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Anne Arundel basketball coaches react to death of Kobe Bryant, daughter
By Katherine Fominykh
Capital Gazette |
Jan 27, 2020 | 10:40 AM
Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant celebrates with his daughter following the Lakers’ 99-86 defeat of the Orlando Magic in Game 5 of the NBA Finals at Amway Arena in Orlando on Sunday, June 14, 2009. Bryant and his daughter Gianna died Sunday in a helicopter crash in California. (Stephen M. Dowell/Orlando Sentinel/TNS)
For Archbishop Spalding boys basketball coach Josh Pratt, watching his 9-year-old son Joey playing in a youth basketball game should have been a happy moment, one that he’d always enjoyed.
Then, Pratt’s nephew sent him a text letting him know that former Lakers star Kobe Bryant had died. Bryant and his daughter Gianna were two of nine people killed in a helicopter crash outside of Los Angeles on Sunday morning.
The longtime NBA veteran, who had spent 20 years in Los Angeles, amassed over 33,000 points in his career and garnered five NBA titles, two NBA Finals MVP awards and two Olympic gold medals.
Basketball had been a through-line in Pratt’s life and his long coaching career. Pratt began coaching in 1993, three years before the Lakers drafted Bryant. Bryant, 41, was only a few years younger than Pratt.
“As I’m walking out of the gym, we’re all looking at each other, everyone’s whispering,” Pratt said. “Nine year olds, you know, they don’t really know what’s going on. The parents, they’re looking at each other like, ‘is this even real?’”
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In the grocery store after the game, Pratt was enveloped by mourners looking at their phones, taking in the news. Life goes on but the Crofton resident hugs his children a little bit tighter.
“This happens, it puts things in perspective,” Pratt said. “You could tell he was a wonderful dad to his daughters, which makes it all more tragic. I’m still trying to process it all really.”
Meade basketball coach Mike Glick, whose long career accomplishments link to the NBA, includes mentoring multiple professional veterans like Rudy Gay at Archbishop Spalding, was watching the Maryland men’s basketball game when his son texted with the news. Horror washed over him.
“He’s one of the best players to ever live,” Glick said. “He’s an icon, and he’s positively affected millions of people around the world. It’s a horrible loss to humanity.”
The circumstances of the tragedy, and the loss of the John Altobelli, his wife Keri and daughter Alyssa — fellow parents with their child, heading to a travel basketball game — were all too familiar to him.
“I think of the amount of hours I’ve spent in cars taking my three sons to national baseball tournaments,” Glick said on Sunday. “I’ve done the same thing Kobe was doing this morning. It’s tragic.”
When the news struck Southern coach Will Maynard, he’d hoped it was a hoax — born out of the hype surrounding LeBron James surpassing Bryant for third on the NBA all-time scoring list the night before.
When he’d realized the news had been confirmed, and then the subsequent news about his daughter Gianna, it put Maynard in a daze. He’d been watching the Maryland game, too, and preparing to rebound from Friday’s loss to Annapolis to keep Southern as the No. 1 seed in Class 2A.
But as the news sunk in, he couldn’t watch film anymore. For three to four hours he scrolled through Twitter, silently pleading that some news outlet would walk it back, say it wasn’t true after all.
He thought of Marvin Wallace.
“I lost a kid in the beginning of the (school) year a few years ago. First week of school,” Maynard said. “He was never able to put on a Southern uniform, but he played for us during the summer and he would have made the team.”
Wallace was 14 years old, just one year older than Gianna Bryant, when he died.
“I remember the effect that had on the kids, on the community. It wasn’t a national story, but seeing someone that young just when the best times of your life… to be taken away is tough,” Maynard said. “Never question God, but it was an unfortunate situation.”
Maynard recalled when he was young, when University of Maryland first team All American Len Bias died two days after getting drafted by the Boston Celtics in 1986. Pratt will always remember where he was when Bias died, just as he will never forget what he was doing when word arrived about Bryant.
“We tend to believe tomorrow’s always guaranteed, but in this situation, it shines light that you’re never guaranteed to see the next five minutes," Maynard said.
New Town point guard Martaz Robinson knows his responsibilities as the Titans’ senior leader.
He needs to set the example and get teammates involved. And, sometimes, he has to take over a game.
That was the case Thursday night as the No. 7 Titans were struggling to shake off young Meade at the 24th annual Baltimore City Public Schools Basketball Academy at Morgan State’s Hill Field House.
With the score tied at 24 at halftime, Robinson, a three-year starter, scored nine of his team-high 19 points in the second half to help the Titans pull out a 58-52 win over the Mustangs.
After a season-opening loss to Edmondson, New Town has won six straight to improve to 6-1. The junior-laden Mustangs, with a new starting five and making their first appearance at the Academy, showed themselves well in falling to 4-6. Junior guard Delonte Johnson finished with a game-high 20 points.
A two-minute stretch early in the third quarter belonged to Robinson. His two free throws, a follow basket, a 3-pointer and a steal started an 11-0 run that put the Titans up for good.
“As a senior, I’m starting to understand that I have to take over the game to help my team," Robinson said. “So in the second half, I came out strong to set a tone because we wanted to win the game.”
The Titans have another senior in All-Metro forward Andrew Mills, who did his share in closing out the win in the fourth quarter after battling foul trouble early. After Johnson hit consecutive 3-pointers to start the fourth quarter and teammate Omar Beattie made a putback midway through the quarter, the Titans’ lead was cut to 48-45 with 4:37 to play.
Mills answered with a follow of his own at the other end and made two free throws to put the Titans back up 52-45. He finished with 14 points.
For Meade coach Mike Glick and his Mustangs, who have 12 juniors on the roster, this season is one for growth. Hanging tough against a ranked opponent showed that they grew plenty Thursday. Beattie finished with 10 points and Devin Barksdale had a strong first half to finish with eight points before fouling out.
“This got us better — that’s the purpose of coming here,” Glick said. “I was very happy with our intensity, and when we hit shots, we’re a much better team. [New Town is] an excellent team and I was very proud of our effort. I thought our kids competed.
“This is a tremendous opportunity. It’s great for us to get out of Anne Arundel County, see some different competition and everything the Academy entails academically — tremendous experience, and we’ll definitely be back.”
New Town returns to the Academy on Saturday to take on Henry Wise at 7 p.m.
Robinson said that the team heard talk after losing its first game, but the Titans weren’t listening.
“Everybody was doubting us and telling us how we weren’t going to be good this year, but I told my teammates that’s not just a loss, but it was a lesson,” he said. "After that, we’ve been coming out strong and finishing strong.”
M – Speight 6, Beattie 10, Barksdale 8, Brockington 6, Johnson 20, Cobb 2. Totals: 20 7-15 52
NT – Mills 14, Robinson 19, K. Johnson 8, Black 3, Carter 5, Sparrow 6, Marcano 3 Totals: 21 12-23 58
In his first season as head coach of the Meade High School basketball team last year, Mike Glick took a very young Mustangs team to the Class 4A East Region title game. This year, Glick is going to push his squad to go further.
“Our goal is to win the county and state championships, and that’ll remain our goal every year that I’m at Meade,” Glick said. “I think we have a team that can challenge in both those [areas].”
Meade High graduated its two top players from last year’s squad, Tre Dunn and Mazhi Thames, but didn’t lose anyone else.
Junior guard TJ Speight, who cemented himself as a vital piece to the team during his sophomore campaign, figures to lead the team.
“He’s become a much stronger player from taking part in football and going through [Meade varsity football] Coach [Mike] Francis’ workouts,” Glick said. “His shot is tremendously improved and he’s one of the best athletes in the county — just a tremendous athlete.”
Joining Speight are a couple of transfers — junior guard Delonte Johnson and sophomore forward Solomon Hillman, who are coming from Eleanor Roosevelt and Mount Carmel high schools, respectively.
Junior center Devin Barksdale is also returning to the basketball program after taking a year off.
“[Devin] is a very versatile big man who can score inside and out,” Glick said. “He’s a tremendous rebounder and space-eater.”
Glick is adding a couple of new faces to his coaching staff, too. Tommie Duvall, a local youth coach with over 20 years of experience, is joining the staff as a junior varsity assistant.
Francis, current head coach of the varsity football team and former basketball coach of county rival Old Mill, will join the varsity bench.
The cohesion between the football and basketball programs at Meade isn’t something that every high school boasts. This year, Glick’s squad will feature four players who played under Francis on the football team.
“At any public high school, everybody shares the assets,” Glick said. “So for us, it’s vital having a two-sport athlete. And with Coach Francis, I’m blessed to have him on our coaching staff. He’s been a great addition for us.
“We have a phenomenal working relationship where the players know that there’s no problem with them playing football and basketball.”
The Mustangs have Fort Meade representation this year with juniors Josh Bishop and Jaden Cobb.
Commenting on Josh, who started every game of the 2018-19 season, Glick said he personifies the son of a military family.
“He is the toughest kid in the program,” Glick said. “He’s the strongest kid in the program; he goes harder than anyone in the program; and he’s the most unselfish kid in the program.
“Josh will start for us all season. He’s a physical specimen.”
Josh’s parents — former Spc. Michelle Bishop and retired Maj. Todd Bishop — both served in the Army. His father actually served at Fort Meade, most recently with the 742nd Military Intelligence Battalion.
Jaden’s father, retired Marine Master Sgt. Sheldon Cobb, served at Fort Meade with the Marine Cryptologic Support Battalion.
“I hope they go out there and have a good time and enjoy themselves,” Cobb said. “I know they want to win, but at the end of the day, they’re kids.
“My wife and I support them every game. Here or there, we don’t care — we’re there to support them.”
New Playoff Format
One of the biggest changes coming to Maryland high school basketball this year is a new playoff format.
Once the postseason tournament is down to eight teams — the quarterfinals — the participants will be reseeded. They are reseeded once more for the semifinals.
It isn’t unheard of for two or more of the best teams in the state to come from the same region. In the old format, those teams would necessarily play each other in their regional bracket. The new format leaves open the possibility that those schools would face off deeper in the playoffs.
Regardless of what the postseason might hold, Glick is not getting ahead of himself. With the new playoff format, there’s even more reason to take every last regular-season game seriously.
“[If we succeed] it means that we are able to put the ball in the basket and score consistently,” Glick said, pointing out that the team’s identity ultimately lies in their defensive schemes. “For us, that’s what it’ll come down to. … We have three or four bigs who can rebound the basketball. We’re extremely athletic.
“Our focus is going to be putting the ball in the hole. We struggle when we don’t score.”
Glick’s efforts to coach up his team and push them further into the postseason is not lost on the team or their families either.
“[Glick can] bring out the best in any one of his players,” Todd Bishop said. “We’re very excited about watching. We have a team full of juniors, so we’re really looking forward to their progression this year.
“And we’re super excited about how much more they’ll get done next year with another year under their belt.”
To run off with its third victory of the still-young season, Meade waded through a thick, tangled vegetation that was the La Plata defense. That’s why they needed a machete.
Through play-setting and a team-high scoring total, junior TJ Speight guided the young hosts over the Warriors 59-48, in the Route 175 Classic tournament.
Speight (23 points) knew he’d inherit the Mustangs’ reins after seniors Mahzi Thames and Tre Dunn, who both regularly led Meade (3-3) at the basket, graduated.
Just one month into the season, Speight can see coherency of his somewhat inexperienced squad, beginning to take shape out of practice and on the court.
“We could be a way better team than we are. We’re real young, but we can learn,” he said. “We’ve got a lot of athletic people on the team.”
Speight lit the torch in the first quarter, hooking in a pair of layups that spurred Meade before La Plata could shake off its shooting cobwebs.
Surrounding the junior was a scoring effort from a committee of marionets, with Speight pulling the strings. Nearly every Mustang on the floor contributed to a ball in the basket, after Speight set the play.
Speight, who’d always been one to hit the gas if he could last winter, broke away from the Warriors at one beat too, zipping across the court, flipping a pass to junior forward Jaden Cobb, who dropped it in.
“He’s a leader that knows when to be positive and also when to get on people, and I’m really, really proud of the way he’s taken the leadership role,” Meade coach Mike Glick said of Speight. “He’s taken every team’s best shot. Every team’s geared around him, trying to stop him.”
A minute before the buzzer, the Mustangs padded up a 10-point advantage, but just before the second quarter, Meade’s primary antagonist rolled up onto the perimeter and drained his 3-pointer.
The Warriors’ Stalin Oaks set fires everywhere he ran with the ball in the second half, and it was difficult for Meade to douse them all in time. And while Oaks popped in a pair of layups, which he capped off with a steal and another 3-pointer, the Mustangs moved through La Plata’s defense like they were walking knee-deep in snow.
When someone’s coached as long as Glick has, it’s not wholly uncommon to run across former members of his coaching staff who, of course, know exactly how to run a zone against their former mentor’s offense. La Plata coach Spencer Way, who served for over a decade under Glick at Gwynn Park, qualified.
“It’s always tough when you’re coaching against one of your former assistants – he knows what you’re running better than my players know what they’re running,” Glick said. “He did a great job, for a very well-played game.”
Though the Mustangs managed two treys of their own before halftime, helping to maintain an eight-point lead as time expired, many of their would-be shots fizzled in the fray of La Plata guards, who rushed Meade shots, blocked attempted layups and monopolized rebounds.
“We had to do a better job of passing and not dribbling; I thought we were trying to dribble too much,” Glick said. “We also missed some really short shots that, if we were able to make some of those shots, it’s going in a different direction.”
With all of its early-third quarter action limited to the foul line, Meade turned to its leader to steer the ship back on course – especially as the center La Plata’s offense, Oaks, flung a pass to a teammate without even looking to close the gap to four points, and teammate Joseph Cottle shaved it down to just one with his own 3-pointer.
“They’re just trying to follow behind me, whatever I do. They follow me,” Speight said. “If I’m not a leader, everybody on the team’s gonna fall.”
Speight hurled in a layup to give Meade a little space to breathe on the scoring board, and then, stripped La Plata of its ball, hurtled up the entire court and dropped in another.
After Cottle tried to open another La Plata run with a bucket from beyond the arc, Speight nipped it in the bud with another field goal, which senior Meikhi Adams complimented with his own three-point shot.
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The Mustangs practiced navigating heavy coverage repeatedly in practice, putting something over the hoop to hinder their shots, training the players to box out more, amp up their aggressiveness.
Speight made sure that energy was put in action.
“We had to shade the zone to the shooters,” Speight said. “They had a couple shooters that could shoot. … Don’t let them shoot, because obviously, they were hitting. Everybody boxes out their man, one person runs out for a bunny layup.”
As Meade carved out more room to move in the paint offensively, it needed to handle La Plata’s hottest shooter, too, if it wanted to put enough space between them in the fourth quarter.
For that, it enlisted guards Josh Bishop and Nick Haylock.
The two smothered Oaks, limiting his action to a single layup and a trio of free throws.
“They’re our best two defenders on the team. Without them,” Speight trailed off. “They’re soldiers. That’s their role. They know how to shove people down. Whoever their best player, that’s who they’ve got.”
It didn’t hurt to pepper in some free points either. Speight pulled opportunities at the foul line like he’d dunked himself in glue; La Plata players just kept sticking to him, and fouling, giving the junior guard the chance to post seven points of what ended up becoming an 11-point margin by game’s end.
“I’m proud of the way we battled. We were resilient and we got better tonight,” Glick said. “Christmas is all about getting better. Our goal’s just to get better and better, and to try and play your best basketball in March.”
Meade’s winning season ends
Mustangs upset Patriots, but fall to Bruins in region final in home game March 13, 2019 Jack Chavez Education, News 0 Old Mill's Kyjuan Johnson tries to keep the ball away from Meade's Mazhi Thames as he reaches to steal the ball Wednesday night.The Meade Mustangs’ incredible run to the state 4A East Region final came to a halt with a 78-47 loss to the Broadneck Bruins on Friday, just two nights after upsetting the reigning county champion, the Old Mill Patriots.Though it was an abrupt ending for a team that had set its eyes on the state semifinals, its deep playoff run bucked the conventional expectations of how a young team will fare in the postseason.The loss caps the Mustangs’ record at 19-6, besting last year’s output by three wins — and they did it with just two seniors on the roster.“The way we lost doesn’t distract from our season,” coach Mike Glick said. “Broadneck played phenomenally. They were the better team and if they [continue to] shoot like that, it’s going to be hard for them to lose many games.”Meade’s run to the region final was the deepest it’s advanced since making it there two years ago.
The Mustangs advanced to the state championship in 2015 and 2016, winning it all in 2015.But to even get to the region title game, Meade first had to vanquish a formidable and familiar foe.Getting It DunnIt was Tre Dunn’s night.Meade’s Tre Dunn looks for an open teammate during Wednesday’s game against Old Mill.The senior forward scored 17 points, grabbed 15 rebounds and had eight blocks as Meade sunk Old Mill, 60-57, on March 6.Five weeks prior, Meade blew a halftime lead against the Patriots, due in part to a crucial technical foul against Dunn. It was the second such loss to its cross-county rival this year.That’s not how it played out in the third matchup.It wasn’t a strong start for Meade. Turnovers and clean looks that yielded no points forced the Mustangs into a 5-point hole after the first quarter.A bright spot during the quarter — and one for the whole game — was TJ Speight’s accuracy from downtown. Speight finished the game with five 3-pointers.Meade found its bearings in the second quarter with Dunn creating opportunities on defense.
They even held a 5-point lead before the Patriots surged back and took a 23-22 lead into halftime.Star senior guard Mazhi Thames had been held to just 3 points at that moment, but the Mustangs were determined to write a different ending.So they turned up the heat.Forward Omar Beatty came off the bench and created plays on both sides of the court. Thames came alive with a pair of crucial baskets. Old Mill still couldn’t contain Dunn. And Meade took a 39-34 lead into the fourth quarter.“I try to let them know, we’ve got to step up,” Speight said. “All our players need to step up because if we don’t [all] step up, we can’t win.”The starting five can’t win the game by themselves, Speight said.In the fourth quarter, Beattie, Thames and Dunn combined for 20 of the team’s 21 points before a dramatic finish.With 26 seconds remaining, the Mustangs led by 9 points before a pair of 3-pointers by Old Mill star Avion Robinson cut the lead to 3.Then, with just two seconds left, the Patriots stole an inbound pass from their baseline and a last-second, 3-point heave sailed off Robinsons’ fingers.It missed.And just like that, Meade avenged its prior defeats and sealed its date with Broadneck on Friday for the 4A East Region championship.Speight and Thames finished with 16 points apiece. Beatty contributed 11 points.Mustangs coach Mike Glick made a point to praise Beatty after the game.“Omar Beatty is a player who didn’t play for us for 10 straight games,” Glick said. “In the last two games, he has stepped up immensely and went from a guy who was not in the rotation to playing the whole second half.“He did a phenomenal job of finishing around the basket and playing good defense.”
The victory also marked the 500th career victory for the first-year Meade coach.Glick paused for a moment to reflect, saying that hitting the milestone was “surreal,” then quickly placed the focus back on his players.“Forget about everything with me personally,” Glick said. “To see where these kids have come from — and [how] they supported each other and cheered each other on — it’s the definition of a team. I just couldn’t be prouder.”Hitting The WallMeade simply didn’t have an answer for Broadneck’s aggressive style on Friday.Save for an 8-2 run halfway through the second quarter, the Mustangs struggled to string together any sort of success.“They hit shots,” Glick said. “We did not hit shots that we’ve hit most of the season. They shot the ball very, very well.“They’re a big team but I don’t think their size dominated us, per se. I think if anything, they’re an extremely experienced team who’ve played together [a while].”A raucous Broadneck home crowd certainly didn’t help. Glick acknowledged that challenge but said his team knew what to expect.“Broadneck has not been in this position many times and they’ve got great community support, the No. 1 seed and they definitely had a great home crowd, without question,” Glick said.“I just thought that it was a matter of we didn’t play well and Broadneck played exceptionally.”Speight led the Mustangs with 16 points and Beatty finished with 10 points.
Bright FutureFriday’s loss marked Meade’s farewell to senior co-captains Thames and Dunn. But looking ahead, Glick said there’s plenty to be excited about.Core players like Speight, Beatty and starting forward Josh Bishop are all sophomores, Glick pointed out. And the junior varsity team just finished at the top of its league.“I think our future is very, very bright,” Glick said. “We had a great season and I couldn’t have asked for more support from the families, players and administration in my first year.“I’m extremely proud of this team. I’m as proud of this team as any team I’ve coached. The fact that we got beat in the last game does not distract from what we just did.”