, on Saturday at 4 p.m. EST. The Marauders (great mascot!) beat up on Molloy 72-58 on Friday. Check back for the results of this matchup.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

The System continues to spread the excitement around the country

Here's the latest team to make the switch: the girls' team at McQueen High School in Reno, Nev., will open its season Nov. 30 for coach Joe Bischopink. According to Maxpreps.com, the Lancers finished 8-18 last season and Coach Bischopink reports they haven't been to the postseason since 2002. He was coaching then before taking a break for about seven years.

Now he's back and ready to tackle the brave new world of The System, which will be quite different from what he ran in the past.

"In previous seasons we always had motion offenses in place with a lot of screens geared at getting a shot in a specfiic location," Coach Bischopink wrote in an e-mail. "It is typical Nevada high school basketball. We played a lot of half-court man and quite frankly it was boring. I was often frustrated because the offense we ran was often poorly executed and by halfway through the season, we'd been scouted heavily and our opponents knew how to defend us."

I hear you, coach. Nothing irritates me more than watching a team pass the ball around the perimeter, looking for an opening. It's particularly frustrating in high school, where most states do not use a shot clock. Here's hoping Coach Bischopink is able to keep the pace going fast.

Here are his other answers to questions we all want to know (OK, so maybe it was just me, since you didn't know I was e-mailing him, but I think you'll enjoy it):

(What made you decide to go with The System?)

Coach Bischopink: "The decision to use the probably came from when I was very young. I saw Loyola Marymount play Nevada in Reno and was amazed by the uptempo game. I also saw UNLV play at Nevada the year they won the national championship and they played an uptempo style. Beyond that I just looked at the athletes I had coming back and I knew we just wouldn't have the
size. We do have incredible speed and several of the top 10 guards in the area. I had girls that hit 4-8 threes per game so The System made perfect sense. I had heard of The System a couple of years ago and was interested but I know that I have the right athletes to implement it this year."

(What type of research did you do before making the switch?)

Coach Bischopink: "I did a ton of research. The best thing I did was join the run-n-gun Yahoo! group. I purchased two DVD's, Coach (David) Arsenault's and Coach Doug Porter's at ONU. I also e-mailed a number of coaches directly with questions and received game film from Coach (Evan) Massey at Galesburg in Illinois. When we started beating good teams from California over the summer purely on quickness and shooting ability I knew that going 'all-in' to The System we could beat anybody."

(What's been the reaction from the administration and your staff?)

Coach Bischopink: "The reaction by the administration is yet to be seen. I have discussed it with our AD and Principal and they both agree that it makes sense. That being said, they probably don't completely understand how fast we will play and how quickly we will shoot. I have had some conversations about it and the staff is supportive."

(How about your players? They ready for it?)

Coach Bischopink: "Right now the players love it. They really enjoy putting points on the board in practice and scoring and hustling constantly. They know that everyone will play and that they'll get back in the game. I think there is a sense of freedom knowing that they will make some mistakes but that we literally don't have time to dwell on it. I see a lot of smiling faces in practice right now. They seem to understand that The System isn't just something we are trying for fun, for us it truly is a
necessity. We can't compete in a slow game. There is no shot clock in N. Nevada and officiating tends to be tight. The notion of doubling our scoring average from last year has them very excited."

(What are some of the hurdles you think you'll have to cross?)

Coach Bischopink: "I think the biggest hurdle will be getting them through game one. Practices have been good but I know that if the shooting is off a bit or they get frustrated in the first game, they are going to want a time-out and a regroup. We open with one of the better teams in the area. They need to believe that we will catch that team off-guard. The conditioning is another element. They understand in their head that we must be in great shape but not necessarily in their hearts yet."

(What do you expect to get out of The System?)

Coach Bischopink: "We expect simply to win from using The System. I agree that it will be a more positive way of playing for everyone. We want fans in the stands, records to be broken and our opponents to be shocked."

There you have it. I wish him and the Lancers all the luck in the world this season. Anyone who has read this blog before knows that teams making the transition from traditional hoops to The System struggle from time to time. But when it's on, it is really on, and I think that's what he meant by shocking some opponents.

We'll track Coach Bischopink and his team throughout the season and give you regular updates.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Galesburg loses opener despite putting up ridiculous System numbers

Are you kidding? The Galesburg (Ill.) High School girls' basketball team, coached by Evan Massey, dropped its season opener to Illini West on Tuesday night by the score of 82-68. That in and of itself isn't totally surprising, despite Massey's coaching acumen, the talent of his players and the benefit of running The System. Losses happen.

Still, the Streaks (love it!) hit nearly all of their goals in this game, and blew most completely out of the water. Here is what they did:

- Attempted 93 shots (goal is 72)
- Attempted 60 3-pointers (goal is 36)
- Forced 44 turnovers (goal is 26
- Attempted 40 more shots than the opponent (goal is 20)
- Rebounded 35 percent of their own misses (goal is 40 percent)

No, those statistics aren't make believe. Yes, Galesburg put up 93 shots in a 32-minute high school game. Yes, Galesburg shot 60 3s in a 32-minute high school game. Yes, Galesburg trapped and pressed Illini West into 44 turnovers in a 32-minute high school game. So, just for fun, let's convert those final totals to a 40-minute game, like the one played by colleges. That would be 116 total shots, 74 3-pointers and 55 turnovers. Simply amazing.

Still, the Streaks lost. They made only 10 of those 3s, which converts to 10 percent, and that made the offensive rebounding goal even more important. You've got to believe if Coach Massey's team continues to put out this type of effort, the Ws will follow in bunches.

Jessica Howard led Galesburg with 16 points, all in the first half, and Sadee Hamilton added 13 points and 13 rebounds. Senior Tai Peachey finished with six steals, while Rainee Sibley (five) and Myra Diggins (four) also helped out on the defensive end. Hamilton and Megan Young each came through with five offensive boards.

Next up for the Streaks is a home matchup with East Peoria on Friday night; game time is 9:30 p.m. EST, and I will have an update over the weekend. The best of luck to Coach Massey and his squad.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Grinnell opens with a W, Glenville State loses a tough one on the road

Ah, it seems like old times for me and the blog. Sitting up late, anxiously waiting for a box score to be posted from another Grinnell victory. Let's party like it's 2009!

Griffin Lentsch made 10 3-pointers and finished with 36 points, Matt Skelly, Matt Chalupa and Jesse Ney connected on four 3s apiece and the NCAA Division III Pioneers opened their season by beating Lindenwood-Belleville 120-90 Tuesday night in the friendly confines of Darby Gym.

The big scorers weren't the only contributors for coach David Arseneault's squad. Point guard Scott Kaitz had nine points and nine assists (with no turnovers), post Kale Knisley had seven rebounds and five steals and Alex McDonald filled up his stat sheet without even scoring - the 6-foot-4 senior contributed six boards, three assists (with no turnovers), two blocks and three steals, all while likely setting numerous screens to free up Lentsch. All in all, a total team effort for Grinnell.

Here are The System numbers for those keeping track: 108 shots attempted, 73 3-pointers (27 made), offensive rebounds on 39 percent of the misses, 40 forced turnovers (24 steals) and a shot differential of 30. Chalk one up to The Formula for Success, right?

And, as always, a host of players got in on the action, with 14 players getting at least 10 minutes of run and 20 players in all getting on the court. Skelly had 16 points, Chalupa went for 14, Ney scored 12 and freshman Aaron Levin got 10 in his debut. Remember, Coach A told us in our preview of the Pioneers that Levin was the best of his first-year players and likely the best all-around player on the team.

Lentsch certainly made the most of his return. He played in only 11 games last season because of any injury and got off to a great start in this one, scoring the first points of the season on a jumper 35 seconds after the opening jump. His first 3 came about 3 minutes in and he added 22 of his points after the break, when Grinnell eventually pulled away to lead by as many as 42 points.

Devon Weaver led the Lynx (1-4) with 21 points.

Coach A and the Pioneers are off until Monday when they travel to Des Moines, Iowa, to play Buena Vista at Wells Fargo Arena. This is a prelim for an NBA D-League game featuring the Iowa Energy. Game time in that one is 6 p.m. EST, so check back here for an update.

Meanwhile, in Vienna, W.Va., the Glenville State women's team coached by Bunky Harkleroad lost in overtime at Ohio Valley University 114-110 in NCAA Division II West Virginia Intercollegiate Athletic Conference play Tuesday night. Looking at the stats, this set of Pioneers (2-1) did everything well except make their normal amount of shots. It appeared to be one of those games where each player was a little bit off: they finished 10-for-49 on 3-pointers and made only 3 of 25 in the second half and OT.

Glenville State trailed by as many as 15 points in the first half before rallying to take a 57-50 lead at the break on a 3-pointer right before the horn by Beth Deren, thanks to an assist from Miranda Reed. The margin grew to 10 in the second half. But the home-standing Fighting Scots, who finished 4-24 overall last year and 2-20 in the WVIAC, bounced back to move ahead by three on a three-point play from Brittany Taylor with 3:13 remaining in regulation.

On the other end, Tiffani Huffman drained a 3 for the Pioneers before the team traded baskets to leave the score tied at 98 at the end of regulation.

The back-and-forth battle continued in the extra period, with Glenville State taking a five-point lead only to see Ohio Valley come back to go in front for good Taylor's jumper with 1:02 remaining. Autumn Davis missed a trey for the Pioneers, as did Tenisha Wilson, and after Kristen Golden got an offensive board, Wilson missed again from inside the line.

Taylor made two free throws to account for the final margin and nearly had a quadruple-double: 31 points, 13 rebounds, nine assists and 11 of her team's 37 turnovers.

Wilson and Danielle Woodmore led the way for the Pioneers with 23 points apiece, Kim Stephens added 17 points and 10 rebounds and Golden finished with 11 points. Reed, the point guard, had a terrific game, as well, dropping five dimes, grabbing seven boards and collecting seven of Glenville State's 25 steals.

The Pioneers were 38-for-108 from the field and rebounded 24 of their 70 misses (34 percent). The numbers almost were there, and I hate it for Coach Harkleroad and his team. They hope to bounce back this weekend in the Millersville (Pa.) University Tip-Off tournament, facing West Chester on Friday at 4 p.m. EST before going against the host school Saturday , also at 4 p.m. EST.

The best of luck to Glenville State, and I'll be rooting for them.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Another coach moves over to The System side of hoops

Meet Mike Curta from Eisenhower High School in Blue Island, Ill., about 20 miles south of Chicago (also about 40 miles north of Bourbonnais, Ill., home of the Olivet Nazarene women's team coached by Doug Porter). This is Coach Curta's fourth different school in a career lasting about 20 years, and this will be his third year with his current staff at Eisenhower.

When he was only 23 years old, he coached a team that featured future NBA All-Star Antoine Walker and current NFL quarterback Donovan McNabb. Pretty good athletes there, right? His first memories of The System (or at least a form of it) date to our shared experiences with the Loyola Marymount teams coached by Paul Westhead. At the time, Coach Curta was a student manager with the basketball program at DePaul, and he got to witness the excitement of a breakneck-paced game from the bench when the Blue Demons played LMU.

"It was unbelievable to see it live and I can tell you that the players at DePaul were excited when that game finally came up on the schedule," he wrote me in an e-mail this week. "Being a manager gave me a great opportunity to listen to the coaches game plan for the game and be a part of the practice preparation."

Now he is prepared to with The System all-out in 2010-11. He gave me a list of his System goals, so of course, I'll share them here:

- Attempt 80 shots
- Attempt 32 3-pointers
- Rebounds 35 percent of the misses on the offensive end
- Force 26 turnovers
- Attempt 24 more shots than the opponent

Now, for the rest of his answers to my probing questions. I think you will enjoy them:

(How would you define your style of play in the past?)

Coach Curta: "We have always said that we were going to be a pressure and running team, but we really fell into the trap that Coach Westhead has spoken of on numerous occassions ....We start the season with that aggressive attitude and we really didn't sell the kids completely on the system. Then when things didn't go well, we fell back into the habit of dictating the pace and action from the bench. We would give them sets to run on the offensive end and played it safe in the half-court with both man and zone defense. We thought we were aggressive and playing hard, but when compared to what we have started doing this year, we were sorely mistaken."

(What kinds of things did you do to learn about The System?)

Coach Curta: "I tried to do as much research as possible. I watched videos, searched YouTube for anything that I could find, and spoke to coaches familiar with the system. We have a school in our area that went with the system for a part of last season and I am getting some good information from one of their former assistant coaches. Because we are in the Chicago area we plan on taking our team to watch Coach Porter's squad in December when they come back home."

(What was the reaction from your staff and administration to the decision to go with The System?)

Coach Curta: "The staff was behind the switch, but it does take a radical change in thought from everything that we have been taught and the way that we have always coached. We catch ourselves at times saying some things from 'the old way' and our kids are quick to point that out! My athletic director is the best. I explained the system, the reasoning behind the change in philosophy for us and he simply replied, 'You are my coach and I am behind you 100%.' I think that he likes the idea of recognizing that it is time to think outside the box at our school to try and generate some excitement with the program and the students. The fact that we will be playing everyone in every game also should cut down those phone calls from disgruntled parents that he gets. I also explained that those phone calls might be replaced by parents complaining about the style of play and he has no problem with that."

(How about the reaction of your players?)

Coach Curta: "Our players were excited but I don't think that they believed that I would be willing to change and give them that much freedom. We worked on the system in the summer and were able to experiment with some things that gave us some success. They have bought into playing in shifts right now, but I will be interested to see if anything changes when the season gets underway. I am optimistic that they understand what we are doing and will continue to buy-in."

(How deep will your bench go? Some high school teams have a difficult time filling out all the shifts.)

Coach Curta: "We have 15 boys on the team and all will play. We have been going with two groups of 7-8 and rotating that way. We are really young with four sophomores, six juniors, and five seniors. The key for us is that our best player is our senior point guard and he has been really good about the very different way that we will substitute from what he is used to doing. I think that he realizes that his production will actually increase while playing in these short shifts."

(What do you want to get out of The System, and have you seen positive results already?)

Coach Curta: "We are already getting some great things out of the system during our preseason. The kids attitudes are great, especially those kids who might not have gotten on the floor playing the conventional way. We are hoping to energize not only our basketball program, but our entire school. We have been on the bottom of our conference in terms of all sports records and we feel that this can be a way of uniting the school and getting some positive feelings in our community. I am smart enough to realize that this will be a process and we are going to experience some growing pains."

A huge thanks to Coach Curta for taking the time to correspond with us. His season starts a week from today, so you can be sure I will follow his progress this season. Good luck to him and his team.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

The interview, perhaps, to end all interviews

OK, OK, that was a bit of hyperbole. This simply is another in a long line of wonderful interviews I've been fortunate enough to publish regarding The System and its impact on the game, players' lives and fan enjoyment.

As you've seen, if you ever read this stuff, I have a bit of an obsession with this style of play. Yet I really hesitate to use that word, "obsession," because by definition it implies something impure, or negative, or certainly out of the norm. What I really enjoy about following the message board, and tracking teams all over the country (now world, see: Rainer Wolfschmitt in Germany), and spending time scouring the Internet for footage of old games, and driving to Iowa to watch Grinnell play in person, and ... wait, perhaps it is an obsession!

But I digress ...

What is so neat about all that stuff is corresponding with others who feel similarly about The System. As I have discovered recently, there is another person to put in this group: John Grotberg.

Any avid or even semi-avid reader of this blog likely will know that name. He played at Grinnell during some of coach David Arseneault's best seasons and became the J.J. Redick of NCAA Division III (I hope John appreciates that comparison, I thought it was the best way to put his career in perspective for those who might not know him). As a freshman, John averaged 31.4 points and made a total of 120 3-pointers for the Pioneers, and essentially duplicated that effort over his final three seasons.

The end result was 526 career 3s, tops in all divisions of the NCAA (the aforementioned Redick is the D-I leader with 457), and scored nearly 30 points each time he laced them up, 96 games in all. John never missed a game at Grinnell, and what is interesting about his career, he started less than half of them. Chalk it up to The System, right?

Even as a senior, when he again reached 31 points per game and led the nation with 3.32 steals in each one, he came off the bench for six of the 25 games. And before any naysayers criticize him for putting up these numbers to the detriment of the team, the Pioneers were 65-31 during his career, a .678 winning percentage. Pretty darn spiffy, right?

So I figured it would stand to reason that he, of all people, appreciates The System and what it can do for teams and individuals. He, perhaps better than most, can understand its affect. I wasn't disappointed.

Through some innocent Facebook "stalking" (basically, a friend of his is a fan of my blog on Facebook), I tracked down John for this interview. It might run a bit longer than most of my postings here, and rightfully so. As John wrote in his e-mail, "it's hard not to blather on about the system when you are so passionate about it!" Yes, John, I can understand that.

Without further adieu, I give you John Grotberg. Enjoy.

(What are you up to these days?)

John Grotberg: "I am still currently playing basketball professionally in Europe. I began my career here last season in Germany with Bayer Giants Leverkusen. After a brief stint in Germany I had another brief stint with a team in London that ran into financial difficulties, and finally landed a gig with BBC Red Miners Kayl in Luxembourg. I have now returned to Luxembourg for another season with the Red Miners."

(Having played four years at Grinnell, what are you thoughts on The System?)

John Grotberg: "After having played for 4 years under Coach Arseneault, I have many thoughts and feelings about 'the system' when I reflect on my years at Grinnell. Personally, I feel a strong sense of gratitude toward Coach Arseneault and my former teammates. Coach Arseneault and 'the system' provided me with the opportunity to accomplish what I did statistically throughout my collegiate career. He was not only a genius with the 'system X’s and O’s' but also at creating a team psychology that incorporated maximum participation. I had teammates that would work relentlessly to offensive rebound and set screens to get me second and even third looks within the same possession. If I made one, every player on the floor had the feeling that that 3 point shot was as much theirs as it was mine, and rightfully so. Because we normally played 17 players in a game, every player had the feeling that they could change the outcome of the game in a positive way. I think that concept speaks volumes to both the unselfishness of the team, and the specific atmosphere that Coach Arseneault created, which can often be difficult to find in conventional basketball."

(What about some of the criticism of The System, how do you feel about that?)

John Grotberg: "When I think back to some of the negativity that has surrounded 'the system' over the years, i.e. the ones who say it’s not 'real basketball,' the only response I can think of is that despite its innovativeness and uniqueness, it’s no different than any other system that gives its players the best chance to win. In my 4 years, we never had the personnel to grind it out defensively and pound the ball inside in half-court sets, but we certainly had the personnel to run and shoot 3’s, and that’s what we did. Coach Arseneault ingeniously discovered a way to maximize the team’s potential given what we lacked conventionally, which allowed us to achieve greater success collectively."

(When did you first hear about The System and Grinnell?)

John Grotberg: "The first time I ever heard about 'the system' was over the phone from Coach Arseneault himself. I had been looking at good academic schools in the Midwest, and Grinnell came up, so I sent Coach Arseneault an e-mail along with some of my high school game film, as I was also interested in continuing my basketball career. When I spoke with him over the phone and he started explaining 'the system,' my initial reaction, truthfully, was that it was impossible. But that feeling quickly turned to the feeling of too good to be true. Being a point guard more prone to looking for his own shot, it was both vexing and refreshing to hear that there was a system out there where I would be expected to look to create a shot for myself within the first 5 or 6 seconds of the shot clock. Needless to say, I was sold."

(You accomplished so much in your time at Grinnell. Does one game or one moment stand out?)

John Grotberg: "I think the game that stands out in my mind is an overtime win against conference rival Lawrence University my sophomore year. At the end of practice the day before the game, really for no reason at all, Coach Arseneault decided to put in a sideline out-of-bounds play in case we needed a last second shot. It was essentially a wheel play just above the top of the key. One of my teammates then said he knew a good play to get the ball across half court quickly to call a time out, in case we needed to go the full length of the floor. Of course, the following day, we found ourselves down by 3 with a little over 3 seconds to go and we had to go the full length of the floor. We called a time out and set up the play to get the ball across half court. It worked perfectly and we were able to call another time out with just over 2 seconds to go. We ran the wheel play and I knocked in a 3 point shot at the buzzer to send it to overtime. We ended up pulling out the victory in overtime, but I think that game sticks out for me with the simple irony from the events in practice the day before. I don’t know if Coach Arseneault had a feeling about the next day’s game, but it definitely gave us the win."

(Are you surprised The System isn't more widespread?)

John Grotberg: "I am not surprised that 'the system' isn’t more widespread. For one, to productively run it, you really need at least 15 players, and most of them must be able to knock down an open 3 point shot. Also, I think it can be nerve-wracking for most coaches. Apart from creating the rotations and making minor changes during the game, throughout the game the coach does not have as much control of what goes on, which I think for most basketball coaches is not a pleasant thought! 'The system' entrusts a lot of its success to the work ethic and creativity of the players on the floor."

(One of my favorites: would this work at a major NCAA Division I level?)

John Grotberg: "I am also convinced it could work at the Division I level. I think it would essentially mimic what goes on at the Division III level, only at a much higher level of athleticism and with bigger players on the floor. As it does in Division III, I think it would neutralize teams with big posts who have trouble running the floor, and with weaker bench units that can be exploited when players inevitably get tired or into foul trouble. With the amount of space that most Division I basketball players can cover in a short amount of time, I definitely think this could work, so long as the team had the requisite amount of players."

(OK, so you're in the record books, and you're essentially part of an Internet sensation. How does that feel?)

John Grotberg: "It certainly is an amazing feeling to be a part of the NCAA record books. To even have my name in the same book as some of the greatest players in history is definitely an honor. As I said in my earlier response, I have Coach Arseneault and my teammates to thank for giving me the opportunity to have that honor. In my 4 years I cannot count the times I received a great screen, was the recipient of a kick out from an offensive rebound, a teammate made an extra pass, or even the number of times (point guard) Dave (Areseneault) Jr. passed up a wide open layup to get me a look from the corner, knowing that even if I missed it he would do the same thing the very next possession. I definitely don’t feel as though I am some sort of ‘sensation,’ but when talking about Grinnell basketball, I do occasionally get the, 'Oh yeah, you’re that guy,' comment, which is always a nice feeling."

A huge thanks to John for his time, and I wish him luck during his season in Europe (I assume that's where Luxembourg is, I never took World Geography). I hope everyone got as much out of this interview as I did.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Another day, another victory for ONU; Glenville St. improves to 2-0

After five games of a seven-game road trip to start the season, Coach Doug Porter and the Olivet Nazarene women's basketball team are 4-1, thanks to a seemingly easy 108-53 victory over fellow NAIA member Ashford University on Saturday. The Tigers led by 31 points at the break and cruised from there, reaching at least 100 points for the fourth time in those five games.

There was a very interested group of people in attendance, as well, as blog favorite coach Evan Massey brought his Galesburg (Ill.) High School girls' team to check out the proceedings. Surely, he and the players enjoyed what they saw.

Simone Coburn led the way, as usual, with 19 of her 24 points in the first half, and Danielle Tolbert and Malory Adam each added 13. ONU finished 35 of 94 from the field, including 14-51 from beyond the 3-point line, and coerced the Saints into 47 turnovers. That included 35 in the first half alone, when the Tigers totaled 27 of their 30 steals. Even better, it appears the outside shooting started coming around a bit in the second half: ONU was 10-for-28 in the final 28 minutes, a very solid 35.7 percent.

Ashford did take the early lead, at 3-0 when Jordan Davis made a 3 about 20 seconds after the opening jump, but consecutive layups by Coburn gave the Tigers the lead for good. The margin still was only nine at 32-23 before a 13-0 run put it out of reach. Denita Phelps started it with a pair of free throws and Liz Bart and Tolbert made 3s, as well, and in the span of about 2 minutes, the score was 45-23. The Saints never got any closer and the final score represented the largest separation; in other words, ONU steadily pulled away in the second half.

Taylor Haymes, a new name for me, led the defense with six steals and added four assists. Lisa Beyer's 17 minutes of playing time was the most of anyone as Coach Porter got 15 members of his team at least 10 minutes of run. Holly Schacht only played a single minute, so I hope she wasn't injured. She had been a vital part of the rotation.

Kayla Crist had 13 points for Ashford (0-5).

The Tigers get a bit of break now after five games in eight days, traveling to Cardinal Stritch University in Wisconsin on Thursday. The Crusaders are 3-0, with all three victories by at least 11 points. One of those was against Clarke Univeristy, which lost that game 67-50. ONU beat Clarke 110-84, if you're looking for a comparison.

Game time for the trip to Cardinal Stritch is 8 p.m. EST, and the best of luck to everyone at ONU.

Elsewhere on Saturday, the Glenville State women's team completed a perfect trip to the CIAA/WVIAC Challenge at Elizabeth City State University, holding off Shaw 88-78 on Saturday. The two NCAA Division II conferences each sent four teams to the event, with the Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association and the West Virginia Intercollegiate Athletic Conference splitting the eight games.

In this one, the Pioneers (2-0) not only forced 34 turnovers, but they held the Bears (1-1) to 21.4 percent shooting in the second half. An amazing feat for any team, and particularly one which runs The System. Danielle Woodmore had 17 points, Autumn Davis added 14 and Tenisha Wilson scored 12 for Glenville, which finished 30-of-90 from the field and 11-for-43 on 3-pointers. Woodmore and Davis had four steals apiece out of 19 for their team.

The game was tight throughout, and the 13th and final tie came at 57 with 12:07 left in the game on a 3 from Glenville's Kim Stephens. Shaw turned it over on the other end and Kenyell Goodson drained another one from behind the line, and suddenly, the Pioneers were ahead by three. When Wilson made a layup a few minutes later, the run was 15-2 and coach Bunky Harkleroad's team led 70-59.

The Bears scored the next 10 points to get within one before a quick eight-point spurt for the Pioneers gave them control for good. Wilson got inside for two of the baskets and Tiffani Huffman and Woodmore added one each of their own to make it 78-69. Shaw never got closer than six points the rest of the way.

Kyria Buford had 28 points for Shaw.

Glenville stays on the road Tuesday with a trip to Ohio Valley, one of eight consecutive games away from home to start the season and the first WVIAC game for both teams. The Fighting Scots are 1-0, with a 76-66 victory over Central State on Saturday.

Game time in Vienna, W.Va., is 5:30 p.m. EST, and you know I will be keeping up with Coach Harkleroad and his team.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Glenville State opens with big victory, Olivet Nazarene wins again

Ready? This is a nearly real-time update on a System team, the first of the season. Pretty neat, eh?

The Glenville State women's team, coached by Bunky Harkleroad, trailed only at 2-0 and rolled to a 102-70 victory over Virginia Union on Friday night in the CIAA/WVIAC Challenge, a neat event being played at Elizabeth City State University. It features four teams each from the Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association and the West Virginia Intercollegiate Athletic Conference, and the Pioneers helped their conference avoid a shutout on the first day.

Freshman Kenyell Goodson led the way with 17 points, followed by Beth Deren (14), Kim Stephens (12), Autumn Davis (11) and Ohio University transfer Danielle Woodmore (10) all scored in double figures. Glenville State finished 35-for-79 from the field, including 16-of-49 on 3-pointers, and forced 40 turnovers to put away the Panthers.

After Kara Scott gave VUU that early 2-0 advantage, Stephens came down on the other end and drained a 3 to put her team ahead for good. The lead was 58-35 at the break and got as large as 99-65 with about 4 minutes to go in the second half. Scott made 8 of 10 shots and led the Panthers with 20 points.

Point guard Miranda Reed was all over the court for the Pioneers, finishing with nine points, 10 assists, six steals and three rebounds in 22 minutes of run. She, Stephens and Goodson all had that amount of playing time, and nine other players got at least 10 minutes. Got to love The System, right?

Coach Harkleroad and his team get back at it Saturday, facing Shaw University at 1 p.m. EST. Good luck to them, as always.

Elsewhere in my world, which would be KP's World, Olivet Nazarene improved to 3-1 on its seven-game road trip to start the season, running past winless Clarke University 110-84 on Thursday night behind 23 points from Simone Coburn. The Tigers were 38-for-109 from the field, including 15-for-63 on 3s, and forced 41 turnovers while grabbing 44 offensive rebounds. Yep, that's right, 44. Denita Phelps did a bunch of the damage all by her lonesome, totaling all 12 of her boards on her own team's misses.

Once again, ONU fell behind early, this time trailing 11-0 before it got going. A 3-pointer by Jaimie Buckman midway through the first half game the Tigers their first lead at 22-21, and the Crusaders never managed to pull ahead again. A 24-8 run through about 7 minutes of the second half made it 82-57 with about 9 minutes left in the game, and the only question at that point was the final margin.

Stephanie Denius and Danielle Tolbert each added 11 points for ONU and Rachel Kearney scored 10. Point guard Danielle Pipal had three of her team's 21 steals. As is often the case with The System, a player on the losing team was statistically significant: freshman Jenna Kotas made 15 of 21 shots, including a couple of 3s, and scored 39 points for Clarke.

Coach Doug Porter takes his team to Ashford University on Saturday for a 4 p.m. EST start, and you know you can check back here for an update on its progress.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Another coach explains why he runs The System

I never get tired of these posts, hearing (or reading, to be specific) from coaches who are recent converts to the simplistically perfect form of basketball.

Next up is Glen Irvin, the girls' coach at Wabasha-Kellogg High School in Wabasha, Minn., who began running The System last season. Previously, Coach Irvin said he was a huge advocate for the high-low offense run by Bill Self at Kansas; defensively, he employed a 1-3-1 trap. All solid strategies, but I'm glad he made the switch.

He opens his season Dec. 2, against Lewiston-Altura, and you can be sure I will check back for updates on his season. Coach Irvin is one of the frequent posters on the message board devoted to this style of play, and it's been interesting to see his transformation (if that's the correct word) from neophyte to veteran. Over the past couple of months, he has given sage advice to others out there thinking of experimenting with The System, and it's easy to tell he's a believer.

His goals for this season are:

- Attempt 80 shots
- Attempt 40 3-pointers
- Rebound 40 percent of the misses on offense
- Force 30 turnovers
- Attempt 15 more shots than the opponent

On to the questions:

(What made you decide to use this style?)

Coach Irvin: "After a tough loss, in a game where we shot the ball only thirty times total in the game, one of my assistant coaches jokingly said to me, 'Well, we could just implement the Grinnell system and let the girls shoot the ball a hundred times a game.' I didn't catch his joke as I had never even heard of Grinnell or the system, but I went onto Youtube that night and typed in Grinnell and what I saw was permanently ingrained into my brain."

(What was the biggest hurdle in making the change?)

Coach Irvin: "I have to say that the biggest hurdle was me throughout the year. The more I tweaked with it, the more I messed it up. My assistants were/are godsends! They had such a positive attitude throughout the entire year. At first the girls basically said, 'We're going to do what?' Once they started practice, the majority of them loved it. I had a set of parents who walked up to me halfway through the season after 40-point loss, shook my hand and said, 'Coach, thank you for getting our daughter to play ball this year (she hadn't played since she was a freshman). We LOVE everything you are doing this year!' Then, of course, there are parents who criticize...but that happens no matter what system you are using."

(Now that you've gone to it, have you gotten out of it what you wanted? Do you see yourself ever changing again?)

Coach Irvin: "I haven't been this excited for a season to start ... EVER! So I think I've gotten a lot out of it! I can't imagine going back! Actually on a few occasions this summer we were forced to play 'typical style basketball because I didn't have the numbers needed to press ... wow that was boring!!"

(What do you expect from this year?)

Coach Irvin: "Our team this year only lost three senior players and comes back with tons of varsity 'playing' experience. We started all 15 girls last year and all of them played significant minutes throughout the season. We are returning 90% of our scoring! We played system ball all summer and are ready to turn a corner and take it to the next level."

Thanks to Coach Irvin for taking the time to correspond with me, and I wish him and his team the best of luck this season. I've asked if I can request regular updates from him, and he was gracious enough to agree, so we haven't heard the last of the Wabasha-Kellogg Eagles.

The System Goes Worldwide

This will be my first "international" post; the coach of a professional team in Germany is running The System -- and has for several years -- and I wanted to know how this wonderful style of play made it to Europe. Turns out we have ye ol' Blog favorite Gary Smith to thank for this!

The coach in question is Rainer Wolfschmitt, who leads the Rattelsdorf Independents. You might remember the name of this squad, this is where former Grinnell star Bobby Long plied his trade during a venture overseas. Coach Wolfschmitt was kind enough to answer my questions, and while I'm sure the normal language barrier was no problem, I hope my Southernese didn't come across to much via the e-mail.

The Independents currently are 5-2, averaging 112 points and giving up 105 per game. They make nearly 18 3-pointers each contest, force 26 turnovers a game and rebound 32 percent of their misses.

(Sorry, that's for all those System-stat geeks out there)

Here we go:

(What is your experience, and have you ever coached in the States?)

Coach Wolfschmitt: "I am a coach for 15 years now. I started with youth teams. but the last 7 years I coached Regionalliga (Which is the third league in Germany). As a youth coach I was one time third place in Germany with my team, and five times under the last 8. I have never coached in the states!"

(How did you hear about The System, and what was your initial reaction?)

Coach Wolfschmitt: "My first impression was at a coach clinic in Germany: Gary Smith talked about the system. My first thoughts were, that this guy must be crazy and it will never work. After thinking about it and having hard times to motivate for the new season i liked it more every day. I emailed Gary Smith (which helped me so good, Thanks Gary!!!!) and started the System.
We are still the only team in Europe doing this. And a lot of people talk about us. We had some articles in big newspapers."

(What made you try this with the Independents, and is this the first time you've run it?)

Coach Wolfschmitt: "It is the first team and I am in my third year there. In the beginning everbody thought we were crazy and laughed about us, because we had to change a lot in the minds of the players and had a lot of bad losses."

(Are you still working any with Gary Smith?)

Coach Wolfschmitt: "He is still helping me and visited me two times and worked with my team. He showed me and my players the fundamentals. A great guy."

Thanks a bunch to Coach Wolfschmitt for his time, and good luck to him and Rattelsdorf the rest of the season. He said it runs through July, so I'll try to check back in with him in the future.