Summer can feel like an incredibly long time for any boys basketball program and there's only so much variety a coaching staff can create within the exact same venue they train in each and every time out.
If the definition of insanity really is doing the same thing again and expecting different results than the only way to change that outcome is to add outside elements to the mix. After all, variety is definitely a welcomed aspect of training, but the expenses involved with attending shootouts and similiar events can be more than what many programs can afford.
That's why Mexico head coach Darren Pappas invited several schools over for two days of scrimmages that culminated Tuesday with a night of JV action that featured the Bulldogs, North Callaway and North Central Missouri Conference rival Moberly.
"We still have a lot a lot of things to do. A lot of things to work on defensively and offensively. Overall I'm pretty pleased with how we're doing as a group this summer. Guys are committed and getting in the gym," said Mexico head coach Darren Pappas. "They're working on their game and trying to understand the offensive and defensive game plans that we're trying to come up with. We're still figuring out our personell and where they're at abilty-wise and where we think they best fit."
On Monday for the initial night of scrimmages the lineup featured Mexico, North Callaway and Boonville. Because of the odd numbers the Mexico JV ended up playing the Thunderbirds, as well.
"On the first night I thought our guys played pretty well overall. Our younger guys also came in and played against the varsity, which was a good experience for them," Pappas said. "We also went to LaPlata on Monday and Tuesday and we went to Central Methodist University in Fayette on Thursday and Friday. At CMU on both days we played some really good games. We were in all the games both days. Overall it felt like the guys competed. We let some games get away from us."
One of the specific points of improvement Pappas pointed to for the Bulldogs regarding CMU was having the lead and letting it slip away. But, as he was quick to mention, that's what these events are for and this simply gives his team something to work on.
"We've got a pretty young group overall with only four seniors this year, so learning to control the basketball and take care of the basketball late in the game and in tough situations, that's something we can get better at," said Pappas. "This summer I just wanted to put in a little offense and see who could play and who could read defenses and things like that, but we haven't really touched the playbook from last year this summer. At this event I just want to see them compete on both ends of the floor."
North Callaway and Mexico might be on exact opposite ends of the spectrum because last season the Bulldogs were senior laden. The Thunderbirds are currently looking at a roster filled with upperclassmen and that theme definitely dominates their starting lineup. The flip side of all that experience is once its gone there's going to be a wealth of voids that need to be filled so even if this current class of JV develop without much attention or adulation, it absolutely needs to develop.
"Coach Pappas e-mailed me before the end of the school year and said he wanted to get some area schools and arrange some scrimmages. Basically play some games and wanted to know if we were interested and I said asbsolutely. This is a great chance for our guys to get a little more playing time," said North Callaway varsity boys basketball coach Matthias Miller. "This is pretty awesome and we're thankful coach Pappas invited us to come do this."
On the first night of these scrimmages in varsity competition North Callaway began the event against Mexico. The squad then faced Boonville in its second contest and finally the Thunderbird's played the Mexico JV because the fourth team that was scheduled to participate ended up cancelling.
"The night went really well. The kids played well. We had just come from a shootout in Eldon this past weekend, so we kind of built on that. We've been playing a lot of basketball the past week or so and we've been playing really well," Miller said. "It's been awesome. We had really an awesome week. Since last Monday our varsity has played 13 games, so we've been playing a whole lot, and one of the best ways to get ready for a varsity season is to just go play."
An aspect that's been playing out positively for Miller and his staff is that with so many veteran players on the roster it gives them the ability to expand the playbook. While they certainly don't want to overtink the situation, the familiarity the coaches have with these players is unique enough that if done correctly the opportunity to take advantage of specific skill sets is certainly a possibility.
"We've got a couple kids who've been starting for two or three years on varsity. We've got two other guys that this is their second or third year on varsity, so our top five or six guys have been on varsity for some time now and you say it and they go do it," said Miller. "Getting those guys who are new to varsity seeing the older guys, with the experience they have, they're just kind of falling into line and doing a great job. But definitely the guys who are new to varsity need reps against varsity competition."
The format for these scrimmages included 16 minute halves and a four minute halftime. On Tuesday in the initial scrimmage of the evening Mexico was leading North Callaway 17-6 at halftime, but had also outfouled their guests 10-1.
"We've been trying out some new things, seeing what works and what doesn't. When you try something against live varsity action you find out right way, and we've got some good experience doing that," said Miller. "I'm really liking how awesome our boys commitment has been this summer. We've had a lot of guys showing up to workouts, camps and shootouts. It's been great seeing their work ethic this summer."
As previously stated, this years JV for North Callaway is going to make up a big part of the depth of the varsity next year. Because these younger athletes will even challenge for starting roles with the Thunderbird's in 2018-19, their development on the court is just as key as their mental development because without the proper maturity level success will always be fleeting.
"That's what's awesome about doing this JV scrimmage. This will be the first team event our JV has done this summer, so it might be a little raw, but once again it's invaluable for them to get some court time," Miller said. "The experience they're going to get, you can't really simulate in a camp or practice. Going out here and playing live is exactly what they need."