Okok, Dougies been asking me to do this for a while, and I’m finally getting round to doing it… A blog following my time at SportsQuest Academy in Virginia, USA.
I’ve never done anything harder than walking away from both my parents and younger siblings at the airport, its so tough, but you have to realise what it is for and let the driving force behind it be the thought of having the chance to get one step closer to achieving a lifetime goal of playing college ball. Being out here will allow for the exposure and improvement to happen… that’s the hope anyway.
Going into my first practice, I had no idea of what the game would be like out here, and after being injured for the three months prior, I was naturally nervous and I guess being on a new team, with new teammates, with a new role, in a new country, it was expected. Due to this, I didn’t represent myself well at all during the first few weeks of training not even doing the things I do best like defending the rock and shooting the ball well. After these 2 weeks, I remembered some advice I had been given a few weeks before I came out “its just basketball.” These are the words I have followed ever since I remembered, if I do the things I’ve been taught to do and do the simple things well I should be good, and I’ve seen a marked improvement in my game.
My squad has some really good players on it, one of my teammates (Brian White) with an 87 scouting rating on ESPN for the class of 2013, another one (Jordan Swopshire) with a brother that plays at Louisville and he has a scouting rating of 92, whilst being on the USA u17 national team. So we’ve had some pretty big schools in to watch practice like Tennessee, Clemson and VCU. We play a national schedule, so I guess we’ll get a lot more exposure to coaches from all sorts of college programmes.
Since being out here, I’ve realised how much things like what you’re eating, how much sleep you’re getting, can affect your game. Also I realised how important lifting weights is in order to be a good player. I did everything I could to get out of lifting at home, and relied on natural physique and genetics to get me through. But out here, after being bodied up so much I realised how important it was to take lifting seriously along with gaining weight and drinking protein shakes. That is something that I wish I could go back a couple of years and change, I wish I would have started doing that at a younger age.
From a general life point of view, I don’t know what I expected when I came out here, luckily 10 of our 13 players here are live in and we get our meals cooked for us, but damn doing this laundry makes you realise how much my mom did for me. Especially when there is little stains in clothing and when the ties come out your trousers that moms always seem to be able to pull off and get back to normal. I guess I expected the US to be much more similar to the UK, like most people, I’d probably put this down to the English accent, but thinking about it, it’s a completely different continent and its way bigger than England so the differences seem to mount up.
My role on this squad, seems to be to shoot the ball, use my strength to get to the basket, and most importantly play D. Coach says he’s going to use me for guarding the opponents best player (within reason obviously no guarding bigs) from baseline to baseline when he has to, and I cannot wait for the challenge. That’s why in practice when we scrimmage I always guard Jswop, our main offensive threat, its tough but I love the challenge and can only say that its making the both of us better.
The main controllable differences in the game from here to home, I say controllable because some footwork here is legal that you’d never get away with at home and visa-versa, are one on one (offensive and defensive), competitiveness, physicality, speed and athleticism.
The game gets broken down into one on one so much out here I’ve realised its vital to learn your strengths and weaknesses and have moves to go to in order to create through the middle. But because of this too, its equally important to have one on one defence. Defence is a massive part of the game out here and everyone seems to play it very intense.
The competitiveness is on a whole new level, nobody wants to lose anything… kind of suits me with the mentality I have for any of you guys that know me, I HATE LOSING ANYTHING. Whether we’re shooting in pairs and it’s the first to make 10 3s, a ball handling drill for speed and quickness, or playing in a scrimmage at the end of practice, everyone is going hard and no-one slacks off and goes on like they can take a L.
Physicality. The game is a million times more physical, no b*tch fouls called in practice, none called in a game, if you take it in as a guard around the bigs you best finish, cause the ref aint gonna call anything. Also if players realise you’re weak, they’ll use it to their advantage so you have to throw the first punch and tap on their chest first and let them know that they aren’t about to step all over you metaphorically speaking of course.
Speed and athleticism, there’s not much you can say on that apart from the fact that the game is a million and one times faster, and seeing a big play isn’t so shocking and surprising anymore, its almost normal for someone to get dunked on or an alley-oop be thrown.
One final thing is that, there’s a consequence for everything, I don’t even know if we’ve got through a practice without running at least one suicide. You cant pick and choose when you’re going to go hard or not, otherwise you’ll be running for days, these coaches have no conscience I swear. We have chores to do at the dorms we live at, we didn’t do them a couple of times, so we get told we’d be running a hell of a lot the day after. Running a lot were not the words… it started with a 3am wake up. 4am running, we had 7 runs to get through, for everyone we messed up and didn’t make the time we had to start again. We messed up 5 times, once we got to the 3rd run, and messed up so we went back to the warm up. I’ve never done anything like that in my life before. It amounted to 16 miles that we had run, not counting the 30 hill runs we’d done (10 sprinting up and down, 10, crawling up and down, 10 giving a teammate a piggy back up and down it) and we had practice straight after. Lets just say I don’t think we’re ever going to make a mistake like that ever again. If you’re back home with the ambition to get out I’d just say practice now, listen to what your coaches tell you and don’t whatever you do talk back.
The season hasn’t started yet, first game is on Thursday at home to Beacon Prep from Atlanta, then on Friday to New Hope Prep from Pennsylvania. We’ve had some scrimmages against local schools though, and bar the first game, which was a poor performance even though we’d only been together a week or 2, no excuses we shouldn’t have lost.
Aight, that’s it for now, but ima hit you up later on in the season.