OTRHoopsReport: What We Learned From the Boro – February 3, 2015
The Blaze are ALL-IN for another postseason run in Class AAA in the state of Tennessee. Their hashtag says it all #4EO.
MURFREESBORO, Tenn., – The end of the regular season is just around the corner for high school teams. Our OTRHoopsReport.com team traveled to Murfreesboro to check in with the reigning AAA state champions of Blackman. Currently ranked No. 4 in the state, they have a record of 17-3 are closing in on their third district championship in four years. Here are some of the story lines from their match-up with Riverdale, who is their crosstown rival.
1. Barry Wortman Does it Right
It does not take long to understand that coach Wortman does it the right way. Walking through his practice on Thursday afternoon, the fifth year head coach was preparing his team for every defensive scenario the Blaze could possibly face on Friday night. Teaching points, criticism and praise could be heard all within minutes by the former Morehead State Associate Head Coach. The Blaze staff installed a backdoor play with their scout team that Riverdale runs frequently. Wortman instructed his players not to get their chin out in front of their nose when defending this box set. Riverdale ran the play the first play of the second quarter and the Blaze defender did not over commit, which led to a turnover. This is a terrific example of players taking coaching and executing in game situations.
2. The Blaze Have Talent
Many teams might have been devastated with a loss of a talented player such as Jauan Jennings, who graduated early to enroll at the University of Tennessee as a football player. Not for the Blaze who still have the Murphy Center as an achievable goal. The backcourt duo of senior Isaiah Hart and junior Cedriontis Wilson provided the scoring punch with 12 and 13 points respectively, which is right at their season averages. Both provide handling and scoring ability for the Blaze. While along the front line Wortman and the Blaze get consistent production from junior forwards Christian Dewitt and Miller Armstrong. Dewitt averages nine points and leads the team with nearly 9 rebounds per game on the season.
3. Blaze Buy-In
This is the time of year when you can easily tell if a team is unraveling or if they have bought in to the system. Coach Wortman’s group is all-in for this season. A great example of this was senior forward Jordan Jeffries and his enthusiasm on the bench late in the fourth quarter. He could be seen up cheering for his teammates even though he may not be getting the minutes that he personally wanted. On social media the Blaze can be seen with the hash tag #4EO, which stands for ‘For Each Other.’ Jeffries proved that is more than a social media gimmick, but something they believe in for this team. Little things like that keep teams atop of the standings.
4. Blackman Will Continue to Have Talent
Coach Wortman and his staff have committed to getting younger players to be a part of the varsity experience. In all they carry at least four sophomores that get minutes on a nightly basis. Point guard Donovan Sims is one of those players. Assistant Coach Michael Voss pointed to Sims as a player who could carry a bigger load next year when Hart graduates. Bryce Williams is another player full of promise. We evaluated him at our CoachHemi.com Fall Workout in October and tabbed him as a watch-list player. He has physically matured in the months since and will only improve with added experience. Add in Donovan Page and Jaellan White and the Blaze have plenty of prospects that college coaches should keep an eye for years to come.
5. Riverdale’s Woodson is One of the Area’s Best Seniors
Even on a night where the defense keyed in on guard Brad Woodson, it was apparent the effect that the senior could have upon the game. The 6-foot-1 senior has a quick release and a natural feel for the game. Although he might be best in a catch and shoot situation, Woodson proved that he can move off of screens and put the ball on the floor to create offense. His hard-nosed attitude allows him to make plays that you may not expect from a perimeter based player. His talent and production could translate to the next level at the right program.
6. Riverdale has Pieces
Coach Kevin Woodson’s team will only get better in time. They only graduate two players off of this team and return a number of juniors who already contribute big for the Warriors. Guard Kashka Edwards is a talented combo guard who showed he could hit the open 3-point jumper on this night. Point guard Bradnon Somerville is a quick, energetic slasher that can create space off the dribble. Johnathan Matthews showed he might be the most diversified player on the roster with his ability to score from the perimeter while also being able provide activity in the lane. If this group can gel before the postseason begins, do not count them out for a run into the region tournament.
Exposure & Showcase Opportunities
Jonathan Hemingway is a National Evaluator for the OTRHoopsReport. He is also on the Board of Selectors for the Naismith Trophy. He is the publisher of CoachHemi.com. He has been involved in the community since 1996 as a coach, camp director and evaluator. You can reach him via email at JonathanHemingway@PeachStateBasketball.com and follow him on twitter @JLHemingwayPSB
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