Academic Elite Session 1: Players take it to the blacktop

SONY DSCOn the third day of Academic Elite Session 1, players were faced with a test that they hadn’t seen all week. Many of them approached these new conditions with frustration while others saw the new environment as a stage to flourish.

With the sun on the horizon, the players took their skills back to the platform by which their interest in basketball first began. Some call it the park, others call it the cage, but there’s one name that everyone recognizes: the blacktop.

“It’s nice. It brings you back to the days when you were young shooting outside in your backyard. So it’s nice to get back to it,” Jalen Brome said going back to playing outdoors.

“We always spend time in the gym, it’s nice to go back to what we used to do when we were younger.”

Added intensity, aggressive play, sunburn and a boatload of bricked jump shots are just some of the many things to expect when playing on the blacktop. But both coaches and players agree that this platform is a great way to truly evaluate a player’s ability.

“Playing outdoors is obviously a little different than playing indoors because you have the elements and Mother Nature to deal with,” Cabrini assistant coach Tim McDonald said. “It’s windy so you might not be able to see the best shooters, but the main thing that myself and most coaches look for is looking for the effort.

“Playing defense rebounding, making the extra pass you know all the little things. It’s much easier to evaluate. You can tell which guys are giving the effort because it’s really hot out here so the guys that are giving it their all you know that they want to play basketball and it’s what they love to do.”

Aside from missed or made jumpers, the culture and atmosphere of playground ball is something that every player can’t help but get excited about. Certain aspects of this style of play may limit some player’s skill set, but the bittersweet setting has always added a unique facet of fun to the game.

“Being from New York, I like the atmosphere a lot. You know the street ball-type of feeling with the crowd all lined up hovering around the court,” Staten Island native Frank Amari said.

As much as he enjoyed it however, Amari did add that it does take away from his perimeter game.

“I like to take a lot of threes, but playing out here makes that a little difficult,” Amari said.

So if you’re having trouble shooting take it to the rim, right? It would seem like the simple solution, but players also agreed that you might not want to drive to the hole that often either.

“Guys come out here and they hack more, refs don’t call as many fouls, so its hard to shoot and take it to the hole,” 2015 forward Mamadou Mariku said.

So the blacktop helps out the defense more, right? Not quite, according to 2015 forward Nicholas Clough.

“It’s a little tough to take a charge because you end up laying on the ground and the heat makes it tough to lock in on defense,” said Clough.

So maybe the blacktop doesn’t have any added benefits. But what it does have is that awe-inspiring feel that gets the players hyped and gives coaches a chance to see what the campers really have.

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