The middle of November is an exciting yet anxiety filled time for boy’s basketball. At the youth level, most local intramural leagues have begun and travel league teams have been selected. On Long Island, the Catholic Youth Organization leagues are under way and the Island Garden Basketball Super League began last weekend.
The community leagues are generally open to all who live in the local school district and if you know the right people finding a spot on a travel team is not an impediment to playing a higher level.
What happens in seventh grade is where 12 and 13 year old boys begin to feel the pressure. Middle school tryouts often have 75 to 100 candidates for 14-15 spots in both seventh and eighth grades. The child, who has always been a starter on his local travel team often coached by his dad or best friend’s dad, will now be evaluated by the middle school coach for that grade.
The coaches, for the most part, are faculty members of the school assigned to the department of Physical Education. They are not particularly interested in the boy’s record on his travel team and certainly not the opinion of a parent. Basketball is the “big” winter sport and most of the kids are eager to make the school team.
However, having been anointed the star of the CYO team or number one pick in your local league draft every season offers no guarantee of selection.
Many of the boys practice in their backyards and driveways and are quite confident they will make the team and possibly be in the starting lineup. Then reality hits. With up to a hundred boys in small middle school gyms, getting noticed may be difficult if not impossible. Bigger kids always have an advantage since they tend to develop later and coaches don’t want to cut a kid with a big upside despite the lack of currents skills.
The shots that always seem to swish through the driveway basket don’t fall in tryouts and frantic defenders are aggressively guarding with no fear of committing a foul. Coaches like aggressive play and there is certainly no time for free throws in middle school tryouts.
If the seventh grader is lucky enough to survive the various cuts, he may be clear through to the Junior Varsity. Eighth grade tryouts obviously have the same array of candidates less those who have given up and sadly may never try out again. Coaches rarely cut an eighth grader who was on the seventh grade team.
By high school, there is a different pool of coaches and evaluators, but the same nucleus of kids move up. Many of the more talented ninth graders opt to head to schools that play in the Catholic High School League. The decision is usually well thought out and coaches are eager to get many top freshmen to enroll.
While many of the kids live in communities with highly rated school districts the opportunity to play in the CHSAA provides top competition and excellent academics. But often the decision backfires and by mid November, the dream has ended. One local Catholic school freshman coach told me a few years ago that 90 kids tried out for ninth grade basketball.
He went on to tell me that he could have cut twenty the first day but needed a full two weeks to go from seventy down to twelve. Making cuts can take a toll on coaches, too. They often second guess themselves and when a kid cut early in his career somehow overcomes the cut and succeeds and becomes a star, the coach looks either foolish or vindictive.
I wonder how the high school coach who cut Michael Jordan from the varsity in tenth grade felt watching him hit the winning bucket as a North Carolina Freshman in the NCAA Championship game.
The real dilemma comes in high school where all bets are off. Coaches are not interested, for the most part in projects or teaching kids without skills. One very successful Nassau County High School coach told me a few years ago that he didn’t care what grade a player was in, only his ability level.
He also told me that he always blocked out all external pressures in making player personnel decisions including which boys made the team, who started and…who didn’t!
Team selections will happen with the next week to ten days. If you’re first heading down to the local playground to shoot around, it may be too late. Chances are if you spent the summer taking six hundred shots a day you probably have a great chance to represent your school.
In one of my first EIBER REPORTS, I listed five phenoms who played at IGB. In looking back I was right on target with each one. Sixteen year old Junior, Roderick Odom, Jr., was a young 6’3” slasher with a high IQ and a big upside.
The Suffolk County youngster who played a few years for Long Island Lightning teams is now attending Prep school in Massachusetts. At six foot eight with a great handle for a kid that height, Odom burst onto the national scene last summer.
The list of D-1 offers grows every week. Whoever ultimately gets Odom will have hit the jackpot. He is an extremely rare D-1 prospect that would most likely be accepted at every school that has shown an interest in him if he was not a basketball player. His academic workload is rigorous and undoubtedly will continue to be so in college.
Among his suitors are Georgetown, Boston College, Harvard, Columbia, Stanford, UCLA, Stanford, West Virginia, and Davidson to name just a few. Odom can actually play all five positions but my feeling is he’ll end up playing a two guard. Defending him will be a nightmare. We’ll keep you posted. He should make his decision in the spring.
Tyler Seidman, still only 15 years old, begins his third varsity season. After playing for the Bellmore varsity as an eighth grader he begins his second season at Holy Trinity. Last year he received major time for a freshman and this year, the sophomore may be the go to guy for Coach Joe Conefry.
Seidman is a multipurpose guard with NBA range on his shot. There may not be a better long ranger shooter on Long Island this year. In a recent fall league game he poured in 45 points. Look for a big year from Seidman.
Matt Demitroff, a junior at Manhasset begins his third year on the varsity. Matt plays both guard positions and coach George Bruns returns most of his starters from last year. Look for Manhasset to be much improved this season. As anticipated, Demitroff is prioritizing baseball where he was an all conference selection as an eighth grader.
Brendan Mills, now in his third year on the Bellmore varsity and still only a junior, should play a more dominant role this season with the graduation of a strong senior class. Opponents will have a tough time dealing with his strength on the inside. Look for Mills to have a big season.
Anthony Libroia, choose Holy Cross for his high school years. Libroia has been a well know player on the local AAU circuit playing mostly for Long Island Lightning and New York Panther teams. Anthony is a lock down defender with good range on his jumper. While still undersized, he can play either the one or the two. Holy Cross has a ton of small guards on their Freshman team but look for Libroia to be in the starting line-up.
Chaminade will be without six-three Junior Guard Dylan Sinnickson for at least the first part of the season. Sinnickson fractured his shoulder last week when he landed awkwardly after a two handed dunk.
Seidman and Evan Conti, a 6’1” sophomore at Holy Cross each made the 12 player roster for the United States Junior Maccabia Games Team scheduled for next summer in Israel. The international event is held every four years in the year following the Olympic Games and is limited to Jewish Athletes.
Over 160 players born in 1993 and 1994 tried out in Los Angeles, Chicago and Philadelphia. Both boys played together on a Super League team I coached that went undefeated six years ago when they were fourth graders. Congratulations to two fine young men!
Island Garden Basketball
Contact by email at: