Late last year, Spingarn boys’ basketball coach Keith Jackson decided against plugging his team into the holiday basketball circuit, which means the Green Wave hasn’t played a game in nearly three weeks.
Jackson, however, never envisioned having to use the time off in late December to refocus and retool his program. Spingarn was expected by many coaches in the DCIAA to be a surprise contender in the East division during the preseason, but has started 1-6 and struggled to find an identity on both ends of the floor. The offense is top-heavy; despite having two of the city’s purest scorers in Jerome West (23.2 point per game) and Garrett Washington (22.5), no other player averages more than 4.8 per game. And defensively, Spingarn is allowing 77 points per game. Opponents have scored 80 or more points in five of seven, and Jackson’s club has lost five of six games by 19 points or more.
A three-week layoff is exactly what his team needed, Jackson maintains, but not in order to rest. The extra practice time has served as a midseason minicamp, an opportunity for the team to condition and for Jackson to work with some of his younger players on individual offensive skills. Spingarn has just two seniors — including Washington — and its front court is full of raw, untested underclassmen.
“Once we enter conference play, I think it will be a little bit easier for us than the games we have been playing,” Washington said. “It is like a new start in a way, because this is like the time you got to get down and fight for your spot.”
Spingarn’s first opportunity to start playing up to preseason expectations will come Tuesday against Ballou (5-3), which features a powerful forward tandem in Brandon Boykin (20.1 ppg) and Daywone Wright (15.3), followed by a visit to Anacostia on Friday — and Washington likes how his team matches up in both. McKinley Tech (8-3) currently sits atop the DCIAA East.
“We can definitely make a run in this league,” Washington said. “And that’s really what our goal is. To win the East.”
Time is running short, but a number of candidates on Spingarn’s roster are capable of stepping into major roles — including junior guard Jameel Waller, the team’s number-three scorer who is being groomed underneath Washington in the back court. The team’s most athletic big man, Malik Snead, is an athletic 6-6 wing player who will get a major litmus test against Ballou’s post players Tuesday — but was the only other player to score points beside Washington (28) and West (27) in Spingarn’s last loss to Friendship Collegiate back on December 20.
“We’re going to still expect a lot from [West and Washington]. We’re trying to get some other people involved,” Jackson said. “Basketball is five on five, not two on five. So we’re going to need other productivity from other people, beside them. And once we get [that] . . . I think the quicker we can turn things around.”