Monday Evening. A recreation 5-6th grade girls game at West Essex Middle School in Northern New Jersey.
Running clock excpet the fourth quarter. No full court pressing at any time. Lawrence Frank, who preaches the importance of learning half court as a young player, would be especially proud.
One team in yellow shirts, the other in red. The game turned out a close contest with the red team hanging on for an 11-9 victory. Coaching the yellow team was Mark Criqui. If the name is familiar it should be. Mark is sportscaster Don Criqui's son. Mark played at Delbarton High School in New Jersey before going on to Colgate, playing there in the Nineties. He fondly recalls playing for the late Jack Bruen he light heartedly labels 'a unique character."
Working the contest you can see Criqui knows the game. The offenses are basic but easy to grasp and ideal for the players on this level. He is constantly in a teaching mode with his girls. Following the game we chat for a short while. A number of topics are covered including the development of one Troy Murphy who starred at Delbarton before doing the same at Notre Dame and onto the NBA.
Criqui's pet peeve watching high school teams is watching kids played out of position or not getting a chance because a coach does not recognize what they can do to help the team. Told him about Jim Crowley at St. Bonaventure who is using the 'Moneyball' approach and molded a number of under recruited or overlooked players into a strong, confident team. Crowley looks for players to fit his system. Criqui agrees how coaches overlook some kids who are smart players who can help given a chance. Speaking with Criqui it's evident he has a special passion for the game.
Cedar Grove 34 Belleville 14
A Suburban eighth grade girls game at Cedar Grove. Love getting the kids on the bigger high school floor as this. The bigger court gives them the opportunity to run their plays with adherence to spacing and operate more freely on offense and defense.
Cedar Grove gets out to an 18-0 lead. The coach pulls the press off, settles in a 2-3 zone and does not run transition on the offensive end.
Second half Belleville is down 25-5 and full court presses. Why? It is obvious, if you are struggling matching up against an opponent in half court, the full court is not going to get it done. Despite the full court pressure of Belleville, we have a smooth tempo, relatively easy second half.
It is obvious Belleville needs a good deal of fundamental work. That is not an indictment of the coach or coaches. These days with different sports and teams, gym time can be at a premium. Which is unfortunate because these are part of a player's ‘formative' years on the court.