Ok so once again a long overdue post. My time is extremely occupied with hoops – different trainings and games with all the different teams I coach/help coach so I haven’t really had the chance to do many blog posts over the last few weeks. So here is a recap of an exciting couple weeks with St. Oren’s Basket.
First is my U15 team. Unfortunately we’ve had a rough couple weeks. The U15’s are more or less my main team or the team that I coach on my own. We are playing at the Regional Top 10 level, which Philippe recently informed me is kind of like the equivalent of the Pre-National level that our women’s team plays at. Which was kind of a confidence booster for me, realizing that my guys are playing at a pretty high level. That being said, they’ve been having a pretty good season despite a losing record. They’ve shown incredible progress thus far against quality opponents and overcoming adversity in the form of injuries and occasional missing players. The last two weeks we lost to Moissac and Tournefeuille by 13 and 7 points, respectively. The biggest positive against Moissac was that we played easily our best quarter of basketball all season. It was a genuine pleasure seeing the boys play like they did, as well as important for them to see how they are capable of playing. Not only that, but we were playing without our two big guys (also two of our best players – due to one being on family vacation and the other, who endured a season-ending injury the previous week). Unfortunately, we didn’t play particularly well the other 3 quarters which led to the 13 point loss. As far as the game last week against Tournefeuille, we played 3 good quarters of basketball, going into the 4th with the lead. However, we folded in the 4th with a ton of turnovers and only managed to score 1 point in that last quarter. What I’ve been trying to explain to the boys are two main things. 1. Turnovers kill us. We need to value the basketball. As Coach McFadden, my old high school coach, always said “A turnover is a 4 point play- the 2 points we don’t get and the 2 points they do get.” 2. We need to play a complete game of basketball. Quite often we’ll play well for a quarter or two or three but we can’t put together a full game, whether its a slow start, or in this case, peaking too early and crashing in the end. Hopefully, we’ll be able to put together two full games to close out the season with two winnable games remaining.
Nonetheless, the boys continue to work hard and each training is an improvement. There is a ton of progress and the boys are not in the slightest bit discouraged. They see a little bit more potential each game and that’s what has been driving their work ethic in training.
-Some of the boys who stay after to work on their strength after each training
-Now this is something that I LOVE! My captain, Simon, taking his teammate, Jeremy, to the side to help explain/correct something to Jeremy. That kind of leadership is why he is Captain.
My U13 girls team has had a FANTASTIC couple weeks! Two weeks ago they beat the number 2 team to take over second place in their league. Then this past week they won by 1 point over the first place team to remain in second and realize their full potential as a team. They can beat anyone in the league! Their progress throughout the season has been incredible and they continue to work hard which is promising. The problem is that despite having them twice a week for training, I often don’t get to see them play as I’ll have to be elsewhere for my U15’s games.
The U13 boys team has also been on a roll over the last few weeks. I am not really the coach of this team but I help with a lot of the trainings, especially because their head coach, Celine, is a cop in Toulouse and sometimes has to work. So I still consider them my team as I work with the boys week in and week out. They are in first place in their league, playing in Regional Top 16, like my U15s. Just this past week, they pulled out an awesome 3 point win to remain in first.
Now, onto the senior teams. First, our senior women’s pre-national team. Philippe is the head coach and I am his assistant. The ladies have struggled a good bit this season, much like my U15s, having games where they play excellent basketball, but only for a portion of the game and not all 4 quarters, which leads to some losses around the margin of 10 points. Losses like that are extremely frustrating because you can look back on the match and think of just a few things we could have done better that would have resulted in us winning the game. Nonetheless, at the moment, the women are fighting to remain at the Pre-National level for next year. As such, they have risen to the occasion and won 2 straight games for the first time all season! Last week we won by 7 at home against Caussade. This past weekend, with only 6 players, we traveled two hours to Pradines where we were able to pull out a gutsy 5 point win. We were trailing for the majority of the game and by 10 points at half. However, in this type of game, they slowly progressed throughout the game, peaking in the 4th quarter resulting in an awesome victory. You should have seen the girls celebrate after the win. It was like we just won a championship! I was so happy for them as well as for Philippe!
After the game, we came back to Toulouse and they insisted that I come with them to Chez TonTon, apparently one of the most famous bars in Toulouse (the oldest bar in Toulouse maybe? I don’t know). But needless to say, I was pumped from the win too, so let’s go. Members of our women’s second team, who are in first place in their league, also came to meet us, who had just pulled out their own gutsy win at home by 1 point against the second place team to remain in first. Overall, a great weekend for our women’s side of the program.
-“On a besoin de trente bieres et trente Ricard.” We need thirty beers and thirty Ricard. The first thing one of our players asked for when we grabbed a table.
It was a SOLID Sunday Funday in Toulouse. And by the way, the women’s team plays on Sundays. So three weeks ago before our first win of the current 2-game win streak, they all went out on Friday night after training. Then we won on Sunday. So naturally, last week, they went out Friday after training, figuring that was the key to our success. Sure enough, we won again. So you better believe they’ll be going out again this Friday. And Manue, the women’s captain said if we win this Sunday, they’re taking the entire week off to drink! Our women know how to have a good time!
Ok. Now onto my team as a player. To be honest, I have no idea if we’re in second or third place right now. Some people say second, other people say third. I don’t know. It’s got something to do with points and penalty points and a whole bunch of garbage. I don’t really care. If we have a game, I’m playing to win. So I’ll start with this past weekend’s game then go to the game a couple weeks ago. This past weekend we played Quint-Fonsegrives, who is in last place in our league. We took care of business with a solid 32 point win and my boy Manu having a monster game knocking down 7 3’s. After the game I had everyone back to my place for some drinks and the NCAA Final Four. It was a solid night.
A few weeks ago, we had a bit more challenging game. We played Lardenne, who is the first place team in our league. They are an extremely good team with one of the best players in the league, Ousmane Niang. Ousmane, I believe played as high as Pro B in France, which is like just below NBA level players. He’s at the tail-end of his career now which is why he’s playing at this level, but he’s still an outstanding basketball player. He is also one of the nicest guys I’ve met in Toulouse. I should mention that he is actually the reason I am allowed to play basketball for St. Oren’s. Let me tell you why. So before the season, he trained with us a few times, as he was unsure of where he was going to play this season. He ended up going to Lardenne. OK. About half the season goes by and we play Lardenne. At the time, I didn’t have my French license yet. At halftime, he gave me a look like “WHAT? Why aren’t you playing yet?” After the game (which they won by 12 I think) he spoke with me and my coach Fabien. He was asking about my situation here and told me a little about his situation when he came here several years ago from Africa. He told me he had similar issues when trying to get his license. He ended up telling me that the paper I had from immigration was good enough to ask for the French license, and then it was literally 3 days after talking to him that I had my license and could play. Now, after our conversation I warned him, “Be careful about helping me, because if we play you next time and I can play and we win, you realize it’ll be your fault.” To which he responded with a good natured smile and a laugh.
So fast forward a few months and here we are hosting Lardenne at home. Everybody knew this would be a big game for us. That’s also why they made this evening a special one where they invited all the sponsors and partners to come cheer us on. Also, we had a presentation with the U13 boys players before the game, very similar to my first game when we had a presentation with our U13 girls team.
-Had to bring the little guys into the huddle..they’re in there somewhere!
We started off the game slow, leading to us being down at halftime but not before yours truly hit a 3 just as time was expiring before we headed into the locker room. However, we came back real strong in the second half behind some strong inside play from Jean-Ma, who had his hands full all game with Ousmane, and finished with 18 points. Also, Magnus, one of our 3-4 position players played extremely well scoring the majority of his 19 points in the second half. We ended up taking the lead and were holding onto about a 3 or 4 point lead with just under 2 minutes to play. At this point they began fouling. As the point guard, I had the ball in my hands a lot, so naturally I went to the line. I ended up going 6 for 8 from the line, as well as Magnus knocking down some big foul shots to help seal the deal for us. We pulled out a fantastic 79-71 win in front of a great crowd. I wish I could give you a more descriptive recap of the game but frankly at this point I’m tired of writing and the game is actually a blur to me. So I’ll round out the post with a bunch of photos from the game, courtesy of Pitch, one of our women’s players.
-Tipoff- Jean-Ma going up against Ousmane
-You can’t guard me son HA
-Our U13’s enjoying the game
-Great defense from Manu. Unfortunately, I think this dude made the shot right in his face. They started the game with some hot shooting.
-Jean-Ma with the fadeaway
-Look at the elevation on the jumpshot (I actually missed this though..Damn!)
-Kids having some fun during a timeout
-Our awesome crowd
-And here’s Kevin, who plays with our men’s second team and also coaches the U17 boys team (and who also bought me my first Guinness in France). He had to serve beers at the game as part of his punishment for getting 29082354892305 technicals fouls this season. I think his process for serving the beers was, serve a beer, drink a beer, serve a beer, drink a beer. HAHA! Just playing Kev!!
-Benoit gettin buckets
-Good shot Manu…nope
-Jerome, one of our veterans and an extremely experienced player who also played a really high level in France, running the show.
-Magnus talking to the refs. This is a rare sight (soaked in sarcasm).
-Get off me
-Me talking to Jean-Ma, getting hyped after a big defensive rebound followed by a foul that sent him to the line. Am I really that short? Maybe. But is he also really that tall? Yes.
-Knocking down some late free throws that would make my grandfather proud who always said “Free throws, free throws, free throws.”
-Not sure what’s going on here but the kids are having fun.
-Thanking the crowd after the game
It was a great evening for St.Oren’s Basket and I am absolutely honored to have been a part of it. As a joke after the game I told Ousmane “I told you not to help me!” Once again, he was a good sport about it and I thanked him again for helping me to be able to play. It is greatly appreciated.
Needless to say some of us went out to celebrate the big win that night. Here are some of us after a an awesome night out. Yes it’s broad daylight. It’s about 830 am here. Nights out in France last a long time!!