North Point Coach Jimmy Ball stared at his star player, Satchel Ball, who struggled to move because of a leg cramp late in a game against Thomas Stone on Wednesday. But the coach wasn’t worried about the injury.
He gazed at his senior point guard because of his poor decision-making. Instead of milking clock with his team ahead by five points, Ball quickly drove to the basket and missed a layup.
“I was upset that he took a bad shot,” Jimmy Ball said. “I wanted to run some time off the clock and try to get into a set. I just stared him down and let him know he took a bad shot.”
Jimmy Ball doesn’t let one mistake by his best player slide. That Satchel is his son only encourages Jimmy to push him harder.
Ever since he was named a starter sophomore year, Satchel has tried to prove that his role is not a byproduct of favoritism.
“I don’t think anyone expected me to start. I didn’t expect to start either,” he said. “If you have a bad game and you’re starting for your father, everyone’s just going to give it to you.”
Ball admitted it was tough being the coach’s son, especially in the beginning of his career. When his production went down his junior year, he got an earful from peers.
Jimmy also had to learn to balance being a coach and a father.
“I really try to back off and not bring basketball home and talk about it,” Jimmy said. “That’s what I was doing at the beginning, and I think I put too much pressure on him.”
Ball has overcome the noise and emerged as a leader as a senior. He’s averaging over 20 points per game and trying to lead the Eagles to top of the Southern Maryland Athletic Conference.
“He’s not given anything. He’s earned everything. If he was given something, I would have had him starting in 9th grade,” Jimmy said. “He went through a miserable season last year. For him to come back and do what he’s done for us is a testament to his character and fortitude.”
While he’s pleased to see Satchel’s improvement on the court, Jimmy said he’s most proud to see his son grow as a man, especially working with young children in basketball camps. With only a handful of games remaining this season, Jimmy knows he doesn’t have much time remaining to cherish the moments he has with his son as his player.
“It will be nice for him to go somewhere and don’t have to be Coach Ball’s son and just be Satchel Ball,” Jimmy said. “But next year when we start this he’s not going to be here. It’s going to be an empty feeling. I don’t know how I’m going to react to that.”
— David J. Kim
At Rock Creek Christian, new roster forged by fire
Lafayette Dublin had a clear but tough task when he took over the Rock Creek Christian Academy basketball team this season. He was inheriting a strong and proud program: the Eagles finished 26-3 last season and produced the All-Met Player of the Year, forward Jermaine Harris.
But they weren’t returning much talent. Only three players from that team were coming back, all of them young, and a new rotation would have to be built. As an independent private school, Dublin could build his team through recruiting. But first he made a schedule that could attract the type of player he was seeking.
“When I’m recruiting kids, the first thing they ask me is ‘What does your schedule look like?’ ” Dublin said.
So Dublin scheduled matchups with strong teams from the area and beyond. The Eagles (14-7) would take on defending DCSAA champion Wilson, Washington Catholic Athletic Conference heavyweight St. John’s and Prince George’s County contender Bowie. They would travel to Oak Hill (Va.), to Our Savior New American (N.Y.), to Cape Henry Collegiate (Va.). They would compete against the best.
“The only way to be considered the best, as far as I know, is to play the best,” Dublin said.
Dublin filled his roster with talented transfers, many of them young, and hoped the arduous schedule would help mold them into a cohesive team.
“It took us a second to jell, to click, to figure out where everybody is going to be on the floor, for them to actually like each other outside of practice,” he said. “Because for us to play in big games they had to trust each other.”
He knew that process had been successful when the Eagles traveled to Mouth of Wilson, Va., and lost to nationally ranked Oak Hill by just two points. During a timeout late in the game, Dublin looked up at the scoreboard and saw a tied score. He turned to one of his assistant coaches and said this type of moment is what they had been building toward.
“I said ‘Win or lose, I think we have arrived,’ ” Dublin said. “ ’Either way this game goes, I’m proud of them.’ ”
— Michael Errigo
George Mason seniors hit milestones as Mustangs close out winning season
In Tuesday’s rivalry game against Clarke County, George Mason stopped the game twice for celebrations as senior guards Hollman Smith and Max Ashton hit milestones minutes apart.
In the third quarter, Smith reached 1,000 career points, and in the fourth, Ashton scored his 1,197th career point, passing Robert Tartt to become the Mustangs’ all-time leading scorer.
“The only way you’re going to get to 1,000 is if you score every year,” Coach Chris Capannola said. “You can count on them every game to give you 30 points between them, at least.”
Ashton and Smith have known each other since kindergarten, and grew up playing together through the Falls Church leagues. They have been Mason’s leading scorers since sophomore year, averaging 18.1 points and 15.7 points respectively.
Their friendship and years of practice helped them develop a strong on-court dynamic, a minor form of telepathy.
“It’s almost like they’re twins, they know each other so well,” Capannola said. “They know each other so well, they know where they’re going to be and they know their strengths.”
Both serve as the Mustangs’ team captains and are two of the biggest reasons why Mason finished the regular season 15-7 overall and 10-0 in the Bull Run District. The Mustangs will face Madison County in the Bull Run semifinals Tuesday.
Over the years, Ashton and Smith have had to adapt to Mason’s changing systems. New roles haven’t stopped their production.
“Max is lightning fast, he can go both ways and he’s a deadly three-point shooter. He’s the total offensive package,” Capannola said. “Hollman’s a grinder, and he’s really had to work to get his shots more. ... When it’s crunch time, one of those two guys can take it.”
— Sammi Silber
Wise holds Coaches vs. Cancer game
About four years ago, Louis Wilson wanted his Riverdale Baptist players to learn more about cancer’s effects, warning signs and preventions. He began holding a Coaches vs. Cancer game once per season, where he, his coaching staff and players wore pink apparel to raise awareness.
Wilson, now in his first year at Wise, continued that tradition in the Pumas’ 56-49 home win against Bladensburg on Thursday.
“We thought it would be a great idea to show the kids there are other things in life we need to take a look at besides winning and losing basketball games,” said Wilson, who said his father died of cancer last March.
Over the past 25 years, many college basketball programs have participated in the Coaches vs. Cancer program, helping raise money for the American Cancer Society. The event is less common in high school.
While Wilson said his coaches previously put on pink shoe strings, Wise’s coaches each ordered pink Adidas James Harden Vol. 3 sneakers to don Thursday. Wise also sold black and pink T-shirts, with the proceeds going towards the Donna M. Saunders Foundation for Breast Cancer Education and Support.
“Everybody wants those Hardens now,” Wilson joked. “They looked pretty good on the coaches.”