Monday, February 16, 2015

"Secret" Pickup Attracts MS Elite

Early Sunday mornings, the best Middle School pickup basketball game in the DMV is taking place in seclusion.  Only the very best are considered and invited, and missing a session without notice results in immediate removal from future consideration.  Why such high stakes for a pick-up game?  First and foremost it’s because everyone wants in; when the games have the very best in the area competing, pride and bragging rights are a major factor.

You must show your electronic (text) invite to “The Event” to even get into the gym.  There are no uniforms, no AAU Coaches, no screaming fans, no scouts – parents and onlookers lucky enough to gain entry sit in silence at the individual match-ups taking place.  T-shirts, wife beaters and plain shorts are the gear of choice.  Sneakers broken in from a season no longer match their teammates; rather their teammate in one game may be trying to defeat them and make them sit out the next time around.  No referees, they call their own fouls.  Basketball at its purest form and at the highest level is what is happening on Sunday mornings.

Teammates quickly learn the joy of making each other look good – “the political world of basketball” would never allow these kids to play together and sadly, the kids know it.  Watching them slap each other five and push each other is magical.  Many parents and players say they want to compete on an elite level; many travel the country playing in camps and events for “trophies” paying thousands of dollars. This offering is free and includes skills and drills beforehand moving forward. The true elite players in the area showed up early, warmed up, and said with this being in their city there's no way they wouldn’t ever miss such an opportunity.  Players asked if this could be done multiple times per week they loved it so much.  Parents knowing the “no call no show policy” gets you pushed to the waiting list called and secured their future spots advising of vacations, appointments, and injuries – but implored that they will be there the next time the “Top Secret” exclusive invites comes out announcing the time and location of the next open run.

Out of an unspoken respect the players pushed each other as they knew it was making them better.  Marvin Price and Justin Moore; undoubtedly two of the top 3 in the DMV and two of the tops in the country went on a 5 possession exchange; that included 3-pointers on each other under tough contest, pull-ups off the dribble that only saw the bottom of the net, and each showed their own individual scoring package to each other first hand.  Their teammates wanted more as they demanded that they continues to go at each other until one missed; with no camera this exchange immediately becomes a moment that will be talked about by those in attendance.

The Mitchell Twins, Mikhel and Mekhi who are also considered top national prospects, played with and against each other.  Their skill sets were on displays as they each handled in space, passed extremely well showing great court vision and made action in the paint very tough for anyone daring enough to enter.  They finished above and at the rim showing why they are two of the area’s most sought after prospects.  Price at 6’5, and the twins at 6’7 are examples of the type of size and skill on display. Add to that new 2019 class member Christian DePollar, who stands 6’6 and exemplifies what type size is in the gym competing, and none of the aforementioned are considered to be post players.  DePollar puts the ball on the floor and is clearly a perimeter-oriented player who is gaining national prominence.  Christian showed a penchant for scoring the ball from mid-range, off the dribble with pull- ups and straight-line drive finishes.   He is an extremely tough cover at that size, and his humble, soft-spoken nature doesn’t allow him to recognize how lethal he can be.  Bottom line is that if players can do it in this environment they can do it anywhere; already there is more size in the gym than some high school teams, and more scheduled to attend future sessions.

Going from the biggest to some of the smallest players in the gym, Garrett Kirkland, Kyree Banks and Jordan Hairston were standouts during the session.  Kirkland who has exclusively played in only out state events as he took a year off locally to remake his game, looks like a different player.  The DMV is in store for a treat as he returns to action and his opponents will have a problem on their hands; taller and sleeker – he played fluidly and showed a changed shot with expanded range.   Banks looked different with this group/type of player also – you saw the natural PG instincts, his ability to distribute and space.   With so much talent in the gym he functioned well knocking down shots off the catch after double downs and even finished in the paint against the size; it was a very good day for him.  Jordan Hairston highlighted the day with two “game winners”; win by two is the rule; so in a hot gym with the game tied 13-13 (they count by 1’s and 2’s) and the game clock (they play 16 minute sessions) turned off he nailed a 3 from the wing for the win- stating he didn’t want to have run anymore after almost 20 minutes of straight action. He did it again from the top of the key in another run.  Jordan scored in a lot of different ways throughout the day and looks to be becoming a very versatile offensive force from the 2-guard spot.  This is a player that coaches should keep an eye on in the next year as the upside as a scorer under the right tutelage could yield some big time results.
So what’s next for the DMV’s ultimate Open Gym?  Well, info is tough to come by – there is no session next week as many of the area’s and nations top players will be competing in the BBall Spotlight Phenom Camp at the NEW24; but we have been advised it will be back on track shortly thereafter.

Some other notable members of this exclusive group are:

Jonathan McGriff, Terrance Williams, Cameron Byers, Jordan Toles, Zion Harmon, Anthony Harris, Malik Anderson, & Jay Heath.

Rumor has it some new invites will be at the next session for those that didn’t attend the first session; all I can say is there is tough competition in the gym; and this is one of the toughest tickets in town to receive as a player and a parent.  With so much talent in the DMV, any session with be news worthy.

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