Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Everybody wins! (Well, for the most part)

(Vacation, all I ever wanted,
Vacation, had to get away,
Vacation, meant to be spent alone.)

Oh, sorry, I just had a song rolling through my head, since I have a week off from the usual tedium of work and have the pleasure of spending it with my family. You've met them, right? Colleen, Emily and Libbie? Right, thought so.

Anyway, lots to get to with the ol' blog, including victories for all The System teams that we normally follow. Saturday was particularly special for the best way to play basketball, and it all starts with the school (and team) which started it all.


The Pioneers, coached by the tandem of System creator David Arseneault and his son, Dave, traveled to Oskaloosa, Iowa, to win the Pizza Ranch Classic over host school William Penn. The final score was 150-137, and as often happens with this style, a close game veered in favor of the System team down the stretch. Whether it be from fatigue, physical or mental, or other reasons, it is a common occurrence.

Now, before we go any further, let's look at The Formula stats for Grinnell (4-0):

- Attempted 108 shots
- Attempted 62 3-pointers
- Rebounded 41 percent of its own misses
- Forced 29 turnovers
- Attempted 22 more shots than the Statesmen.

Griffin Lentsch, he of the 89-point outburst earlier this season, led the way with 29 points in an unusually high number of minutes (25). He didn't shoot it particularly well (11-for-28 from the field, 4-of-18 on 3-pointers), and only got to the line five times, but he still got it done.

Teammate Patrick Maher had a great game, as well, filling up the stat sheet with 20 points, six assists and three steals, and Jack Adams came through with 17 points and eight rebounds. Luke Yeager added 17 points and four assists, Garrett Nitz had 15 and five and Evan Johnson scored 13 points to give the Pioneers six players in double figures.

And, as usual, 14 players got at least 10 minutes of run. All in all, a good outing. Grinnell played without second-leading scorer Matt Skelly, who is out with a hand injury. I'll check in with the folks at Grinnell to see how long he will be out.

The 12th and final tie of this one came with 13:39 remaining, two free throws from William Penn's Austin Emerson that made it 105-105. Lentsch made a 3 on the other end, then added another less than a minute later, and the Pioneers were on their way in this one.

A night earlier, they opened this tournament at home against Presentation College and came away with a 126-98 victory. Lentsch again was the leading scorer, going for 26 in only 13 minutes of run, and Skelly added 20 despite his unknown-at-the-time injury. Dominique Bellamy had 15 points.

Here are the stats from this W:

- Attempted 111 shots
- Attempted 68 3-pointers
- Rebounded 36 percent of their own misses
- Forced 45 turnovers
- Attempted 36 more shots than Presentation

That is it for the non-conference portion of the Grinnell schedule. Beginning Friday, the final 18 games all will be in the Midwest Conference, starting with a visit from perennial contender St. Norbert. The Green Knights, two-time defending MWC champion, were picked third in the preseason poll, behind Grinnell and Lake Forest. Ripon comes to play the Pioneers on Saturday, the first of their four back-to-backs in conference play.

Best of luck to everyone at my favorite town in Iowa.


This set of Pioneers, coached by Bunky Harkleroad, got back to doing what they do by doing it Saturday in a 114-79 rout of Bowie State. Glenville State was coming off a exceedingly rare home loss to Concord, a West Virginia Intercollegiate Athletic Conference foe, so getting back on the winning track definitely was important.

Also, in a game last season at Bowie State, the Pioneers were held to a season-low in points in a 64-57 loss, so it is nice to see the visitors from Maryland got to see The System in full effect this time.

Tenisha Wilson and Danielle Woodmore led the way again for Coach Harkleroad's team, scoring 18 points apiece to lead six players in double figures. Beth Deren and Mishae Miles each added 15, Kenyell Goodson had 11 and Jelena Elez finished with 10. Elez also had a team-high seven assists to go with five rebounds in a nice all-around effort.

Of course, so did most of the others I mentioned. Wilson had 11 rebounds, Woodmore totaled seven rebounds and five assists, Deren made five 3-pointers and got two steals, Miles grabbed 10 rebounds and Goodson had a team-best three steals.

You can see what a great effort it was in the stats:

- Attempted 114 shots
- Attempted 53 3-pointers
- Rebounded 53 percent of its own misses
- Forced 22 turnovers
- Attempted 31 more shots than the Bulldogs

Nice going for the Pioneers, who return to play in the WVIAC on Saturday with a trip to Pitt-Johnstown. I hope it goes great.


The Tigers rolled to a relatively easy victory after an eight-day layoff, pulling away in the second half to beat McKendree University 114-80 on Tuesday night.

Holly Schacht led the way with 21 points, with Miranda Geever (15 points), Stephanie Denius (13), Rachel Kearney (11) and Danielle Tolbert (10) reaching double figures, as well. Danielle Pipal was on her form of doing the little things and finished with two points, two rebounds, five assists and four steals.

Here are The Formula numbers for ONU (6-1):

- Attempted 96 shots
- Attempted 39 3-pointers
- Rebounded 46 percent of its own misses
- Forced 36 turnovers
- Attempted 16 more shots than the Bearcats

Good victory for the Tigers, who return to action Friday night in their own tournament. The ONU Holiday Express Classic opens with the host playing Harris Stowe State, and continues Saturday when Houghton College plays ONU.

All the best to coach Doug Porter and his team.


The Jets improved to 4-1 by dismantling Delta 112-82 on the road Saturday, coming within one point of its season-high total. Coach Andy Hoaglin texted me some totals:

- Attempted 92 shots
- Attempted 59 3-pointers
- Got 25 offensive rebounds
- Forced 35 turnovers
- Attempted 27 more shots than Delta

Davi'elle Thomas had 20 points, one of six players in double figures for Jackson. The others were Kelsey White (17), Nicole Wurster (15), Alyssa Havens (12), Stephanie Berreth (11) and Jessica Vidalez (10).

The Jets, averaging a National Junior College Athletic Association high of 101 points, travel to Edison College on Saturday. I hope they have a successful trip.


The Silver Streaks bounced back from their loss to Moline in the Western Big 6 conference opener to win the Galesburg Thanksgiving tournament, rolling by Illini West 83-44 in the final.

This one wasn't really in doubt early, as Galesburg led 20-7 after the first quarter and steadily pulled ahead. A running clock for most of the final quarter (once the Streaks got a 30-point advantage) kept the totals a bit lower.

Here are the stats:

- Attempted 76 shots
- Attempted 41 3-pointers
- Rebounded 59 percent of their own misses
- Forced 32 turnovers
- Attempted 30 more shots than Illini West

Sharron Diggins had 18 of her game-high 22 points in the first half for Galesburg, and Sadee Hamilton added 15 points, seven rebounds, five blocks and three steals. Jessica Lieber 13 points, four rebounds and seven assists.

A great night for coach Evan Massey and his team, which returns to WB6 play Thursday on the road at Quincy. I hope it's a successful trip.


I wanted to give a shoutout to coach Brad Vanden Boogaard and the Aggies, since they picked up their first victory of the season Tuesday night by beating Barclay College 122-56. OPSU (1-7) had been getting closer, including a pair of tough losses over the weekend in a tournament in Grand Junction, Colo.

I don't have any stats available from the W, so we'll have to wait a bit for those. Still, congratulations to the Aggies, who play Wednesday night at Las Vegas, N.M., against New Mexico Highlands. Go get 'em!

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Eisenhower HS improves to 1-2 with W, Glenville State suffers very rare home loss, Galesburg HS drops conference opener

Lots to get to, but first, I want to say Happy Thanksgiving to all the coaches and players out there who run The System. I am aware I have problems with my obsession (addiction?) for this perfectly perfect style of play, and I wouldn't have it any other way.

I also would be a tool if I didn't let everyone know how thankful I am for my incredibly awesome and beautiful wife, Colleen, and my two stupendously special daughters, Emily and Libbie. Here's to us, gang!

Now, on to the games:


Amazingly, coach Mike Curta's team opened its schedule with four games in five nights in a Thanksgiving tournament. On Wednesday night, the Cardinals got their first victory, running past Shepard HS 103-85 to improve to 1-2. Complete statistics weren't available, since Eisenhower had teams playing all over the Chicagoland area, but congratulations to coach Curta and his team on getting over the hump.

The Cardinals are very close to being 3-0 at this point, losing leads late in each of their first two games. Leo HS rallied from a six-point deficit in the final 2 minutes to edge Eisenhower 98-94. The opener was a similar story, with Richards HS coming back from 12 points down in the final 2:10 to win 73-72.

We do have some Formula stats from this game, and it is easy to see that Coach Curta and his team are System ready:

- Attempted 92 shots
- Attempted 41 3-pointers
- Rebounded 33 percent of their own misses
- Forced 33 turnovers
- Attempted 27 more shots than Richards

Even better news is that coach Curta has posted video of some of his games, which you can watch here. Pretty neat, right?

The Cardinals have one more outing to complete this hectic week, and I wish them all the luck Friday.


The Pioneers were 12-0 last season at Jesse R. Lilly Gymnasium and rarely struggled. This year's home opener wasn't quite the same.

Andrea Bertrand, Jolysa Brown and Camisha Alexander combined for 68 points and Concord handled Glenville State's pressure throughout to win 103-94 Tuesday night in the West Virginia Intercollegiate Athletic Conference.

The Mountain Lions (3-1, 2-1 WVIAC) finished the game with only 14 turnovers and really won the game at the foul line. They finished 25-for-38 there (the Pioneers were 9-for-15) and held on despite a huge effort from Tenisha Wilson, who went for 25 points and 10 rebounds.

She had plenty of help, with Mishae Miles adding 17 and 12, Danielle Woodmore scoring 14 points and Beth Deren and Jelena Elez getting 10 points apiece. Nice breakout game for Elez, a freshman from Novi Sad, Vojuodina, who handed out six assists (no turnovers) and got two steals.

Here's the Formula stats for Glenville State (3-2, 2-1):

- Attempted 98 shots
- Attempted 35 3-pointers
- Rebounded 44 percent of its owns misses
- Forced 14 turnovers
- Attempted six more shots than Concord

Coach Bunky Harkleroad and his team get back at it Saturday, with a non-conference matchup with Bowie State. I will be rooting for them.


The Streaks went on the road to open play in the Western Big 6, traveling to four-time defending champ and rival Moline on Tuesday night. The Maroons held on for a 62-57 victory, converting 13-of-17 free throws in the fourth quarter.

Galesburg seemingly was kept off its game throughout and attempted only 14 3-pointers (54 shots total). The defense did force 29 turnovers, but Moline attempted only four fewer shots.

Still, the Streaks were in the game, thanks to the solid player of Sadee Hamilton (21 points, eight rebounds) and Jessica Lieber (20 points, 2-of-9 on 3s).

Galesburg (4-1) returns to play in its Thanksgiving tournament Saturday night, hosting Illini West. Game time is scheduled for 7 p.m. EST. Go Streaks!

Monday, November 21, 2011

ONU gets back on track with pair of Ws, Glenville State moves to 2-0 in WVIAC, Galesburg HS off to white-hot start

Back to game updates, while still digesting Grinnell's Griffin Lentsch scoring 89 points over the weekend ...


What a difference in halves for the Tigers on Monday night in a game against Cardinal Stritch in McHie Arena. The first half was all System: ONU made 25-of-52 from the field, including 14-of-31 on 3-pointers, had 18 assists, forced 24 turnovers and came up with 15 steals.

Remember, this all is in the opening 20 minutes, halftime came with the Tigers leading 67-33. What kind of numbers would coach Doug Porter's team put up with another half such as that?

It simply wasn't to be. Oh, sure, ONU (5-1) still won handily, and that certainly is the most important thing. The shooting really fell off in the second half, and I missed so much of it online I don't have an explanation. Following the break, the Wolves outscored ONU 43-27, thanks mostly to the shots simply not falling for the home team.

The Tigers finished 8-for-51 in the second half (15.7 percent), and made only 2-of-33 (6.1 percent) on shots from behind the arc. Only the continued defensive pressure kept the margin comfortable, as Cardinal Stritch suffered 20 turnovers after halftime.

So, for those of you who flunked math in the third grade, the final was 94-76 ONU. Danielle Tolbert led the way with 13 points, five rebounds, five assists and five steals, all in 13 minutes of playing time.

This was the second consecutive victory for Coach Porter and his team. They handled Saint Ambrose University 114-91 on Saturday, with Holly Schacht leading the way with 23 points. Four of her teammates also reached double figures: Tolbert (15 points), Denita Phelps (12), Jaimie Buckman (11) and Stephanie Denius (10).

The Tigers forced 42 turnovers, attempted 102 shots and generally got after Saint Ambrose.

Next up for ONU is a visit from McKendree University next Tuesday, Nov. 29. I hope Coach Porter and his team have a wonderful Thanksgiving.


The Pioneers, coached by Bunky Harkleroad, traveled on the road in the West Virginia Intercollegiate Athletic Conference to Wheeling Jesuit on Saturday. Glenville State rallied in the second half to win 107-93, with Danielle Woodmore leading the way with 20 points, 10 assists and eight steals. Quite a performance.

She wasn't the only one who put up some numbers. Mishae Miles had 18 points and seven rebounds, Tenisha Wilson came through with 16 and 11 and Ginny Petties (15 points) and Beth Deren (14 points) combined to make nine 3s.

Oh, and Kenyell Goodson added 11 points. The Pioneers (3-1, 2-0 WVIAC) certainly spread the wealth in their second game without guard Tiffani Huffman, who injured her shoulder earlier in the week against Ohio Valley. Huffman most often came off the bench and provided a spark, and replacing her in the rotation is important for Coach Harkleroad.

After four games away from home, Glenville State returns to the friendly confines of Jesse R. Lilly Gym on Tuesday when Concord University comes in to town. Game time is scheduled for 4 p.m., and the best of luck to the Pioneers.


The Silver Streaks opened play with four games in five nights in the Galesburg Thanksgiving Tournament, and after the dust settled, they were 4-0. What a start.

Perhaps the latest victory will show more than any other was a talented team coach Evan Massey has. Galesburg beat third-ranked Springfield 84-79 Saturday night, using a big second half to win again.

The Senators actually led 41-32 early in the third quarter before the Streaks bounced back, finishing the period on a 28-4 run to lead 60-45. They hit 6-of-11 on 3-pointers in the third, with three coming from Sharron Diggins, and used their press to frustrate Springfield's talented point guard, Zahre Medley.

Medley, someone Coach Massey has said in a NCAA Division I recruit, scored 25 points, but few were easy against Galesburg's defense.

Earlier in the tournament, the Streaks made an amazing 13 consecutive shots at one point to dispatch Metamora 89-64 on Thursday night, then outscored East Peoria 24-10 in the fourth quarter in a 63-44 victory Friday night.

So that's four up and four down for the Streaks, who open Western Big 6 play Tuesday night on the road at Moline. Game time is scheduled for 8 p.m. EST. Go Streaks!


Unfortunately, I don't have the full stats, but Jackon improved its record to 3-1 Friday night with a 90-70 victory over the JV team from the Indiana Institute of Technology.

Next up for the Jets is a visit from the JV team at Calvin College on Tuesday night, with tip scheduled for 6 p.m. EST. I wish coach Andy Hoaglin and his team a lot luck.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Lentsch goes off for 89 points for Grinnell, shattering previous NCAA D-III record

Even the most casual reader of this blog knows that updating everyone on records set by my favorite teams is nothing new. Most every System team sets some type of record periodically, it simply is the nature of this terrific style of play.

This post, however, will break some new ground, and it fittingly comes from the team that started all this craziness 20 years ago: Grinnell College.

The NCAA Division III men's team opened its season Saturday on the road against Principia College from Elsah, Ill. Last season, the Pioneers won this matchup fairly easily, setting a school record with 90 points in the opening half on their way to a 150-90 victory. Grinnell star Griffin Lentsch had 36 points in that game in only 15 minutes of run, making 10 3-pointers along the way.

He did even more in the return game. Playing an almost-unheard-of-for-The-System 36 minutes, the junior from Forest Lake, Minn., scored an NCAA D-III record 89 points, beating the previous mark of 77 set by another Grinnell player, Jeff Clement, in 1998. Lentsch was 27-for-55 from the field, including 15-of-33 on 3s, and converted 20-of-22 at the line. Oh, and the Pioneers won 145-97, not that anyone really cares about that at this point.

Lentsch's point total is the third-highest in NCAA history, behind the 112 points scored by Bevo Francis of Rio Grande College in 1954 and Frank Selvy's 110 points for Furman in the same year.

"It's still setting in," Lentsch said, according to the Grinnell Website. "I didn't think I would ever score that many points."

He had 40 points at the break and then really got down to scoring in the second half. Lentsch went to the line 15 times in the second half, making 14 of them. After teammate Patrick Maher made a jumper with 7:26 remaining, Lentsch scored the final 24 points. His last two came with 19 seconds left on his final shot of the game.

"We knew Griffin had a chance to put up big numbers, but something like this is simply amazing," Grinnell assistant/interim coach Dave Arseneault said, according to the Website. He will take over full-time when his father, System creator David Arseneault, takes a sabbatical in the spring semester to work on his latest book.

"But it really was an entire team effort. The guys contributed in terms of setting screens and getting him the ball. It was incredible to watch. As Griffin scored more and more points, our bench got louder and louder."

That is one of the neatest things about Lentsch's record, the help and support he received from his teammates. The screens, the passes and the unselfishness all combined for a special night. Maher ended up with 13 assists and six steals while scoring 10 points, and Jack Adams added 10 points, too.

All in all, a wonderful game for Lentsch and the entire program.

"All the credit goes to my teammates, in all honesty," Lentsch said. "They did such a great job of setting screens and getting me open. I never would have come remotely close to doing this without them."

We will see what he can do for an encore Tuesday night, when Grinnell plays its home opener against Wartburg College. Game time is 8 p.m. EST.

Have no fear, I will be back with more updates later Sunday. I felt a record such as this deserved its own post, but I have exciting news about all our other System teams, including some important victories for the girls' team at Galesburg (Ill.) HS, along with the women's teams at NCAA Division II Glenville State and NAIA Olivet Nazarene.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Lieber drains late 3 to lift Galesburg, Glenville St. holds on in conference play, other teams not as fortunate this time

Tuesday was a huge day for The System, with so many of our favorite teams taking the court that it was hard to keep track. Have no fear, I was able to do it. And for a little surprise, I will start with the lone high school, the Galesburg (Ill.) girls' team coached by Evan Massey.


The Silver Streaks opened their season against Dunlap, a team that gave them fits last season. This one was no different.

Galesburg trailed by seven at half, by nine heading into the fourth quarter and by 12 with about 4 minutes remaining in the game. That is when things finally turned around, and it all started with (what else?) a 3-pointer from Sadee Hamilton.

The Streaks eventually got within two with less than 5 seconds on the clock and ran a nifty inbounds play. Emma Junk cut open to the basket and took a pass, leaving the Dunlap defender with no choice but to foul. She made both shots to tie it up, and after Galesburg's Sharron Diggins stole the ensuing inbounds pass, the ball found its way to Jessica Lieber.

Keep in mind that up to the is point, Jessica was 3-for-22 from beyond the arc. I'm sure she had no time to think about that or anything else as she launched another shot from several steps behind the 3-point line.

The ball swished through at the buzzer, giving the Streaks a thrilling 72-69 victory. Amazing.

Here are The Formula stats, and Galesburg reached all its goals:

- Attempted 79 shots
- Attempted 60 3-pointers
- Rebounded 47 percent of its misses
- Forced 31 turnovers
- Attempted 29 more shots than Dunlap

There is very little time to celebrate for Jessica and her teammates, however, with another game Thursday night against Metamora. The best of luck to Coach Massey and his team.


Tenisha Wilson had 25 points and 10 rebounds to help the Pioneers hold on for a 90-88 victory over Ohio Valley on Tuesday night in the opener of the West Virginia Intercollegiate Athletic Conference.

What do I mean by hold on?

Glenville State opened a 54-31 lead at halftime, thanks mainly to some wonderful shooting and aggressive defense. The Pioneers made 19-of-41 shots overall, and 10-of-21 on 3s, in that opening 20 minutes while forcing 17 turnovers. It all combined to give them a lopsided edge at the break.

Ohio Valley stormed back, even if the final margin is a bit deceiving. Tara Benedict made a 3-pointer at the buzzer to bring Ohio Valley within those two points.

Beth Deren added 17 points for Glenville State (2-1, 1-0), Kenyell Goodson had 15, Mishae Miles finished with 12 and Danielle Woodmore scored 10.

Here are the other important numbers for the Pioneers:

- Attempted 80 shots
- Attempted 37 3-pointers
- Rebounded 30 percent of their own misses
- Forced 29 turnovers
- Attempted one more shot than Ohio Valley

The season-opening road trip continues for Glenville State on Saturday, when it stays in the WVIAC and travels to Wheeling Jesuit. Game time is 5:30 p.m.


The Tigers suffered their first loss of the season on the road at unbeaten St. Catherine, with the final score of 113-78 Tuesday night in Kentucky. Full stats aren't available, although I did see a mention that ONU (3-1) was 11-for-50 on 3-pointers.

Apparently, St. Catherine scrimmaged against Glenville State to prepare for coach Doug Porter's team, and it appears to have paid off.

The Tigers return to action at home Saturday, playing St. Ambrose University. The tip is scheduled for 4 p.m. EST.


The Jets, coached by Andy Hoaglin, had a tough trip on the road to play the Davenport University JV team Tuesday night, and the Panthers came out on top 87-82.

Obviously a close game. Davi'elle Thomas led the way with 18 points, Nicole Wurster had 17, Jessica Vidalez added 12 and Kelsey White finished with 10. This was the first time in three games (2-1) that Jackson CC was held to less than 100 points. It shot 12-of-49 on 3-pointers and attempted 85 total shots.

The Jets take the court again Friday at home against the Indiana Institute of Technology JV team, with the game scheduled to start at 5:30 p.m.


The Aggies played much better in their second game, even if they still came up on the short side of the scoreboard. Precious Herrin scored 34 points to help Eastern New Mexico beat OPSU 100-96 Tuesday night in Portales, N.M.

Teenie Kent led the Aggies with 23 points, including five 3-pointers, and Camille Washington added 18. Here are their other numbers:

- Attempted 99 shots
- Attempted 49 3-pointers
- Rebounded 35 percent of their own misses
- Forced 34 turnovers
- Attempted 24 more shots than Eastern New Mexico

As you can see, pretty good numbers for a first-year team playing only its second System game. OPSU gets back at it Friday night against Texas Women's University in Denton, Texas, with the game scheduled to begin at 8 p.m. EST.


The System opener for coach Emily Cline and the Prairie Fire was a tough one, with Cornell College jumping out to an early lead and holding on for a 107-67 victory Tuesday night.

Abby Owens led Knox with 13 points, with Krystyna Williams adding 12. Here is The Formula stuff:

- Attempted 93 shots
- Attempted 52 3-pointers
- Rebounded 41 percent of its own misses
- Forced 33 turnovers
- Attempted 22 more shots than Cornell

All in all, not a terrible effort, given where the numbers were. And that is an important piece to playing this wonderful style. The Prairie Fire next play at Eureka College on Thursday, with the game scheduled to start at 8 p.m. EST.

Best of luck to all the teams, and I will check back in later.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Galesburg HS ready to get started again, Knox College debuts with The System

Google Maps puts Galesburg (Ill.) High School slightly more than 2 miles from Knox College. Well, this season, the girls' team at Galesburg will be closer than ever to its older peers, the women's squad at Knox.

This will be the Silver Streaks' third go-around with The System, while the Prairie Fire take the plunge for the first time. I'm very much looking forward to seeing what 2011-12 holds for both of these schools, and we don't have to wait much longer to see what's going to happen: each opens it schedule Tuesday night.


Coach Evan Massey made the decision to go with The System back in 2009, and I wonder sometimes if even knew what an amazing run his team would have. National records along with a trip to the Class 3A Elite Eight really don't even tell the entire story. He has young people in Galesburg excited about basketball, excited about playing for the Streaks and excited about The System. Pretty amazing.

Last year, Galesburg finished 28-7 with that aforementioned run that ended a game short of the Final Four. This included its first Regional title since 2007 and first sectional title since 2003, not to mention those records. Here is a bit of what the Streaks accomplished:

- National record for made 3-pointers, boys or girls, with 397
- Illinois High School Association marks for 3s attempted (72) and made (22) in a single game
- IHSA records for 3s attempted (1,476) and made in a season

And, yes, there was that 28-7 record, too. That pushed Coach Massey to a career record of 737-267 as he enters his 34th season, leaving him behind only Dorothy Gaters of Chicago Marshall and Dave Powers of Oak Park Fenwick (both Chicagoland schools) in Illinois girls' hoops victories. Pretty special.

He faces a pretty significant challenge this season. All five starters graduated, taking with them an average of about 41 points, and yet, thanks to the beauty of The System, 12 players saw more than 10 minutes of run in each contest. That leaves seven returnees who were regulars in the rotation: Jessica Lieber, Paige Klinck, Rainee Sibley, Chloe Anderson, Myra Diggins, Sadee Hamilton and Emma Junk.

One of those who is gone is Jessica Howard, who made all-Western Big 6 her final three seasons. She also set a state record with 139 made 3-pointers during her season year before taking her talents to Monmouth College.

As he has the past couple of years, Coach Massey prepared a brief Q & A for the media, and I am fortunate he took the time to send it to me.

(Where do you hope to see improvement this season?)

Evan Massey: We hope we can increase the tempo by being a better pressing team and create a better tempo with our presses. And we feel like while we may not have one shooter we can rely on like Jessica Howard, we feel we may have more players capable of scoring. Hopefully that depth will allow us to be quicker offensively.

(How is the depth compared to last season?)

Evan Massey: We return 7 players who played 10 or more minutes. We will rely on their experience. At the start of the year we plan to have 13 players in our regular rotation. We will see as time goes on if we need to limit those numbers at all.

The offseason also was a special time for Coach Massey and the Streaks. Besides the trip to Chapel Hill, N.C., and North Carolina coach Sylvia Hatchell's camp (where they all got to meet me!), several players took time to work on their games. Four of them made more than 10,000 3-pointers over the summer -- Allison Mangieri, Junk, Sibley and Lieber -- and another three connected on more than 5,000. Those were Casey Williams, Klinck and Anderson.

All in all, expect big things again from the Streaks, who open Tuesday night at home at 8 p.m. EST against Dunlap.


Down the road at Knox, coach Emily Cline joined the revolution and installed The System. Regular readers of the blog (anyone? Bueller?) will remember that Knox is a member of the Midwest Conference, which also is home to the Grinnell men's team and coach David Arseneault, creator of this wonderful style of play.

The Prairie Fire go on the road to play Cornell College, with the game scheduled to start at 7 p.m. EST. Coach Cline was kind enough to answer some of my questions in an e-mail a few days ago.

(How has practice gone so far?)

Emily Cline:
We have some very good days and some not so good days. Which is pretty typical for this time of the year. The team seems to have made the adjustment to the System pretty quickly, although we have a ways to go. ... I think The System is a good fit for us, if we can stay healthy.

(Tell us a little about your returning players.)

Emily Cline: Two of our top scorers from last year's team are back: Krystyna Williams & Kelly Ricketts. They are both talented post players that could have big year's for us if they continue to work hard. We also have 3 other seniors that should play significant minutes in the 2 and 3 positions -- Steph Nunez, Lynn Mueller, and Abby Owens. Also, our junior class is very strong as well. Kristin McDonald and Sara Johnson will be at the heart of what we do this season, especially defensively.

(How about your recruiting class?)

Emily Cline: We have eight new players, seven of them are freshmen and one sophomore that didn't play last year. They are a deep and talented group that will be looked upon to contribute immediately. Four of the freshmen will play significant minutes early. It should interesting with that many young kids playing.

(What is the team doing well now? What are the sources of concern?)

Emily Cline: We have really picked up the pace of The System (offensively) pretty quickly. We started with a 12 second shot clock from the 1st day of practice so that helps. We still need a lot of work on referee handles, made press, miss press and our half-court press. So obviously, we have a lot of work to do defensively.

Also, we need to learn to continue to play at System pace and get quick shots. We need to learn the difference between shooting quickly and rushing our shot, as well. Also, it will be an adjustment when we start playing games because there are refs there and we haven't been calling many fouls to encourage aggressiveness but it will be different when there are refs there.

(What are your goals, and are they different with The System?)

Emily Cline: I really don't know what to expect. If we were playing conventional I would say our goal is to win 10 or more games. Playing The System I have no idea what to expect.

I love that honesty. It should be a very exciting season for Knox, which finished 6-17 overall and 5-13 in the MWC last season. Best of luck to Coach Cline and her team.

Well, that wraps up this set of previews. Best of luck to everyone, and I will check back on the progress for all our teams.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Tough one for Glenville State in final, OPSU opens System era with a loss

Two of my favorite teams came up on the wrong side of the scoreboard Saturday night, so this update won't be quite as fun. Still, those coaches and players are the ones going through it, not me, and I empathize greatly with them. I'm sure there are better days ahead.


Coach Bunky Harkleroad's squad had a tight one throughout in the final of the United Electric Tip-Off Classic in Louisville, Ky., hosted by Bellarmine University. The host school rallied in the second half and held off the Pioneers 102-93, dropping Glenville State to 1-1 on the season.

As I said, this one almost always was in doubt. Glenville State by six at the break, fell behind during an early run in the second half by Bellarmine, then battled back to regain the lead on a layup from Tenisha Wilson with 5 minutes left. That made it 89-88, and even my simple math skills tell me that the Pioneers were held to four points down the stretch.

The Knights regained the lead for good on the ensuing possession after Wilson's hoop, with Betsy Goodin converting a pair of free throws to make it 90-98.

Here are The Formula stats for the Pioneers:

- Attempted 87 shots
- Attempted 39 3-pointers
- Rebounded 30 percent of their own misses
- Forced 26 turnovers
- Attempted 15 more shots than Bellarmine

Wilson led Glenville State with 23 points, with Mishae Miles adding 21 points and 11 rebounds. Both of them made the all-tourney team. Ginny Petties finished with 17 points and four steals, while Kenyell Goodson scored 11 points.

The road doesn't get any easier for Coach Harkleroad and his team. After the ride home from Kentucky, they have a quick turnaround before traveling to Ohio Valley on Tuesday night to open the West Virginia Intercollegiate Athletic Conference schedule. Game time is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. EST, and you know whom I want to win. (It's Glenville State, fool!)


The Aggies opened their first full season with The System on Saturday, losing at home to Adams State 104-79.

The opening 7 minutes went well enough for OPSU, with two free throws from Michelle Kent giving her team an 18-12 lead. But the Grizzlies slowly pulled even and then ahead, using an 11-3 run at the end of the first half to pull to a 50-36 lead. The Aggies never got within 10 the rest of the way.

Here are The Formula numbers for OPSU:

- Attempted 80 shots
- Attempted 38 3-pointers
- Rebounded 25 percent of its own misses
- Forced 25 turnovers
- Attempted 16 more shots than Adams State

Quinae Thomas led the way with 14 points, and Teenie Kent and Nicole Buhl added 11 apiece.

I hate it for coach Brad Vanden Boogaard, but I know (as he does) that there are better days ahead. Hopefully, his team got a good appreciation of what The System is all about and will use that knowledge going forward. That will start Tuesday night with a trip to Eastern New Mexico University, with the game scheduled to start at 7:30 p.m. EST.

Go, Aggies.

Tuesday is shaping up to be a big night for The System. In addition to Glenville State and OPSU, we will have: the NAIA women's team at Olivet Nazarene (3-0) returning to the court at St. Catherine College in Kentucky; Knox College opening its first season with this style at Cornell College, the NJCAA women's team at Jackson (Mich.) Community College (2-0) traveling to face the Davenport JV team; and the girls' team at Galesburg (Ill.) HS beginning its season at home against Dunlap.

Whew, that is a lot. I hope to be there to cover all the action, even if it is a day or so after it takes place. The best of luck to all our teams.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Late FTs give ONU come-from-behind W, huge second half lifts Glenville State, OPSU prepares for first System season

Wow, lots to get to in this post, including a season preview of the NCAA Division II women's team at Oklahoma Panhandle State University. The Aggies tip off tonight against Adams State College, with the scheduled start at 6 p.m. EST.

First, the games:


We have to start with Olivet Nazarene, which played defending NAIA Division II runner-up Davenport University on Friday night. Denita Phelps made two free throws with less than 1 second remaining to give the Tigers a thrilling 92-91 victory despite a school-record 43 points by Davenport's Karlee Despres.

The Panthers, who finished 37-1 last season, trailed by 10 points at halftime, and the margin reached 13 early in the second half. But they rallied to take their first lead about midway through the final 20 minutes, and the game was back-and-forth down the stretch.

With the scored tied at 88 in the final minute, ONU's Danielle Tolbert got inside for a layup and a two-point advantage. Davenport's Kia Frazier was fouled with 35 seconds remaining and made the second of two free throws to cut the margin to one, and when Tolbert missed a 3 on the other end, the Panthers had another chance.

This time it was Abby Neff scoring from in close to put Davenport up 91-90, and ONU coach Doug Porter called a timeout with 13 seconds left on the clock. Tolbert and backcourt mate Danielle Pipal broke the Panthers' press, and Pipal drove down the lane before dropping a pass to Phelps, who was hammered on her shot attempt with 0.9 seconds remaining.

Despite a brief delay as the officials made sure the clock was correct, Phelps made both shots to put the Tigers ahead. She then intercepted Davenport's long inbounds pass near halfcourt, ending the game and sending the crowd at McHie Arena home happy.

Tolbert led ONU (3-0) with 21 points. Here are The Formula numbers for her team:

- Attempted 98 shots
- Attempted 72 3-pointers
- Rebounded 40 percent of its misses
- Forced 37 turnovers
- Attempted 14 more shots than Davenport (2-1)

Great job by Coach Porter and his team, it was an amazing game to watch. The Tigers travel to St. Catherine College in Kentucky next Tuesday for their next game, and I hope they have much success.


Speaking of Kentucky, the Pioneers coached by Bunky Harkleroad opened their season Friday night in the opening round of the United Electric Tip-Off Tournament in Louisville, hosted by Bellarmine University.

Danielle Woodmore, a Louisville native, made the most of her homecoming, finishing with 24 points, six rebounds, four assists and five steals to help Glenville State beat American International College 95-76. Tenisha Wilson added 18 points and Mishae Miles had 16 points and nine rebounds for the Pioneers.

Ginny Petties scored 10 points.

A 22-7 midway through the second half helped Glenville State pull away, with seven different players scoring during the spurt. Miles got it started with a free throw, Wilson had a basket and Petties connected on a 3-pointer before Beth Deren got in close for a layup to make it 68-60.

Later, Catherine Butcher converted a pair of foul shots, and Woodmore did the same on the ensuing possession. A 3 from Jelena Elez boosted the margin to 15 before Miles closed it out with another layup. The lead never moved under 10 points down the stretch.

Here are the Pioneers' Formula stats:

- Attempted 85 shots
- Attempted 34 3-pointers
- Rebounded 43 percent of their own misses
- Forced 38 turnovers
- Attempted 35 more shots than AIC

Glenville State will face the host school in the final Saturday night after Bellarmine held off McKendree University 69-67. Game time is 7 p.m. EST, and I will be following the action online.


As I said, the Aggies open their season Saturday night against Adams State, and I got in touch with coach Brad Vanden Boogaard earlier this week to see how the transition to The System has gone so far.

The Formula goals for OPSU this season are this:

- Attempt 90 shots
- Attempted 45 3-pointers
- Rebound 40 percent of its own misses
- Force 33 turnovers
- Attempt 15 more shots than the opponent

Here is the rest of our exchange:

(How has practice been? Still happy with the change?)

Brad Vanden Boogaard: We are very happy with the change we made. Practices have been inconsistent at times. We spend a lot of time breaking old habits and are slow to change, which I was expecting.

Scrimmages have went well we play with a lot of energy for three-fourths of them. We got out to a large lead early in the second one and put it in cruise control for awhile. We allowed that team to come back to within two points and then we turned it back on to win by 21. It was a good lesson to learn.

(Tell us a little about your returning players.)

Bran Vanden Boogaard: We have nine returners, six of them being seniors. I consider five of them to be very good shooters, two of them being 5-foot-10 or taller. A few of them have not shown their shooting ability in games yet (Teenie Kent, Megan Taylor, Tomi McDonald, Brianna Gonzalez, Quinae Thomas). Carmela Garcia is a small point guard that is a jet and tough that leads by great example and was honorable mention all-conference last year.

Nicole Buhl and Tra Dishmon are undersized post players that can run well and play at the top of the press really well. Michelle Kent is a hard worker that is crafty getting to the basket and is an average shooter.

(How about your recruiting class?)

Brad Vanden Boogaard: Our recruiting class consist of four freshman, one redshirt freshman, and a sophomore. In the freshman class we brought in two athletes, one that is recovering from an ACL that happened during her senior season, one shooter recovering from a knee scope not practicing at this time and a 6-foot post that runs well, plays the top of the press and is a very good rebounder. The redshirt freshman is a 5-10 shooter. The sophomore is a shooter.

(What are you doing well right now? What are the areas of concern?)

Brad Vanden Boogaard: We are doing a nice job right now of offensive rebounding. We are keeping a good pace of play in getting set in our presses and pushing the ball from the point guard position and for the most part our post are doing a nice job.

My concerns right now are the amount of turnovers and the number of shots we are attempting in our scrimmages. We played two teams that play up-tempo and do some trapping so I think our turnovers will come down against more conventional opponents. The shot attempts concern me because we have been around 100 per game with our goal being 90 or more but with us playing two up-tempo teams I was hoping to be around 110. When we play conventional teams we will need to work harder to get enough shots up.

(What type of teams goals have you set, and would they be similar if playing conventionally?)

Brad Vanden Boogaard: Some of our overall team goals are similar to when we were playing traditionally but our game goals have completely changed. Our goals are 3.3 GPA (nice!), .500 or better record/qualifying for the conference tournament, commit to The System, always play hard, and give OPSU Basketball a name.

Well said, Coach Vanden Boogaard. It appears the home games might be available online, so I plan to catch at least part of the opener Saturday night. Good luck to the Aggies.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Glenville State opens as WVIAC favorite

The NCAA Division II West Virginia Intercollegiate Athletic Conference is a meat grinder of a conference, with the 15 teams playing 22 games against each other each season. And with everyone making the year-ending conference tournament, that adds another five games or so if your team is fortunate enough to win it all.

That was the case for the women's team at Glenville State a year ago. The Pioneers finished third in the regular season with a 17-5 record (a single game behind co-regular season titlists Charleston and West Liberty), then rolled through to the tournament championship to secure a bid to the NCAA national tournament. A tough loss in the opening round to Johnson C. Smith left coach Bunky Harkleroad's team with a 23-9 mark, a great finish to his second season at Glenville State.

Now, he and the bulk of his team are back for more. The Pioneers were picked to win the WVIAC in a preseason poll, and they open the 2011-12 season Friday night in the United Electric Tip-Off Classic in Louisville, Ky., hosted by Bellarmine University. Glenville State plays American International College at 6 p.m. EST.

As I said, Coach Harkleroad has the majority of his squad back from a year ago, including leading scorer and first-team all conference member Tenisha Wilson (16.4 ppg). Others returning include Danielle Woodmore (13.6), Mishae Miles (8.9), Kenyell Goodson (7.8), Beth Deren (7.4), Tiffani Huffman (4.9, team-best 44 percent on 3-pointers) and Catherine Butcher (2.2). Huffman missed the final four games last season with a shoulder injury but returns healthy and ready to go.

Here is what Coach Harkleroad had to say about this upcoming season in an e-mail earlier this week.
(Post player LaToya Hambrick will miss the season after suffering an Achilles' injury. What does losing her mean?)

Bunky Harkleroad: Losing LaToya is a big loss. She’s an energy giver and you can never have too many of those. Losing her presence on the court is also going to hurt, she’s a physical player and plays hard. She’s doing well with her rehab and we hope to have her back next season.

(How are the new players fitting in? What do you expect of them?)

Bunky Harkleroad: Our new players are learning and doing a pretty good job of figuring things out. Every person we recruit needs to be able to help us win our league so we have high expectations for all of our new players. There’s a reason we recruited them but you never really know how they are going to respond when they smell the popcorn.

(What is your sense of the team's readiness for the season?)

Bunky Harkleroad: I think we’re ready; our players are excited and are looking forward to outside competition. I think our team has a lot of potential but it’s going to take some time for this team to emerge. I think this team will be different than any team I’ve coached and I hope we play faster than any team I’ve coached.

(You were picked to win the WVIAC. Nice to have the respect, or does that put a target on you?)

Bunky Harkleroad: We work hard to gain the respect of our opponents and, yes, I think it’s nice to be respected. BUT having said that, there’s really no reason to put much stock into a preseason rating.

We do have a bulls eye on our backs but here at GSC we’ve always had that. Our program has a great history in women’s basketball and it’s something we take pride in. We are loved at home and hated on the road. It’s not always easy to get our kids to realize that at first but after a few games they are quick to realize that we get everybody’s best shot.

(A social media question: you and the players often joke around with each other on Twitter, something I think most coaches seem to discourage. What is your take on this? Would you feel differently if you were at a NCAA Division I school?)

Bunky Harkleroad: I can see why some coaches don't like it. I think it’s sometimes difficult to get our kids to realize that they have to be careful and watch what they Tweet or post on (Facebook).

Our basketball team is pretty tight knit and we don’t take ourselves so serious that we can’t laugh at ourselves and give each other a hard time. It’s also a good way for us to keep people involved in our program.

If I were a D-I coach I don’t think I’d view it much differently. I’d probably make more of an effort to ensure that our kids were a little more careful about what they are posting.

A huge thanks to Coach Harkleroad, as always. I wish him and Glenville State the best of luck in Louisville, and I hope to follow the action online.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Final tuneup for Oklahoma Panhandle St.

You remember this team, right? The Aggies are a member of the NCAA Division II Heartland Conference, and they open their season at home Saturday against Adams State.

Coach Brad Vanden Boogaard's squad had a final scrimmage Monday and reached four of its five goals. Here is what the totals were:

- Attempted 98 shots
- Attempted 62 3-pointers
- Rebounded 49 percent of its misses
- Forced 32 turnovers
- Attempted 15 more shots than the opponent

Coach Vanden Boogaard e-mailed me the update and added this: "In both of our scrimmages, we played teams that wante to play at an up-tempo pace, so our big challenge this week will be preparing for Adams State, who I don't feel will run with us."

I wish the Aggies the best of luck Saturday in their regular season debut with The System. All of us will be behind them for the opener, right?

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Season opens with a bang for System teams all around the land (actually, it's mostly confined to the Midwest)

After typing that headline, I got to thinking -- what is it about the Midwest that seems to spawn System teams? A vast majority of them are centered around the guru of this wonderful style of play, Grinnell men's coach David Arseneault, so perhaps that is why.

Regardless, the season has sprung upon us with two of our favorite teams opening with a pair of victories. And another System squad who we haven't had the opportunity to check in with started off smashingly well, too. I won't waste any more of your time with my musings, on to the games.


The 12th-ranked Tigers, coached by Doug Porter, got going with a 91-75 victory over Ashford University on Saturday in the friendly confines of McHie Arena. Danielle Tolbert, one of the dazzling D's mentioned in our season preview, led the way with 19 points for ONU, with teammates Stephanie Denius and Bridgette Jones adding 11 apiece. Danielle Pipal finished with 10 points.

Before we go any further, we'll go with The Formula stats for the Tigers:

- Attempted 96 shots
- Attempted 58 3-pointers
- Rebounded 35 percent of their misses
- Forced 58 turnovers (nope, not a typo)
- Attempted 30 more shots than Ashford

Looking at those numbers, you would think ONU had an easier time of it. The shooting percent on those 3s (20.7 percent) wasn't as high as Coach Porter would have liked, I'm sure, but all in all, a good effort to start.

And I would be remiss if I didn't give a shoutout to freshman Tai Peachey, who finished with eight points in her collegiate debut. I'm sure she did her coach from Galesburg (Ill.) HS proud, right, Evan Massey?

On Monday night, the Tigers hosted Judson University and cruised to a 125-87 victory thanks to 15 points each from Jaimie Buckman and Taylor Haymes. Liz Bart added 14 and Malory Adam chipped in with 13 for ONU. Anyone else notice those names are completely different from the opener?

Some Formula numbers:

- Attempted 96 shots
- Attempted 66 3-pointers
- Rebounded 39 percent of its misses
- Forced 29 turnovers
- Attempted 20 more shots than Judson

This one really could have gotten out of hand. I caught most of the second half and the Tigers were on the verge of running the Eagles out of McHie Arena. Coach Porter called off the press midway through the final 20 minutes, however, and slowed the pace.

All 18 players on the roster scored for ONU and 11 of them made at least one 3-pointer to set a school record; for the game, those 11 combined to make 27 3s to tie another school mark.

Everyone got at least 7 minutes of run, too.

The Tigers have a tough task Friday, hosting the NAIA Division II runner-up from a season ago, Davenport University. Game time at at McHie Arena is 6 p.m. EST, and I wish Coach Porter and his team the best of luck.


The Jets, a Division II member of the National Junior College Athletic Association, also opened with a pair of Ws, reaching triple figures in both games.

With Jessica Vidalez connecting on six 3-pointers and scoring 22 points, Jackson rolled past Lakeland Community College 113-96 on Sunday. Five other players joined Vidalez in double figures: Davi'elle Thomas (20 points), DaJanae Wilson (15), Stephanie Berreth (12), Kelsey White (11) and Alyssa Havens (10).

Jackson took an amazing 141 shots and finished 19-for-70 from beyond the arc, on its way to attempting 45 more shots than Lakeland. The Jets forced 41 turnovers to push that pace.

Then on Monday, Vidalez again led the way with 28 points in a 109-73 victory over Mott. Thomas had 27 points, followed by White (14) and Tiki Malone (13). The Jets scored 61 points in the first half and finished 19-for-57 on 3-pointers while taking 112 shots.

Mott had 51 turnovers, if you can believe that.

"We played pretty well defensively," Coach Hoaglin told the Jackson Citizen Patriot. "We've got 11 sophomores on this year's team. They understand the pace of the game, and this was one of our better System games."

The Jets are off until Nov. 15, when they hit the road to play the junior varsity team at Davenport University (sound familiar?). I will be rooting for Coach Hoaglin and his team.


This is a new one for us, a team playing in the Sooner Athletic Conference which apparently took The System plunge for this season. I'll attempt to get more background, but for now, we'll simply talk about the Eagles first game.

They took a 26-point lead at the half and then held on to beat Texas Wesleyan 110-94 Saturday, setting an unofficial school record for points in the process.

As some of you know, I can be a bit of a System snob, so the numbers posted by Oklahoma Christian leave me a bit skeptical, but perhaps it was an aberration. Here are the stats:

- Attempted 66 shots
- Attempted 33 3-pointers
- Rebounded 27 percent of its misses
- Forced 22 turnovers
- Attempted 15 FEWER shots than the opponent

Now, part of this might have been the Eagles taking an apparent parade to the free throw line. They finished 37-for-44 for the game, and all those foul shots not only limits the number of field goal attempts, they can ruin the tempo of the game.

Katy Clift certainly seems to get The System. She made 7-of-16 from beyond the arc and scored 25 points, with Roz Hamilton (14), Katy O'Steen (12), Logan McKee (11) and Andee Wayne (10) also getting in double figures.

Oklahoma Christian travels to Waxahachie, Texas, for a two-game tournament beginning Friday night, and we'll check back in to see how it goes. I hope the trip down south of Dallas goes well.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

It is on like Donkey Kong! (Or, perhaps a better way to say it, the season previews for two of my favorite System teams)

As amazing as it sounds, we will have actual System hoops to follow beginning this weekend (Saturday-Sunday, Nov. 5-6). The NAIA women's team at Olivet Nazarene opens its season at home against Ashford University at 3 p.m. EDT, while the women's team at Jackson (Mich.) Community College take the court for the first time Sunday against Lakeland CC at 1 p.m.

Are you as excited as I am?

There is no better time than now to get a little preview up for these two squads, both of which are coming off very successful seasons. The best of luck to both of them.


Coach Doug Porter had only two players graduate from last season's team which finished 27-7 and reached the Sweet 16 of the NAIA tournament. One of those was leading scorer Simone Coburn (12.8 ppg), who got her points in an odd spot for a Sytem team: the paint.

Among those back are point guard Danielle Pipal, an honorable mention All-American in 2010-11 despite averaging only 6.9 points. She also had a team-best 152 assists (4.6 per game) and 124 steals (3.8 per game, good for second best in the nation), all while grabbing 3.8 rebounds per game, as well.

Coach Porter is loaded with two veteran, talented point guards, with Danielle Tolbert (second-leading scorer from a year ago at 12.7 ppg) back to work with Pipal to get the Tigers going. If you've paid attention to this blog, you know that ONU is changing up things a bit this season, going to a more pure Grinnell-style offense.

What does that mean? Well, in simple terms, the initial start of this clears out the entire right side of the court for the point guard to get to the rim. The two Danielles certainly will be able to take advantage of this, and I can't wait to see the results.

Another point guard on the roster is Tai Peachey, a freshman who is no stranger to The System. She played for coach Evan Massey at Galesburg (Ill.) HS and brings that experience with her to college. She's always been one of my favorites (and not just because she is a fan of my blog on Facebook), so I'm hoping her first year at ONU goes very well.

Coach Porter was kind enough to answer some of my questions about the upcoming season, and here are the results of our e-mail conversation.
(With all the returning players from last year's team, what do you expect?)

Doug Porter: I am intrigued by the possibilities this season, but for an odd reason: defense. System teams don’t make a big deal out of the opponent’s scoring average because as David Arseneault once said, "We are all about scoring points." And I enjoy the teasing comments I get from coaches who say, "You guys don’t play defense."

Our team was last in the nation in scoring defense last year (83 ppg), but of course defense is relative to tempo. The real question is (or should be) "How did your defense complement your offense?" In our case, team quickness last year resulted in forcing 36 turnovers a game, and allowed us to set a college basketball record of 735 steals, about 100 more than the (NCAA) DI women’s record. So ... with only 2 seniors graduating from that team, I’m thinking defense will again spark our offense!

(What about your new players, specifically my girl Tai Peachey?)

Doug Porter: Our new players seem behind to me, but I’m hoping that this is because our veterans are so strong that the contrast is more apparent than usual. They will get spot play, some as much as 10-12 minutes a game, some 3-4, and Bridgette Jones (5-foot-6 guard from Seymour, Ind.) and Natalie Tunnell (5-9 Guard from Oklahoma City) have had good preseasons. Bridgette has that rare quality of having what I call a great "motor" meaning she just naturally plays hard. Most kids have to learn the tempo, but in her case, it seems hardwired into her nervous system already. Natalie is a pure shooter who doesn’t shoot enough (yet).

As for Tai, she’s doing just fine. Playing the System in HS at Galesburg for Coach Massey made the transition a little easier for her, I think, but there’s still the jump from HS to College basketball that she’s adjusting to. It usually takes time for any system newcomer to make the “transition” (no pun intended), and as I tell them, "Be patient… you can expect the light bulb go on about 15 games into the first season!"

(Tell us more about the Danielles and their ability to play the Grinnell-style offense.)

Doug Porter: The “D” sisters were born to play the Grinnell offense. I was watching one of Coach A’s clinic video’s last night and he made the point once again, "You have to have PGs who can get to the rim and be a scoring threat to run this offense." Having two this year is going to give our opponents some real problems, since the Grinnell "made shot fast break" as you know consists of a clear-out of the entire right side of the floor in transition for your PG.

The nice thing is that Pipal and Tolbert are completely opposite "types" as PGs. Tolbert is a converted 3-guard who has always been great at putting the ball on the floor. Physically, she’s a tank, easily our strongest player, and can take the pounding going to the basket.

Pipal is also a converted wing, but she’s more of a finesse player who likes the 8-foot pullup jumper. I don’t usually like that shot because it doesn’t allow you to draw contact and get to the foul line, but in Pipe’s case, she’s very accurate with it. Pipe was an HM all-American last year and was #2 in the country in steals (despite averaging just 13 minutes per game), and Tolbert could be at that level too. We’re really blessed to have two like that at once!

(Who do you see filling Simone Coburn's role, if anyone?)

Doug Porter: Honestly, nobody will fill that role this year, which is why we’ve moved to pure Grinnell, which doesn’t really require a post-up type player. The interesting thing about Coburn was that she shot almost 70% from the field last year to lead the nation in that stat, but she was in reality only 5-8.

The System can be designed to get a post player some very good scoring opportunities, but with two raw freshman and two converted upperclassmen forwards playing there this year, the Grinnell offense just seems to make more sense for us right now. Still, we’ll miss Simone because she was our leading scorer (quite a feat for a post player in a totally guard oriented system!)

(I get the sense you expect great things from this team. How has the preseason gone?)

Doug Porter: It’s been an unusually long preseason with such a big break between our first scrimmages and this Saturday’s games, and we are tired of practicing, so it’s hard to gauge where we are right now. We’ve also had some injury/illness problems which will hopefully work themselves out soon. With that said, this could be a pretty special team!

A huge thanks, as always, to Coach Porter, and I wish him and his team all the success in the world, beginning in that opening game.


Coach Andy Hoaglin's National Junior College Athletic Association Division II team came up one game short of advancing to the national tournament last season, finishing 19-12 in its first season running The System.

Not bad, considering the Jets started 1-7 before winning 18 of their final 23 games. Jackson CC set NJCAA Division II records last season by averaging 103.6 points and attempting 1,550 3-pointers, with sophomore Erika Bullock voted second-team all-conference and freshman Nicole Wurster getting a nod to the third team. Bullock averaged a team-best 14.2 points and Wurster was right behind with 12.4, while Bullock finished third in NJCAA Division II with 4.58 steals per game.

Coach Hoaglin was kind enough to answer our questions about this season.

(How has the second preseason with The System gone?)

Andy Hoaglin: Our second preseason has gone much smoother than our first year's. We have 11 returners that have a flavor for what we're trying to accomplish with our version of the Grinnell System.

One of the main benefits is not having to convince players that The System is viable method of playing the great game of basketball. All of our freshmen have seen our System in action and understand what we're trying to do with it.

The most beneficial piece this year is having a large group of players experienced in the extreme results (both positive and negative) of System basketball.

(Last season started slowly. What can you do to make sure it doesn't happen again?)

Andy Hoaglin: To put it as simply as I can: The teaching and the absorption is happening much quicker, which allows us to get "deeper" into other System aspects. For example: Finding the second level fade, when the RW is curling, two-man game with the PG, multiple press looks and other concepts we just couldn't unload on the team last year.

We also ran a "hybrid" last year, because frankly, I was hedging my bet on the System. We ran an ONU/Grinnell hybrid. My advice to other coaches: Don't employ hybrids. Choose your path wisely, and hold true to it and don't underestimate players.

One more thing is that we've got depth at the PG position. Our PG's can score from outside and at the tin. They're quick and athletic.

(How have the players accepted the "brand" of being a System team?)

Andy Hoaglin: Put it this way: We went and watched a couple of former JCC players playing against each other in a opening season contest last Saturday. They kept on saying, "Don't ever think about doing THAT to us!" or "Coach, I'll quit if you go back to this!" and finally my wife: "I'll divorce you if you go back to the way you used to coach!"

Our families and players are proud to say they're System. (great answer)

(What are the goals for this season?)

Andy Hoaglin: We've made it a goal to qualify for our National Championship this year. This means winning our district qualifying tournament in March. We can only do this if we work the process of our formula and not focus on that end state.

I think of it the way a teacher explained the process of showing my work in math: Knowing the answer isn't enough. You need to understand how you got there and you need to do this by showing your work. The same with The System formula. Don't get hung up on the results. Work the process and pay attention to the formula. Pay attention to the details of the formula and diligently work. The ANSWER will be there at the end.

125 shots per game + 50% 3FGA + 40% off. rebounds + 35 TO forced + 30 shot differential.

(Going into season two, what is the reaction around campus?)

Andy Hoaglin: We're still facing the same criticism, but we understand it better now and deal with it usually with a smile or a shoulder shrug. We had many people at both scrimmages and we always have people peeking in during practice wondering what we're doing to equip us to be so explosive. Most people just shake their head and ask the typical question, "How do you score all those points?" or say its not basketball.

I'll take our basketball over watching a local 4-year college team lose a game 44-29. Must've been a great defensive game.

Thanks so much to Coach Hoaglin. I hope everyone appreciated his answer about following The Formula for success. To enlighten any new readers, all System teams have five goals in each game, and none of them involve making shots, scoring points or keeping the other team from scoring.

Did you notice Jackson CC's goals? The Jets want to attempt at least 125 shots per game, with half of them being 3-pointers. They also want to rebound 40 percent of all their misses on the offensive end while forcing at least 35 turnovers. All this should lead to Jackson CC attempting at least 30 shots more than the opponent.

These are very ambitious goals; Grinnell, the original System team, wants to take 94 shots in each game, so you can see how high Coach Hoaglin has gone. I hope they do it, because that will mean monster numbers for the Jets.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

A quick update from Shoreline (Wash.) CC

Remember this team, right? Coach Greg Turcott and the men's team at Shoreline (Wash.) Community College are System-bound this season, and I asked him for an update on the progress thus far in practice.

The Dolphins were 13-13 last season, including 6-10 in the Northern Region.

Greg Turcott: "So far it has been easier in regards to the coaching because we are doing the LMU system and have had workouts all fall to put it in. The difficulty is in helping the kids to understand the overall philosophy of shooting open shots and taking chances on defense.

"I really like the style, the pace, and the fact that the kids are in a system where they don't have to think too much as they are running to designated spots on every possession, make or miss! It is a different way of playing and coaching for sure but one that I really enjoy and believe in!!"

Very brief, but great information nonetheless. We'll check back in with Coach Turcott soon.

Also, I hope to have an update in the next day or so on the NCAA Division II women's team at Oklahoma Panhandle State, which was scheduled to scrimmage this week. Make sure you stop back by in a couple of days.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Knox College opens with The System

Emily Cline, the women's coach at NCAA Division III Knox College (a Midwest Conference rival of the original System team, the Grinnell men's squad), debuted with this wonderful style of play Monday with the Prairie Fire. As I said in an earlier update on Coach Cline, I'm amazed she is the first coach from the MWC to take the plunge, given all the success creator David Arseneault has had with the Pioneers all the years.

I e-mailed Coach Cline and asked for her thoughts on the opening workout, and here is her response:

Emily Cline: "It was great to get out on the court for the first time as a System coach. We put our break in tonight and got a lot of shooting, passing and ballhandling in as well. My players seemed to catch on pretty quickly to the concepts and they went really hard. So I was pleased by the effort.

"However, I know that I have so much to learn about the minutia of The System that I am even more motivated to study and learn as much as possible. Also, practice planning is different coaching The System than conventional basketball so I need to get a better handle on that as well. Overall, I think I will love coaching The System but the learning curve is going to be steep."
Man, that is such good information. I really appreciate Coach Cline taking the time to get back to me, and I wish her and her team the best of luck this season. We'll check back in with them soon.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Jackson CC goes off in opening scrimmage

OK, so it only was a scrimmage, against a team we really have no way of judging for competitiveness. It doesn't mean anything, right?

Well, perhaps it does, since I am downright giddy with the news about the effort put in by coach Andy Hoaglin and the Jackson (Mich.) Community College women's team Saturday. System teams normally need a few games to fully come together, given all the complexities of running this wonderful style of basketball. Coach Hoaglin's squad got going a bit quicker than that.

First, the details: the Lady Jets beat Sioux College 154-57 on the strength of some amazing shooting from the the 3-point line. Jackson, a Division II member of the National Junior College Athletic Association, finished 43-of-84 beyond the arc, which would be two more NJCAA records for the Jets. They finished last season, their first running The System, with the most 3-pointers attempted in a season (1,550) and the highest scoring average (103.6).

The totals from this one would shatter the NCAA Division I marks for 3s in a game as listed in last year's record book -- in fact, both the attempts and made shots would be more than the highest COMBINED total from two teams in a single game. Ole Miss (17) and Bowling Green (14) connected on 31 treys between them Nov. 26, 1999, and those two teams shot a total of 75 3s in that contest.

Pretty impressive, right?

Jackson forced more than 40 turnovers and attempted more than 125 shots, too. Here are Coach Hoaglin's thoughts:

Andy Hoaglin: "We did many things well today, and I was so impressed with our overall effort with a short bench of 12. We actually had 4 sophomores sitting out today because of minor injuries or participation in other sports. Still, the freshmen grew up in a hurry and surprised me on so many levels ... Just a fun day.

"Obviously one scrimmage means absolutely little, but they KNOW this team has special written all over it."

Great stuff for Jackson. I can't wait to check in with this team again soon.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

It's the most wonderful time of the year!

Sure, I've used that before, but it doesn't make it any less correct. Basketball practice, at least for colleges, gets started in earnest this weekend around the country, which brings us even closer to the start of the season.

Can you feel the excitement?

Once upon a time, pretty much everybody started on the same day -- Oct. 15. The NCAA relaxed its rules a bit to allow more workouts in the fall, so most of the teams already have worked out together, leaving this weekend as more of a symbolic opening for practices.

I've asked a few of my favorite coaches to give me an idea of what they have planned for this weekend, and since Grinnell was the original System team, I'll let interim coach Dave Arseneault explain what is going on for the NCAA Division III men's program. Remember, he is taking over during his father's sabbatical:

Dave Arseneault: "Quite honestly, I don’t feel too different about this season compared to others in the past. I’m still just as ready and just as amped up for our practices to start as I have been for the last 6 years. I get a sense from the guys that they’re expecting some really big things from this season given that we are returning 12 out of our top 13 scorers.

"While it’s nice to have that kind of foundation to build on, I’m still not quite sure how good we are going to be for a few reasons: (1) We got a lot of lucky breaks last year and you just can’t expect that to happen again; and (2) I’m worried about our team chemistry.

"I’m hoping that we can find a way to avoid Pat Riley’s 'Disease of More.' Riley’s theory is that often times when a team is coming off a successful season all the returnees want more ... more playing time, more shots, more ball. The problem is that when everybody is returning, there isn’t more time, shots or ball to go around, so everybody has to accept a role that will help the team win.

"Even though we’re officially allowed to start practice on Saturday the 15th, we won’t actually start until October 20. Our Fall Break starts this weekend (the kids get a full week off from school plus the two weekends) so I’ve decided to be nice and send them home for the first part of break. I figure this way when I lay the hammer down on the 20th there won’t be any excuses.

"I live basketball, so the 20th can’t get here soon enough!"

I hear you, Coach Arseneault, I hear you.

Next we'll go to Bunky Harkleroad, the women's coach at NCAA Division II Glenville State. His day Saturday will include a special dinner for his team and the men's program, along with any fan who would like to attend. Chicken cordon bleu, lasagna, tossed salad and green beans all are on the menu, with chocolate cake for dessert. Man, that sounds good, right?

Bunky Harkleroad:
"We are really excited about this year’s team and are looking forward to getting to work Saturday. I’m a little bit nervous because I really like this team’s energy level and chemistry so far. I’m great at finding things to complain about but so far our kids have really worked hard and seem hungry.

"We did suffer a big loss with LaToya Hambrick; she tore her Achilles during the preseason and she will be out this season. Losing a senior post player wasn’t something we’d planned on but we’ve recommitted to playing faster than ever before and putting more points on the board than ever before.

"With the NCAA rule changes this season we were allowed to have some full team workouts (two hours per week total). Initially we worked out in small groups of 4 and over the past few weeks we made all of our workouts team workouts. Believe it or not we’ve spent the majority of that time addressing what we do on dead ball situations. We’ve never done that before but with a pretty experienced group returning we are trying to clean up turnovers as early as possible and do a better job of executing early in the season.

"In addition to our on court workouts our players have open gym sessions in which they essentially played pickup games with a 15 second shot clock, sometimes 3 on 3 half court, and sometimes our seniors would lead shooting drills. Open gym has been time for our seniors to set the tone with our new players.

"Finally we have short, intense conditioning sessions that simulate a shift. So basically we’ve spent the preseason trying to introduce our tempo, show some X's and O's, and focus on taking care of the basketball when the season starts.

"Our first few practices will be really long ones, I know this seems somewhat anti-System but we have so much to get done there’s no way around it. We pride ourselves on spending most of our practice time focusing on the fundamentals (passing, shooting, dribbling) and we don’t want to ever get away from that. BUT we’ve got a lot to put in, a lot of mistakes left to make (there’s no way around that), and a lot of scrimmaging to do.

"This year’s approach has been a little different than the past but with the NCAA rule changes we think it only makes sense to mix it up."

Great stuff there, right? Look for Coach Harkleroad and the Pioneers to build on last year's trip to the NCAA tournament.

The NAIA women's team at Olivet Nazarene is coming off a successful season, as well, which ended in the Sweet 16 of the national tournament. Coach Doug Porter has nearly everyone back from that team, along with some talented newcomers, so the Tigers should be ready to roll again.

Doug Porter: "We are looking forward to the upcoming season at ONU. With 13 players returning off last year’s successful run, we’ve got good experience and a very quick squad. Defensively, we were strong last season, forcing over 36 turnovers a game, and we should be even more effective this year.

"A big change for us is our move to more of the pure Grinnell offense. In past years, we’ve used a very simple “dribble-drive” approach, running to spots and using penetration to create shots, along with some basic down-screening action and post play. With our experience and strong point guard play this season, we feel the Grinnell set will give us more room to get to the rim, and will allow us to create better looks for our perimeter shooters.

"Grinnell’s offense is more complex, but I like what I’m seeing from our players so far in the preseason!"

Seeing a new wrinkle from Coach Porter's team should be interesting, and I know he's right: the Grinnell break is perfect for his point guard tandem of Danielle Pipal and Danielle Tolbert.

The women's team at Jackson (Mich.) Community College got a head start of its four-year counterparts, beginning its workouts at the beginning of this month. Coach Andy Hoaglin has high hopes for this year's team, which led all the National Junior College Athletic Association in scoring a year ago (notice the banner with the story), and gave some insight into what he has been focusing on so far:

Andy Hoaglin: "Official practice actually started on October 1st and we've been at it 5 days a week, re-implementing the almighty System. We've got 12 returners from last year's record setting squad with 6 freshmen who are either skilled shooters or rebounders.

"I believe this team has the potential to be better than last year's squad for a variety of reasons.

"-12 players with one year under their belt WITH the experience of results garnered from the system. They know it works.

"-Instead of 2 skilled shooters, we have 7 skilled shooters that can knock it down from beyond the arc.

"-We're 2 deep at every postion, and 4 deep at the all important point guard position (all sophomores).

"-We're more athletic than we were last year. We've replaced traditional posts with pretty much all guards.

"We have our first scrimmage of the new season this Saturday and the ladies are excited for it. We're a little banged up right now, and will go into the scrimmage with 12 able bodies, which is fine, because its still preseason and scrimmages don't matter except from a standpoint of getting experience.

"I believe this team has the capability of winning a conference championship, winning our national championship qualifying district and rewrite many of our offensive and defensive records from last year.

"If we stay healthy and continue working intelligently, I think special things are in store for this team."

One of the new System teams this season will be at Oklahoma Panhandle State University, where coach Brad Vanden Boogaard has his NCAA Division II women's team ready to take the plunge. Following his progress will be exciting, starting with the opening of practice.

Brad Vanden Boogaard: "We are really excited about starting full team practice this weekend. Our individual workouts have gone well we have shot a ton of 3s this fall which is no surprise. Our players are really catching on to how fast we are able to play and are being able to see where we will force our opponents to play at our pace. It is a daily thing that we have to remind them of the aggressive nature they need to play at and that they can play without a fear of failure because they are going to play.

"That thought process is a hard one to get through ... and we are just looking forward to seeing how far we can go by playing The System. Some of our players will have the opportunity to play near their home towns, when we are in Denton, Texas, and Pocatello, Idaho, so they are excited for that. Idaho State is our only D-I on the schedule, it will be interesting to see how the system works against a team at that level. We were able to get that game because the head coach at Idaho State played his final two seasons of college ball here.

"That is all the excitement here it is homecoming week and we will be on the floor Saturday morning shooting and causing chaos on the hardwood."

Great stuff from a System "newbie." I wish all these coaches luck this weekend and throughout the season; I only wish I could be there for everyone's first practice.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Arnold joins Manchester (Mich.) HS

Surely you remember coach Dave Arnold, right? He's a longtime proponent of The System who coached the boys' team at Monroe (Mich.) HS last season, a year after leading his team at Whitmore Lake (Mich.) HS to a 14-7 record a trip to the Class C District Semifinals.

Coach Arnold has taken his System knowledge to another Michigan high school, this time traveling to Manchester, Mich., to coach the boys' team at the local high school. This is particularly important to me, not just because I'm such a big fan of his, but I'm a big fan of Manchester, too. Well, not really the high school, although I am sure it is a fine place to educate the minds of the teenagers in that part of southern Michigan.

No, I love the town itself, a quaint village (seriously, it's called the Village of Manchester) of about 2,000 people located on the River Raisin, with a simply beautiful downtown area. There is an old-school Dairy Queen located on Main Street, near a bridge over the river. Wurster Park features a gazebo that is home to a weekly concert series in the summer.

I'm sure you are thinking at this point, "How do you know so much about Manchester?" And if you're not thinking that, hmm, have you been paying attention to the stunning detail of an area about 700 miles from my home? Well, I used to travel through Manchester on several occasions, a couple of weeks a year, taking one of my grandfather's famous shortcuts (man, I miss HP) to what is now called Michigan Speedway. On the way back to his house from the track, we always stopped at DQ for a quick dose of ice cream, and I marveled at what a wonderful town Manchester was.

Who knew that all these years later, I would have another brush with that fair village?

OK, enough about me and my childhood memories of that area. This update is to let everyone know that Coach Arnold is ready to take The System to Manchester this season, and few have done it as well as he has in the past. I mentioned the record he posted a couple of seasons ago at Whitmore Lake. In case you've forgotten, and I can't imagine why you have, here are some other eye-popping numbers the Trojans accumulated in his final year:

- Set a school record with 356 3-pointers in 1,225 attempts
- Scored 88.9 points per game
- During a 10-game winning streak, averaged nearly 95 points and 20 3s
- Set the Michigan record with 29 3s on Jan. 21, 2010, in a 117-80 victory over Morenci

This is what the good people of Manchester have to look forward to this season. Coach Arnold, as always, was gracious enough to respond to my email for details on the new job and what he plans to do with The System. You won't be disappointed.
(First of all, you will run The System, right?)

Dave Arnold: "Absolutely! Two schools in the conference have dominated basketball over the last 15-20 years. Even Manchester’s best teams, which were very good teams, have only managed third-place finishes. Therefore, I think it’s vital for us to attack them with something different, see if we can get them on their heels and force them to adjust us rather than the other way around."

(Whew, OK, good. What drew you to the job there?)

Dave Arnold: "Manchester has a strong athletic tradition, especially in football. My thinking is if you have enough athletes with the character to build and sustain a quality football program, you should be able to build a successful basketball program with those same kids."

(What has been the reaction so far from your team?)

Dave Arnold: "We didn’t have much time during the summer to introduce the basic concepts before we started playing. In our area, there are two basic options for summer leagues and shootouts: 1) You go to the small colleges in the area that host events. Every school you play is your size or smaller, and in our case, virtually every team in the league plays in these events. 2) Head into Detroit and play bigger schools and better programs.

"I don’t care so much about winning during the summer; I like to play big, quality teams. We usually take a few beatings, but you never see athletes or teams like that in our league, so there’s a huge upside for us that’s not always readily apparent. By our last season at Whitmore Lake, we were able to compete with and beat these teams. This summer, I chose to go big.

"Truthfully, the schedule was tougher than I even would have liked. We were able to hang around with some quality teams from schools five and six times our size because of the offensive concepts. However, I was also trying to introduce the defense, which just turned into a layup drill against these teams because of the quality of the guard play, team ballhandling and coaching we were competing against.

"That was a bit of a negative, but the overall reaction has been fairly positive."

(Last season at Monroe didn't work out as you had planned. Did that change your view of The System?)

Dave Arnold: "I don’t think it changed my view of The System, but it did open my eyes to adjustments that need to be made at times. At Whitmore Lake, we were just as athletic as the teams we played against, so we took a very straightforward approach – this is what we do, and we don’t change for anyone. We were able to get away with that approach because of the relative similarities in terms of athleticism and talent.

"At Monroe, we played three games against teams that were in the Michigan and Ohio 'Final Four' in big classes the past two seasons. Needless to say, there was some exceptional talent on those teams, including two or three mid-major DI guards. I’ve been doing this long enough to understand that attacking those guards defensively wasn’t the best idea, but you’re torn between establishing a philosophy that says we do what we do, period, and making necessary adjustments, which can also be misunderstood by kids early in the process.

"If we had played either of these teams at Whitmore Lake, I may very well have held the ball. But because our kids knew me and understood the system, they would know this was a one-time change of pace to give us the best chance to win. With a new group, you constantly sell this run, shoot, trap, repeat philosophy, but the first time you play a good team you put on the brakes. There’s a big difference in how that is perceived.

"However, in looking back not only to last year, but this summer as well, I see ways and opportunities for us to incorporate adjustments that would allow us to compete against superior quickness without selling out our core principles.

"You still haven’t seen anyone at the college level in a BCS conference run the system, and this is why. The skill and athleticism is too good – teams finish way too much against the press and you just can’t be effective always taking the ball out of the net.

"That’s what happened to (Paul) Westhead with the (Denver) Nuggets. Kids in our league miss layups because of fatigue or lack of skill. High-level college players and pros don’t miss dunks. Yet protecting against those situations goes against the core values of The System, so there’s a struggle to find some balance."

(What is the biggest challenge in introducing The System to a new team?)

Dave Arnold: "The biggest challenge is getting the kids to understand what playing hard REALLY means. They typically have little or no idea in a conventional system, so to add the level of effort and intensity required of our system on top of that change can be a bit overwhelming.

"The schemes aren’t difficult; I could send the opposing coach a cocktail napkin before the game with our offensive and defensive sets. Getting kids to break habits related to 'normal' basketball can be a challenge at times – getting them to think shoot before pass, getting them to understand that a bad 3 is still better than a forced pass to a cutter that leads to a turnover, etc. It’s tough at times to get them to understand that less is really more with the system.

"We don’t do much at either end schematically, but we do what we do so with such intensity that it is still effective. There will also be plenty of questions early on, especially from the parents, because what we do is so different. Everyone gets caught up in the mass substitutions, 3-point shooting and quick-shot approach. However, just like conventional basketball, The System really works only when you defend in terms of forcing turnovers and rebound at both ends (especially offensively).

"This is the same formula you see winning at every level, but it’s not nearly as obvious with us because of the pace of play. Once everyone understands the 'method to the madness' and we have some success, the questions go away, although there will always be a few dissenters."

(Finally, what advice would you give some of The System newbies out there?)

Dave Arnold: "Keep it simple! One of the coaches described The System as, 'Run, shoot, rebound, press, repeat.' Sounds about right to me! The more you coach, the less System-oriented you become, quickly. Get them running, get them shooting, get them to attack the glass, get them to press hard (start with one scheme and stay there), get them to understand how to do it for 32 minutes and you should be fine!

"Truthfully, I agree with a fellow System coach who would really prefer to not see others running it. I know this comes across as selfish, but for me, it’s all about competitive advantage.

"You always hear coaches suggest it would be a great game if two system teams hooked up. This has happened, and the games have reportedly been rather ugly. Defense dominates, so neither team gets in an offensive rhythm. You have tons of turnovers and missed shots – not exactly a recipe for exciting basketball.

"I know if I was playing a System team, I would probably revert to conventional basketball. I had success against two very good System teams and coaches doing that in the past. One of the great strengths of The System is the contrast in style from the conventional team or the team that really wants to slow it down. We can talk aesthetics, but it still comes down to giving your team the best chance to compete."

As I said, I knew you would appreciate his knowledge, his honestly and, most of all, his passion for The System and basketball in general. I wish Coach Arnold the best of luck. Maybe I can get up there at some point and buy him a vanilla cone at the Dairy Queen.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

To pay or not to pay, that is the question

Perhaps no current topic in college sports is as polarizing as the one posed in the headline, as in, "Should student-athletes be paid beyond what is provided by their scholarship?" Yes, I realize you might not have heard it phrased quite that way, since many who feel these young people are treated unfairly simply want them to earn a salary of some kind. Regardless of whether you think college players are fairly compensated, it is a simple fact that the scholarship they receive is a form of compensation. Is it enough?

Many others with a higher importance and more talent than me have weighed in on this subject; HBO devoted an hour of programming to a roundtable discussion featuring columnist Jason Whitlock, former Michigan football coach Rich Rodriguez and former CBS college basketball analyst Billy Packer, among others, with Bryant Gumbel as moderator. There are a few others who have gotten my attention, as well, including Sports Illustrated writer Joe Posnanski, CBS and Sports Illustrated college hoops expert Seth Davis and noted Civil Rights author Taylor Branch.

My view runs concurrently with Posnanski and Davis and as far away from what Branch believes as possible. If you took the time to read the thoughts of those gentlemen, I likely won't improve upon them. In case you didn't, I will do what I can to summarize those thoughts here. I suggest you read their full writings to get a deeper understanding of their position.

I'll start with Branch, who is a brilliant writer and historian. Unfortunately, he falls on the wrong side in this discussion:
Taylor Branch: He essentially believes NCAA institutions are making millions of dollars a year off the backs of unpaid labor, even going so far to compare it to slavery. A common theme in his long argument for paying college athletes is that no other business would be allowed to follow this model. He talks of the fact that the players should be free to negotiate the terms of their servitude, much like those of us in the real world earning a living.

Seth Davis: This article refutes much of what Branch writes, including the notion that athletic departments at institutions of higher learning are "making" millions of dollars a year. As Davis points out, among the 332 colleges currently making up NCAA Division I, less than a dozen of them earn a profit in athletics. You read the correctly, less than 4 percent. How could they and why should they spend more money?

He also hammers at another point that I often make in discussions on this matter, namely that the NCAA does not prohibit anyone from getting paid for playing his or her sport. There is no NCAA rule that stops anyone coming out of high school from turning professional immediately instead of accepting a college scholarship. The NFL and the NBA are the ones who have limits on who can be drafted, so any complaints about the current system should start with them.

Finally, Davis also disputes the notion that NCAA athletes be allowed compensation similar to the Olympic model, where the competitors can negotiate endorsement deals without compromising their eligibility, their so-called "amateurism." ESPN basketball analyst Jay Bilas is one who constantly belabors this point. Again, I often have asked (rhetorically) if we really want a world where North Carolina's Harrison Barnes, arguably the top returning college basketball player, earns hundreds of thousands of dollars, or more, from Nike or another source. Davis takes it a step further, pointing out that recruiting battles could be contested based on the amount of money a business was willing to give the player. It is utter nonsense.

Joe Posnanski: He eloquently describes how college athletics really is about the school, not the player. It is the same argument used daily by people around the country, based on the old cliche that college athletes should play "for the name on the front of jersey, not the one on the back." It is a valid idea. If the aforementioned Barnes didn't attend North Carolina, would the basketball program in Chapel Hill really suffer? Wouldn't coach Roy Williams' squad still be on national TV nearly every game, and wouldn't fans still fill the Dean Dome to watch the Tar Heels? How can you measure the value of Barnes' impact on the overall program? You can't.

As I said, I urge everyone to read all three of these articles, along with Branch's rebuttal of Davis' rebuttal that was posted on his Website. He again misses the point, even if it makes for good reading.

There is one final thing I'd like to say on the matter, something I haven't heard from anyone during this debate. A simple way to end any questions about the "fairness" of the current system would be to award scholarships only to those who value them, as in recruits who plan to get a college education.

Doug Porter, whom you all know as the women's basketball coach at Olivet Nazarene, had these thoughts when I asked him his views on playing college athletes:

Doug Porter: "College athletes do receive compensation. It’s called a scholarship, and it provides them with a free education that other students often must pay over $100,000 to receive. This education also provides them with a college degree that opens doors for them the rest their working lives. They also receive free room and board for four or five years.

"In a culture that places such a low value on actually learning anything, it’s not surprising that people in favor of paying college athletes a stipend feel that they aren’t being fairly compensated. They must view a college degree and the skills/knowledge it represents as a worthless piece of paper."

Well said, Coach Porter.

The football program at North Carolina currently is under investigation by the NCAA, and the one fact that stood out from all the rest from the entire ordeal was this: one of the players who received extra benefits, Marvin Austin, took remedial English during his first fall semester on campus.

Seriously? A university with the reputation of North Carolina offers a course called remedial English? There is no way that should happen, unless of course, unqualified students are being allowed into school simply to play sports.

OK, so I know that happens at nearly every "big-time" athletic program, so I shouldn't pick on the Tar Heels. Still, that highlights how out of kilter the entire concept has gotten. Let's start allowing genuine college students to play sports for their universities, instead of ones who are athletically talented, yet educationally inferior. This would end most of the troubles befalling our favorite teams now and return college sports closer to what they are supposed to be.

A novel concept, right?