Local Hoops Scene

By Indrek Kongats

It’s already the third week into November and the balls are pounding on the hardwoods all across the southern tier.

Unfortunately, the start of the season can be a painful and frustrating time for many hoop hopefuls, as they learn that they didn’t make the cut for their school’s teams. Fortunately, there are many alternatives for these young players.

The most well known is the AAU (Amateur Athletic Association) organizations, such as Buffalo Storm, Buffalo Defenders and Fullcourt Hoops, but these are normally for elite basketball players and take place after school schedules have run their course.

Our neighbors to the north are also well organized. Orchard Park Youth Basketball Association has teams that participate in the Great Lakes Youth Basketball League. The different levels of basketball played at the OPYBA are house, which is mainly for novices just starting out. Everyone makes the team and everyone plays equally.

Then, there are the intermediate and advanced teams that travel, and player commitment is more rigorous and demanding.

Whatever your level, you can and will learn to improve.

The final, and maybe the best, alternative for young hopefuls that thirst for instruction is to join organizations affiliated with the America Youth Basketball Association (AYBA) that caters to players from the 2nd grade right through to the 11th grade. The AYBA has regional tournaments and not leagues, so weekend events are for competition and weekdays and off weekends are for acquiring proper skills through practices. Tournaments run throughout the year, starting in the fall, continuing through the winter months and into spring. The AYBA even has a National Tournament that takes place in July for qualifying teams.

Fortunately, the southern tier has a team for 10th grade or under division.

A player must be in the tenth grade as of Oct. 1, 2016 and cannot be older than 17 by Aug. 31, 2017. This is comparable to Junior Varsity at the public school level. The WNY AYBA affiliate team will begin practices shortly and are still looking for players that wish to become better in their individual skills and team play. The AYBA motto is “It’s not the size of the player in the game; It’s the size of the game in the player.” You can express your interest by visiting their Facebook page at www.facebook.com/wnyayba.

In college basketball, DI St. Bonaventure women hammered Colgate University 70-57 last Sunday afternoon, making them 1-1 for the season. Their only loss came against Niagara University, their first conference game, dropping a 45-65 decision to the Purple Eagles. Local Randolph High School star sophomore Mckenna Maycock started in both contests and scored a career-high 10 points against NU and four more points against the Red Raiders from Colgate. In the CU game, Maycock had an impressive eight rebounds in the win.

The Bonnies men’s team played St. Francis University from Pennsylvania.  A strong first half cemented the victory for SBU winning 92-82.

If you got up the Hamburg way, there was a real barn-burner going on and it wasn’t Bethlehem Steel going up in flames. Hilbert College men’s basketball team lit up the court with 60-plus second half points to erase a 20 point deficit and win by three in OT. The final score after the smoke had cleared— Hilbert 93, Durham College 90. Local southern tier hoop star from Panama High School, freshman Josh Eddy, started in his first ever college game, contributing four points in 18 minutes and two rebounds. The Hawks play this weekend, hosting the Hilbert Tip Off Tournament against Cazenovia College Friday night at 8 p.m.

Player Development tip of the week:

Last week, it was proper shooting technique— the higher the shot release, the better. This week, it is about being able to score with either hand.

Even at the college level, few players get proficient at making layups or jump hooks with either hand. Failing to do so inevitably leads to their shots being blocked. The off hand, or non-shooting hand, and shoulder are used to protect the ball. Using the proper hand keeps the ball further away from the defender. This is no easy task, but the earlier that you start, the more natural it becomes. In order to practice this, you have to be willing to spend equal amount of time working on your weaker hand.

One way is to hold the ball in your weaker hand without the use of the other hand and practice shots in close to the basket by just using your wrist and legs. A dedicated basketball player will take 100 shots or more with either hand in a 45-minute workout. If you have the will, you will acquire the skill!