MORRIS – When a door closes, so the saying goes, a window opens.
The Morris freshman basketball team is planning to take full advantage of a window of opportunity.
A team has backed out of the Reed-Custer Frosh-Soph Shootout this weekend, and the tournament directors called the Redskins to see if the freshmen wanted to take the open slot.
“This is a big opportunity for us,” Morris freshman coach Matt Lafond said. “From what I understand, it’s a sophomore/JV type of bracket, so to take a team full of just freshmen is a good chance for these kids to see some really good competition. It’s always good to play up a level of competition. The game is a little quicker and more physical than they might be used to, but it will give them a good idea of what they will be up against in the future.
“Plus, especially with a school like ours where we have different grade schools [Shabbona, Saratoga, Nettle Creek, ICS] merging, the more the kids can play together and get to know each other, the better. They have played against each other for a couple of years and know each other that way, but this will only help as far as playing on one team.”
Luckily for the Morris program, they already had a freshman camp running this week. They will still go through the camp, but will also use that time to prepare a bit for the tournament. By the time the games start, though, there won’t be anything close to a starting lineup set.
“I will just basically point – you, you, you, you and you – and put a random selection of five kids on the floor at a time,” Lafond said. “There’s no starters or anything like that yet. It will be kind of fun to get a few games to just let these kids go out and play. We’ll mix and match them and see who plays well together.
“At this point, just getting court time will be a great thing for us. I really only know a few kids, and that’s from them having brothers in the program. We have a variety of kids. They are different sizes, speeds, levels of basketball intelligence. We will have to experiment, and, as a coach, that will be fun to do.”
The Morris coaching staff also stressed that playing in the tournament is not mandatory for the players. If they have other commitments, be it family, personal or another sport, those are to come first. Also, they do not want to put their players in a position where they will be embarrassed. They know that a week is not a lot of time to prepare, but they do feel that the 10 hours of camp this week will give them enough time to make enough progress to put a prepared team on the floor.
“We feel this tournament gives the opportunity to play together, face some adversity and compete,” Lafond said. “We are honored to be asked, as a group of freshmen, to be in a sophomore/JV tournament. We are excited to get on the floor and see what we have. I have some pretty high expectations for our team.”
The varsity tournament at Reed-Custer is celebrating its 20th year. The Comets won their own tournament last year and will begin their defense with a game against Serena at 10 a.m. Friday. Other local teams playing are Newark, which takes on Beecher at 2 p.m. Friday and plays at 4 p.m. regardless of a win or loss, and Dwight, which takes on Lockport’s JV team at 2 p.m. Friday and also plays at 4 p.m. regardless of a win or loss.