Coming from Boston and working for Leo Papile and the B.A.B.C(Boston Amateur Basketball Club)I saw many similarities in the way both coaches coached and both teams played. It wasn’t about getting All Americans although both teams had them. It wasn’t about running a million plays to show everyone how smart they were as coaches. Because of their ability to do things the right and win on a national stage both teams are flagship programs for Nike and Under Armour.
It was the ability to hold their players accountable and get them to compete on a local/national stage. Both programs are known for their toughness, grittiness, and the ability to overachieve with not great individual talent but with warriors that fight until the end.
Mike has allowed me to attend and participate in practices with his team for the past few years. Since very few coaches in the area have opened their doors to me like he has I value our friendship. His program to me is one of the best in the country because they do things for the right reasons. They don’t chase players to play for them and they tell them the truth.
There are no miscommunications of what they expect form their players on and off the court as well what they expect form their parents. Mike’s teams sends countless players to college mostly at the division 1 level and are stacked with talent from top to bottom. The Wolves as a unit understand what it takes to compete not only in high school and club basketball, but in college as well. They monitor grades of the players and don’t tolerate immaturity.
They always stress toughness out of their players and to make plays for teammates before making for themselves. I believe it is this style that helps The Illinois Wolves be successful in high school, college, and real life. What I like about spending time around their program is that their players are very attentive when you talk to them. I try to reach out to young players across the country to help, but for the most part there is apprehension on their part. The Wolves players are always engaged and respectful not only to their own coaches but to outsiders as well.
The coaching staff treats the players like they are college players. They aren’t told how good they are only what they are. The coaches tell them exactly what they are thinking and pull no punches when it comes to telling them the truth. That is something that isn’t done enough at the grassroots level.
Today at Bollingbrook,IL the Wolves scrimmaged one of the top high school programs in the country in La Lumiere. The Wolves didn’t play their best basketball as their opponent who has been practicing for almost two months and as played nine games together. The Wolves were banged up as some of their best players were nursing injuries.
After the game the coaching staff of the Wolves addressed both age groups as far as their expectations for them for the upcoming winter. After they addressed the team Mike asked me to speak to his team. My talk was about how players that join elite club teams such as theirs must check their ego at the door and play a role.
When players join club teams with great players on it they have to ty to fit in to help their team be successful. Since their were about 14 division one players(give or take a couple) on the same team I compared them to NBA players that join the Dream Team. Every player for Team USA is a superstar for their team. But, every four years a majority of the players who are used to getting 20 shots a game and the ultimate green light during the season with their team must take a step back and play a different role.
I think many players that play for a very good club team must understand that their role on that team isn’t necessarily going to be the same as the one they play with their high school team in the winter. As you go up in level (High School-College/College-Pro) for the majority of players moving up they must take a step back and decrease their role in the offense. Not every player has to take steps back, but a majority do when playing for elite teams.
Young players today need to be able to understand what impacts winning. When you have 7 players that want to score 20 points you never are going to be successful as a team. It is difficult for a player that is used to playing with his high school team and is a focal point to play for a better team and learn to scale their role back for the betterment of the team. Many players struggle when the offense is not run through them and that’s a big reason for players not being able to adjust at the college level and eventually have to transfer.
I told them that the role isn’t always easy to do and many players that are stars in the NBA can’t necessarily gel together as a unit for Team USA. The same goes with club teams. Some players look good on paper, but don’t have the ability or personality to play a lesser role and play off of others.
Just like any other high school group I stressed less ball domination making plays form the perimeter in 2 dribbles or less and mental toughness. It is always great to be able to talk to young players. I want to Thank Mike Mullins and The Illinois Wolves for their continued support.