Hustle, defense and the fast break. For coaches Reggie Kitchen and Sterling Parker, these are the ingredients for winning basketball.
Area basketball fans can see these strategies in action next week when 600 of the nation's top high school basketball players, representing 40 teams, gather here to compete in the Amateur Athletic Union's 17-and-under national tournament.
The opening round will begin on Monday at Georgetown University's McDonough Gymnasium. Opening ceremonies are scheduled to take place at 6 p.m., with the first game scheduled for 7.
Games will be played at McDonough, Georgetown Visitation School, No. 10 Police Boys and Girls Club, Gonzaga, Mackin and St. Albans. As the tournament progresses into the elimination rounds, all games will be at McDonough, with the semifinals and finals scheduled for Saturday, July 26, at 11:30 a.m. and 1 p.m.
"Defense is what our team is based on," said Kitchen, the coach of the Reston Boys Club, the Potomac Valley Association champions. "This team is built on the premise of shutting people down and dictating the speed of the game. We plan to play a man-to-man defense with a full-court press, but occasionally, we will play some zone.
"Offensively, while we will always look to run, we can also slow it down and go into a half-court game if we have to. With the talent that this team has, I'm confident that we can score on anybody inside."
Kitchen definitely has some of the best inside players in the area, led by 6-foot-8 McKinley Tech forward Anthony Tucker.
Among Kitchen's other players are 6-6 Park View forward Harold Westbrook and guards John Pettibone of Langley and Kurt Smith of Mackin.
Even though he admits he would prefer to use an inside game, Rabaut Ramblers Coach Parker said his team is geared to the fast break.
"I would prefer to post up our big men down low and play an inside game," said Parker, whose team was the runner-up to Reston in the Potomac Valley Association. "However, when you have guards this good, you have to look to penetrate and fast break."
The Ramblers are led by 5-10 Crossland point guard Michael White and two Coolidge products, 6-6 swing man Frederick Davys and 6-10 center Donald Hodge.
"What would be the ideal situation would be to force our opposition outside, crash the boards and fast break off the outlet pass," said Parker. "We definitely have solid, experienced guards in White, Davys, Byron Hawkins Coolidge and Shawn Clifton Blair .
"Defensively, while we will be playing a lot of man-to-man, we will also be playing a lot of 2-3 and 1-3-1 zones because of our height.
"If we hustle, play solid defense and play solid all-around basketball, we can compete with the best teams in the tournament. I definitely like our chances."
Although the coaches admit that the tournament's biggest benefits for their players are the national exposure and the experience of competing against some of the best players in the country, each coach believes the tournament serves other purposes.
"AAU is a developmental league for the kids," said Kitchen. "It's a chance for the kids to improve their skills, work on their game and compete against some of the best talent in the nation. More importantly, it is a chance for them to grow and mature as citizens. Nobody remembers who won the AAU championship four years down the road."