Matt Brown, Justin Burrell, Kendall Marshall and Kyle Snodgrass have been playing basketball together for more than two years, so it's no surprise they know one another's games and have excellent team chemistry. The surprising part is that at 9, Brown is the oldest member of the Prince William Playaz.
The Playaz, all four of whom live in Woodbridge, won the 10-and-under division of a regional Hoop-It-Up 3-on-3 competition Sept. 25-26 at Redskins Stadium, despite being the youngest and smallest team in their age bracket. Teamwork and quickness were the two primary assets the players used to overcome their height and age disadvantages.
"It was a difficult tournament," Brown said. "There was more contact than we were used to, so we had to use our speed and hustle and work hard."
All four players have exceptional ball-handling skills for their age, said Coach Dennis Marshall, Kendall's father. But, he said, each one also has his own specialty.
"Kyle is the chairman of the boards--he gets the most rebounds; Matt is the master of dribble penetration; Justin is the quickest--he's the defensive specialist--and Kendall can hit the outside shot," Dennis Marshall said. "The key is they all know how to work together, and not all the teams [at Hoop-It-Up] could do that."
The four developed their games playing at the Boys Club on Dale Boulevard, where they won their age group this summer. Before the tournament, the team installed a motion offense, a pick-and-roll play and a three-man weave, "only it's more like a two-man weave because we only have three men," said Snodgrass, 8.
In the first game, against the TH Pistons, Brown scored eight points and Marshall, 8, hit the winning basket in a 12-11 victory. Games were played to 16, with a 30-minute time limit. Field goals were worth one point; shots from behind the three-point line were worth two.
In the next game, Marshall hit three two-point baskets, and Snodgrass hit the game-ending shot in a 16-2 romp over the Blue Bucks from Alexandria. The semifinal match was against the Bandits of Prince George's County--a national AAU finalist--but the Playaz did not back down. Burrell, 7, made several steals to key a 16-12 victory, and Brown hit the final shot.
All four players made contributions in the championship game, a 16-13 victory over the Rimrockers from Baltimore. Snodgrass contained the Rimrockers' leading scorer, and Brown hit the game-winner.
"We did what we had to do because we always wanted to bring this home," Kendall Marshall said. "Next year we want to go win Hoop-It-Up in Philadelphia, New York and Washington."
CAPTION: Justin Burrell, center, Kendall Marshall, left, Kyle Snodgrass, top, Matt Brown comprise the regional 10-and-under division champion Prince William Playaz.