Victories in June do not translate into wins in the regular season, but the North Side boys basketball team's success over the last few weeks has coach Shabaz Khaliq feeling upbeat about the 2013-14 campaign.
The Redskins went 19-0 in several shootouts throughout June, including capturing the championship at the 84-team Tom Izzo Shootout at Michigan State two weeks ago.
“It is the best summer we have had since I have been here,” said Khaliq, who is heading into his fourth season with North Side. “We feel really good about where we were at.”
A year ago, the Redskins were using the summer to develop chemistry and understand roles within a roster packed with underclassmen. Trevion Crews was still learning the nuances of the point guard position while Sean McGee was growing into his body and maturing after his freshman campaign. Add in move-in Mike Davis and there was a lot to learn in June.
This year, four returning starters lead a seasoned group that captured the SAC championship last season.
“We approached June a lot different than last year,” Khaliq said. “We are a year older, goal-oriented and have approached it with a different mindset.”
Khaliq has used the summer to work on scenarios and situations that his team will likely find itself in next season. He has sat Crews and forced McGee to play the point guard spot, or benched top rebounder Oosha
Mitchell to see what his options are on the boards when the senior is out.
It has been a learning experience for both players and coaches.
“It is easy to see that we are a completely different team when Tre isn't in the game,” said Khaliq about Crews. “We need to figure out what everybody can do when different situations arise.”
One player who has stood out this summer has been senior Jeremy Jones, who came off the bench the majority of the time for the Redskins a year ago.
A pure shooter, Jones has improved other aspects of his game to put himself in position to be a big contributor next season.
Davis will move from the small forward spot to the power forward position next year and has gotten plenty of practice at that while banging with some top talent.
While there is plenty of experience on the North Side roster, Crews is still the key after averaging 13.4 points and 7.8 assists per game last season.
“Tre is essential for us to have the season we want to have,” Khaliq said. “The light bulb has gone off in that he realizes he is as good as we are making him out to be.”
An undefeated June will not mean much come late November when the regular season begins, but there will be dividends for the Redskins.
“What you can do is take the chemistry that has been built and the camaraderie and carry that over into the season,” Khaliq said. “We saw the things we wanted to see and what we wanted to work on.
“It was a tremendous summer.”