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Entries in high school basketball (11)

Quote of the Week vol. 256

"You need to learn how to leave things where they happened."

- Coach Benny White, new head coach at Groves.

For those of you up on the local high school basketball scene, Coach West (who I played for at Foley) left Groves to take an assistant job at Henry Ford Community College. It was not looking good this summer as far as finding a replacement goes, but somehow we lucked into getting coach Benny White, former head coach at Detroit King and assistant at Eastern Michigan. He's also affiliated with The Family (which is how I know him), and he asked me to stay on the staff. I'm excited to learn from such a great coach.

Beast Mode: Myron

Spring new kid Myron Gardner hasn't been in the gym in about a month, but he's been putting in a lot of work and travel on the AAU circuit with The Family this summer. He plays on the team one year older than the group I help coach, and unfortunately neither of our teams qualified for the National Tournament this year (The Peach Jam). But last weekend we played in the Peach Invitational (pretty much the NIT of the Nike Circuit) and Myron continued to make a good name for himself, as he picked up offers from Georgia State and Georgetown. Here's a few highlights.



With the last tournament coming within the next week, we should be seeing Myron back in action here really soon. Keep up the good work kiddo!

New Kid on the Block: Myron

Myron Gardner is a junior at Detroit Loyola high school and came to us as a recommendation from one of the coaches from The Family. He sarted up last week with his first session and is three days in so far.

This will be Myron's first year playing with The Family, and his mom wanted him to build his body to get ready for the EYBL season, and luckily one of the coaches mentioned me as someone to connect with. We waited for his high school season to finish, and here he is!

So far Myron seems really coordinated with everything we've thrown at him. He's also the guinea pig for a new format to the Fundamentals sessions where I am indtoducing things in a different order and trying to talk a lot less. So far so good. The main thing he's missing is mobility in his hips and ankles and this shows in squats. We've been doing work on that every day. Myron also made the mistake in mentioning that he is an old-school hip hop fan, so I've been talking his ear abot Big L songs, Andre 3000 verses, and Eminem albums. Assuming we can avoid distraction with the rapping and stay on track I'll check back in after Day 7.

College Athlete Admission Standards

Every few years I have an eye-opening coaching experience. The first was The Meeting, the second was Carl Paoli's seminar, the third was the trip to San Francisco CrossFit, the fourth was coaching at the Day Care, the fiiiifff was the presenting with Coach T at the Michigan State Clinic, and the most recent one has come over the course of the past 6 months while doing private basketball coaching.

Since June I have been charging 60 bucks per hour to do basketball stuff with kids ranging from 7-16 years old. It is awesome; I am obsessed with game of basketball, I am obsessed with coaching, I get to recruit kids to do CrossFit here, and every cent that comes to me gets direct deposited into the Champions Club bank account. What is has also done for me is helped me realize that parents will pay SIXTY FREAKING DOLLARS FOR 50 MINUTES of sports training. And I am about to raise my prices in the spring. It is baffling. In fact, I've told more than 75% of the parents that I think they really should reconsider spending all that money on basketball training for numerous reasons, the least of which being that their son does not seem to like basketball (“but let me tell you about this thing called CrossFit” is what usually happens next). Surprisingly I get mostly positive reactions to this, and hopefully once basketball season is done I’ll be able to add a few New Kids to our regular ranks. The Babies session has already benefited from it.

What this and a few recent discussions with Champions Club parents tells me is that there is no ill-will behind anything – such as parents trying to live through their kids, or kids being arrogant. Instead, they simply don’t know what it takes to make the next level. They see their competition in the Greg Grant league or their middle school with a graduating class of 15 and they can’t help but think that private lessons are the way to a college scholarship.

Coincidentally this was a message to me as I was editing this editorial

All but 2 of the kids I have coached said they want to play at a D1 college, then play in the NBA. This is something I empathize with completely. As a 28-year old who currently has a public goal to be the best CrossFit affiliate in the world, you can probably imagine this was totally me at their age and older. I wanted to be an under-the-radar recruit who, after watching Rashad Phillips play (anyone know who he was?), chose U of D Mercy over Michigan, Purdue, and Illinois, then went on to an NBA career with 11 All-Star appearances and 7 championships. That is not a joke, and that lasted all the way until 8th grade when I saw Yancey Gates, and I found out that good 8th graders are 6’4, black, and dunking on fools. I was not any of these, so I started to work harder. Up until February 23, 2012 (The Meeting) I still had the idea that I could play professional basketball in some league, despite my college career being less than remarkable. And so when Andrew, who just got cut from a last-place 7th grade team, tells me he wants to play for OKC, I am not just being nice when I tell him that it’s possible. I’ve seen weirder things happen. I just think there needs to be some guidelines in place.

My two athletic claims to fame are: 1) being a benchwarmer on the best AAU program in Michigan, with Draymond Green as our team’s second-best player and  2) getting a preferred walk-on offer over the phone from Oakland University the summer going into my senior year. Despite the fact that I never made it to where I wanted to with basketball, I really, really think I had a mindset and work ethic that would reflect someone that played at that level, and coaches have confirmed this to me along my career. But I only refined this dedication because I was fortunate enough to be on the court with people who were already professionals or clearly future-pros. I saw where I was relative to them and I tried as hard as I could to make up the gap.

None of the kids I have coached through private basketball lessons have seen that, and their parents only see what their kids see. Most of the Champions Club athletes still in high school and middle school haven’t had that exposure either. So I figured having a formal checklist could help families see reality and decide how much they want to commit to their sport (shouts to Matt Fecht, Alyssa, and Sap for helping). The idea for this is simple: you must accumulate the allotted point requirement for your desired level (10 points for D1/D2, and 5 points for NAIA/D3). The factors are split into two categories: controlled and non-controlled. The non-controlled factors have a lot more to do with genetics and family conditions, and there is little any athlete can do to adjust those in a meaningful way. The controlled factors are the opposite; they are conscious daily, weekly, monthly, and lifetime decisions made by the athlete that slowly tip the scale in the direction they want to go. Here is the breakdown:

Division-1 College Athlete (10 total points needed)

*Give up your sport for 6 months, or keep your sport and give up everything else “fun” for 6 months?

Division-2 College Athlete (10 total points needed)

*Same as above except for 2 months

Division-3/NAIA College Athlete (5 total points needed)

*If you sat the bench for your first month of the season, would you quit or stick with it?

While the metrics in here are not exact, the overall theme is important, and pretty accurate. The way to get your point total is slightly different for D1 and D2, and radically different when looking at D3. You can read the graphs from the top-down or bottom-up, depending on where an athlete and parent want to be. But here’s a few notes:

Being a college athlete is not hard to do. There are a ton of small schools out there that will take anyone. And I mean ANYONE.  Our 2012 Marygrove roster (which included your favorite new hip hop artist, Mike Jack) had 3 kids that had never made a high school basketball team. And we were middle-of-the-pack record-wise and in the upper 5% talent-wise for all NAIA schools. If you want to play at a small college, first check to make sure your heart is beating and then start sending emails and highlight tapes. It doesn’t take much. And it certainly doesn’t require lots of money pumped into kids travel teams. Save that for Albion, Hope, and Olivet’s tuition. It’s gonna be around 40 grand!

Recruit yourself. Alyssa Jabara is the best example I have heard of this. She played for a good travel softball team in high school but was not getting the college attention she wanted. So she took it upon herself and emailed coaches every weekend starting her junior year. She is at Concordia now (in the NAIA league with Marygrove, Madonna, Aquinas, etc.) and a lot of that has to do with the initiative she took. The extra controlled factors she put in that more closely resembled D2 is the difference between her just being on the team and her beating out 2 upper-class catchers as a freshman last year.

1-month quit test. Small school sports suck. There were bigger crowds at high school games. You get crammed van rides for hours and hours. Practices are at 6 am. In other words, you put in a ton of work and get very little publicity – especially if you are 1) a girl or 2) playing anything besides football and basketball. And on top of that, scholarships are treated differently at this level, so don’t be surprised if you came in with a handful of other freshman at the same position. There were 7 freshman quarterbacks on the football roster during my only semester at Albion. And the coach still asked me to try out. The more kids they bring in, the more enrollment goes up. Bottom line is, you have to love the game unconditionally.

Well maybe I’ll just go D2 instead. The Division-2 level is the most misunderstood tier of college sports in my opinion. These dudes (or girls) can play, man. Everyone thinks they are pros here, and to their credit, some of them are right. You’ll notice that there is a big jump from NAIA/DIII to the D2 level, and D2 is not that much different than the D1 requirements. The areas I have noticed the biggest difference in the D1 and D2 athletes are the non-controlled areas, which are just a tad lower than the D1 group. But where this can get tricky is with transferring. Take Glenn Winston, who had the makeup for D1 but didn’t get the playing time he wanted at MSU, so he transferred to Northwood and immediately played in front of Cam – who, by the way, had all the measurables and connections to make a really good D2 running back. Division-2 is loaded with talent, and it’s often people who shoot for D1 and miss that are standouts, not D3 kids looking to move up.

Non-controlled factors. Now we get into the Division-1 category, and this is where there are pretty solid factors that are not completely mandatory, but very hard to bypass. Measurables are simply the raw mass of your body. For instance, if you are 7’0, or over 6’6 with arms longer than your height, you have the right measurables for a D1 basketball player. If you are over 300 lbs., you can be a D1 offensive lineman. The specifics are different with every sport, the idea is the same. “Elite” skill means that your skill in that area is at a professional level. I knew Alex Marcotullio growing up at St. Dennis (he is good friends with my cousin Josh) and he played for The Family the year after I got there. By everyone’s account I was better at dribbling, driving, mid-range shooting, passing, defense, rebounding, and I was stronger and better conditioning than he was. But his 3-point shooting was – no joke – NBA worthy. Combine that with the measurables for his position (Jay Junkin’s height) and he played 4 years at Northwestern. Connections are the next thing, because with all that skill and genetics, a lot of it depends on who you know. All it takes is for one coach to like you.

Social Norms. Now we are into controlled factors, and this one comes directly from Matt Fecht. This means when the normal thing to do is party after you won a game, you skip it and sneak back into the gym to practice more. Or when it is snowing outside, you still get your training run in, regardless of the awkward looks you get. Your “process” takes precedence over what is considered normal by peers.

Scheduled down-time. For most elites in their field, down-time does not happen when they feel like it. It is built into their schedule. This includes family events, television, video games, cheat meals, and parties. Time away is a very important part of staying healthy. As Kobe Bryant said, “If the sun never went down, everyone would get sun-burned.” But even the sun does it on a schedule. So set a cheat meal to coincide with your grandma’s 90th birthday party, or plan on some father-son bonding whenever Michigan is playing on Saturday, and use that as an incentive/reward for staying on track during the time leading up. My personal productivity, both as an athlete and gym owner, really coincides with this.

No job. Your sport is your job. End of discussion.

S&C + Individual practice. One of the things I tell families is that if their son wants to play Division 1 basketball, they should not be relying on paying a trainer to improve their game. If the kid doesn’t have the passion to spend 2 hours per day practicing by himself, then no trainer is going to fill that void. On the other hand, having some kind of direction is good, but only to guide your individual efforts. Strength and conditioning is a different area of expertise, so having a coach is a little more beneficial, but a determined athlete can definitely get away with working out alone. Still, this is mandatory.

AAU. Okay here’s the deal: If your travel team is legit, they are sponsored by an apparel company. If you are not paying team dues, or travel expenses, or equipment fees, then you are probably sponsored (unless there’s a very rich parent). Also, apparel companies don’t sponsor youth programs, only high school. So just know that having Nike gear and having a Nike contract are two separate things. If you are not part of a sponsored team and you are a legit prospect, then you are either not paying the full amount, or not paying anything at all. Your payment is your coach getting to say he “coached” you. If you think you are a legit prospect and you can’t pull the juice card, then you are not a legit prospect.

School. You can go to school at any point in your life. On the other hand, you have about an 8-year window where you can make money on your athletic abilities. If 8 hours of homework per week is eating into sports training, then cut out some homework. You don’t need a 4.54 GPA, a 3.0 will work just fine. If you can’t get a 3.0, then just start turning in your freaking homework. That’s like a 2.8 right there! Then be nice to that smart kid who idolizes to you and it’s all set.

Food and bed. Nutrition is like religion, and sleeping remains to be one of the most unfigured-out things in the world of health and fitness. I have opinions about what are best practices. Your coach has opinions. Your grandpa has opinions. As long as you are making conscious daily decisions for both, then you get two checks.

November 2014 - right around the time Alyssa started recruiting herself and Matt was... well... still being Matt.

Now, the important thing to understand is that the more stock you have in one column, the less you need in the other. For instance, if you are 7’0 with an 90-inch wing span, then you can spend all the time immersed in your homework as you want; somebody is going to give you a free tuition to win points in the lay-up line. On the other hand, if you have every single category covered in the Controlled column, you might be able to get away with not being tall, fast, or big.

The idea is to have this reality check when setting goals. So if Andrew-who-got-cut-from-his-7th-grade-team still has dreams to play for John Beilein, he can look at the list and be like, “yep, I can see myself putting in that kind of commitment,” or “ooh… yeah that doesn’t look like something I’d be willing to do.” Either way, the information is right there and the decision to start pumping money and time and energy into that sport becomes clear. Or, at least a more educated guess. It’s the difference between asking someone what they want for Christmas and hoping they will use a $50 Whole Foods gift card.


For this 2017-2018 season there are 7 D1 basketball schools in Michigan, which have a total of 114 roster spots:

  • Central Michigan: 18
  • Eastern Michigan: 16
  • Western Michigan: 14
  • Oakland: 16
  • Detroit Mercy: 17
  • Michigan: 17
  • Michigan State: 16

There are 9 D2 basketball schools in Michigan, which have a total of 138 roster spots:

  • Lake Superior State: 14
  • Northern Michigan: 17
  • Ferris State: 17
  • Wayne State: 13
  • Michigan Tech.: 15
  • Davenport: 17
  • Grand Valley: 18
  • Saginaw Valley: 13
  • Northwood: 14

This is a total of 252 roster spots for Division 1 (114) and Division 2 (138) combined.

When you go two levels lower to the NAIA (132) and DIII (114), you have 246 total roster spots:


  • Cornerstone: 16
  • U of M Dearborn: 18
  • Rochester: 17
  • Madonna: 17
  • Aquinas: 22
  • Sienna Heights: 15
  • Concordia: 17
  • Lawrence Tech: 10 (first-year program)


  • Adrian: 12
  • Albion: 17
  • Alma: 24
  • Calvin: 16
  • Hope: 15
  • Kalamazoo: 17
  • Olivet: 13

*does not include roster numbers for JV teams, which usually carry at least 10 and fluctuate

Now when you take this down to the high school level, there are 710 school varsity basketball teams in the state of Michigan:

  • Class A = 188 teams
  • Class B = 180 teams
  • Class C = 170 teams
  • Class D = 172 teams

Assuming 13 kids per roster, there are 9,230 varsity basketball players in the 2017-2018 season.

That means that approx. 4% of all high school players will play college. Obviously there is a degree of variety to that, seeing as kids can go to college out of state, and Michigan schools recruit all over the Midwest (and world, see Mo Wagner, Stauskas). Also, basketball has the fewest roster spots of any sport, but it’s probably all relative with baseball, football, and track, which routinely carry rosters of 20, 60, and 100 kids respectively.

The specific numbers don’t matter as much as the overall message: a very small percentage of kids get to play a college sport. I, personally, think that is awesome. It’s something to be proud of whether it’s Alyssa Jabara playing at Concordia or Alan Wisniewski at Penn State. They are part of a select group of people who had a combination of controlled and non-controlled factors that gave them the opportunity to compete at a very high level.  If a formalized list is available to show the demands at each level, families will realize that playing college sports is not for everyone, but it is for anyone.

New Graduates: The Family

I try to keep most of the spotlight on you guys, but man... I am pumped!

The Peach Jam is an annual Nike Basketball Tournament held in Atlanta, and in recent years has become a major location in the EYBL Nike circuit. For the 17U teams, it is the final chance to qualify for the National Championship in Los Angeles. But for the 15U and 16U this is the final stop; win the Peach Jam and you can claim the title of the best Nike team in the country.

And yesterday, that is exactly what The Family's 15U team did yesterday!

I have seen most of these kids play together since they were in 4th grade, and started coaching them last spring. This is a huge step for them in their hopes to get paid playing basketball one day, whether that is in the NBA or over seas. Great job to the kids, and especially to Coach Courtney, their head coach, who continues to do a great job managing so much talent. And thank you for letting me be a small part of it!

Bars for Days

Coach West was my high school coach basketball coach, the guy I help with at Groves, and father of the two loudest runners the babies session has ever seen. In a distant part of the world - possibly outside the Little Caesars/Bishop Foley/CrossFit Gym barrier that makes up my known whereabouts - there is a someone named Mrs. West. A classy lady, she is the mother to Coach West. Mrs. West (not to be confused with the Mrs. West that married Coach West) is much nicer and more polite than her son, but the blame cannot be placed on her. Basketball officials have a tendency to bring out the worst in people.

Anyway, Mrs. West is the innovator behind a rich high school basketball tradition that, I like to believe, started my senior year in high school. Having the where-with-all to know that the team with the biggest number under their name on the scoreboard is declared the winner, she placed a wager, though unbeknownst to our team at first.

"What are these?" I asked with my jewfro before the practice after our first game.

"These," said Coach, "are lemon bars. My mom makes them for you guys if you score 20 points in the first quarter."

You remember playing U-7 soccer? Of course you don't, but you definitely remember the halftime and post-game snacks because of course. The halftime tradition of orange slices and grapes is as American as hotdogs and Harbaugh, and there is no need to tamper with it. After the game, however, we were usually left with Quaker granola bars and water in the parents' unwanted attempts to keep us healthy (I think my dad tried to make PBJ sandwiches for everyone one time). But every now and then one parent stepped up, went against the grain (literally), and brought a fresh batch of chocolate chip cookies or Oreos. Seasoned by the mid-day sun and grass clippings, these heavenly snacks gave us just enough hope to make us want to show up at the next game.

Somewhere along the way, the post-game snack faded away, replaced by the post-game car ride home that has been discussed on here before. When Coach West unveiled the tin pan of lemon bars, it was very nostalgic and gave everyone a boost. The thought was generous, the timing was great, and they looked the part.

Then I ate one.

To this day, there may be no food of better taste, texture, and mouthfeel than those freaking lemon bars. They're also extremely healthy for you too; picked straight from Mrs. West lemon-bar plants in her backyard garden. When my playing days at Foley came to a close, I realized my supply of these glorious treats would be limited, so I made sure to make it back to as many games as possible in hopes that Coach's team would get 20 in the first quarter and I could sneak a few crumbs off the foil. (This didn't happen much at Groves, unfortunately).

Then as I sat alone in the gym last night, pondering why Crawford is almost 9 months in and still can't deadlift with a flat back, I received a text from Coach West. Are you at the gym? I will be driving by in 20min.Dessert will be dropped off shortly.

Shortly later...

Because I am a gracious and merciful lord, I managed to save a few wonder cubes for you measly gymgoers. If you have a good workout you may have half of a piece, once, and that is all. Note* the big corner piece on the bottom may be gone by the time you read this.

Case Study: We're Doing More Squats!

Disclaimer to Jacob, Cap'n Jack, Faust, and Brian - don't get your hopes up. This probably isn't what you're thinking, sorry for the misleading title.


It is not very often I mess with programming. does what I want it to do. The only exceptions are birthday workouts, themes, and modifying some things based on equipment/coaches available. I try my best not to think for myself with regards to programming and I'm sure that will stay the case for the most part going forward. But there has been something bugging me lately; it started with a personal/anecdotal case, then increased to a passing observation, then elevated to cursing under my breath/facepalming unyielding gut feeling over the course of this basketball season.

I think CrossFit needs either 1) more high-rep air squats or 2) longer time spent in the squat position. So we are going to add them in. (Just for reference, when I refer to high-rep, I'm talking increments of 50 and 100+). Here's why: the more I think about it, the more I believe having the endurance to hang out in a squat for long periods of time prevents bad things from happening in sports. Let me introduce you to our Groves basketball team. This is the opening possession of us getting our ass whooped by Avondale 2 weeks ago (the team we open with in Districts tonight, actually).

The athlete circled is Drew, and he's actually a really good kid to coach. Tough, smart, and likes to make fun of my socks (or lack thereof). One of the things we've been pointing out to him lately is his tendency to stand up on defense. He pretty slow as it is, so he needs to keep his hips low in order to move around efficiently. In other words, he needs to squat. In the clip above, you'll notice that him standing up the first two times didn't draw any consequence, but the third time he was out of position when his guy made the cut and didn't have any leverage to fight through the screens. And now we're down 3-0 after the first possession and Avondale is fired up.

We were playing defense for about 40 seconds in this clip - meaning Drew (and everyone else) needs to be continuously squatting for 40 seconds, and never once coming out of that squat. Period.

Here's a different way not squatting can mess things up in basketball. This clip is from the same game, just a few possessions later.

Again, we catch Drew standing when the ball is away from him. But instead of giving up a three, Drew's man gets inside leverage on the rebound, knocking Drew out of position, and leaving an opportunity for an offensive rebound. Naturally, they capitalized on it and building on the momentum they gained from the first possession, they drilled another 3-ball in our face.

So the two main problems we come across are 1) not moving fast enough and 2) not boxing out. Both of those can be fixed if an athlete is simply in a squat. I think when talking about fixing this problem the responsibility comes on both ends. Obviously staying low on defense and boxing out is something myself and the other coaches have been putting extra emphasis on in practice lately. And I think the other part comes from the athlete getting better endurance in the legs. In fact, Jennifer mentioned this to me a little over a year ago and I didn't really think about it as much as I should have. I asked her if she thought her recent string of CrossFit training has helped her in basketball and she said, "Yeah (hur, hur), I feel like I can stay in a defensive stance for a longer time."

Drew might be our best player on Groves, and we need him on the court a lot. Let's say we coach him up, and the rest of the team, and break the habit by tonight at 5 pm. Great! The first few possessions are shut down! The thing is, we are on defense anywhere from 40-50 times per game. If Marygrove math serves me right, that's around 16-20 minutes(!) Drew needs to be spending in a squat - or else he is a liability. Add that to whatever else on offense that requires a squat (dribbling, shooting, posting up, aka everything) and no wonder we are so tired after a hard-faught basketball game! 

Think about the other sports you play: football, baseball, track, volleyball, wraastling... can you find the same demand for long-duration squatting? Poor Matt Fecht has to spend over 2 hours in a constant squat for his marathon! I touched on it in Movement Shapes pt. 17, but I think it might be a good time to refresh.

How bout Matt Hickey for the pin!

The ability to squat our hips down in an efficient manner takes energy. More energy than simply standing tall. And I think the more we condition ourselves to this in our training, the easier it will feel during a game - which makes literally everything better. The cool thing is, this doesn't just apply to sports. How bout that recent 17.1 Open workout with dumbbell snatches and burpee box jumps? Rachael Kroll makes sure she squats down every time she lifts the dumbbell from the ground, her back doesn't fry out, and she is able to complete the workout with a personal record. Same can be said for anything else involving a deadlift; the more conditioned we are to squat, the less we are going to burn out our back.

What about a real-lift scenario like pushing a lawn mower or lifting something heavy?

Our friend above in the picture above (who Google says is named Sam) is probably very tired from a long day of hauling whatever is in those bags, and notice how his position is suffering. I think with more high rep/long duration tempo squats, our endurance in this shape will be better and it will have a very noticable effect on just about everything we do outside of the Champions Club.

CrossFit has shown us that fatigue is the best factor to bring out all of the movement dysfunction we have in us. This is a big one and something we are going to spend some time trying to correct. We'll probably add in some stuff at the end of a session here and there during the spring as a test run, but be on the lookout for some kind of a formal gameplan coming during the Summer.