With the NCAA Live recruiting period ending 2 weeks ago, the focus has shifted back to high school. With that comes summer high school basketball tournaments, team camps, and leagues. The Pride will be deeply involved in June’s summer ball circuit, and since taking over at MP, Coach Eason has made the off-season a priority. “When I first took over, I couldn’t understand why coaches wouldn’t take advantage of “year around” practice, says Coach Eason. “You win championships in February during the off-season. That’s where you get bigger, stronger, faster, and skilled.” Hard to argue with the Region Coach of the Year, who took MP to the 6A state final in his first year.
Much different than other high schools, the team has been back to work since after spring break. “I forgot about Pinnacle and the 6A final as I drove away from ASU.” Eason explains. “You can’t get the game back, so it was time to focus on next year; getting the new guys ready and the returners better.” The team has been doing position workouts since the end of March until May. This past week was the first week of structured team stuff. “It gets alittle messy because you have guys that got cut working out, so they struggle with the pace, intensity and system,” Coach Eason said. He wants the team chemistry to develop in and build that winning mindset. “Where i’m from losing is never acceptable. I laugh when I hear coaches say the summer doesn’t mean anything. Coach Eason responds. “I’ve never seen a team go 0-20 in the summer and 20-0 in the winter. We want to win 6A, and that’s starts with winning in the summer.
The Pride can attest to their’s coach’s mindset. Last June they made it to the finals in both the ACU Team Camp (Lost to Mesa) and GCU Team Camp (Beat Mesa), but lost in the final four at ASU Team Camp to DV. “We use June to get better,” junior Jalen Graham says. With 5 players graduated from this year’s team, every player is looking to improve themselves. “We see it as a chance to prepare for the season.” Junior Jonah LaBranche says.
Players like LaBranche, and fellow juniors Rashaan Toombs and Kurt Duecker, sophomores TJ Tigler, Daevin Celaya, Miles Sulka, and Nate Ward, and freshmen Noah Simmons, Jason Kimbrough, and Zereou Williams will be looking to use June as a chance to get on the varsity team. “These guys have a great opportunity,” asst. Coach Fauske explains. “We went undefeated on JV, and Coach Fauske did a good job preparing them mentally for what I want.” Coach Eason added.
On the other hand, player like point guard Khalid Price, Graham, and forward DeAndre Henry will look to develop as leaders, as well raise their stock. “It’s important that these guys show the new guys how to do things right.” Coach Eason responds. “Coach expects me to step up and be leader, and i’m going to do that.” Price comments. Price was an All-Region selection, and was the clear cut best player on the floor for the Pride in the 6A championship game. He’s been a true leader thus far this off-season, by leading the drills, talking to guys off the court, and holding himself accountable. With “Dre” (DeAndre Henry) full time (stepped away from football) and Graham going at each day in the gym, the returners should be as good as any 3 in the state.
It’s clear Coach Eason has a different approach to the summer than most, and he’s gotten result and buy in from the players. “We’re going to be better than last year,” De’Anfre Henry points out. It’s those words from the players that let you know that the time has come to get ready for the winter.
The Pride summer schedule can be found on their team pages.