High School Season Begins!
Friday night took me to my first high school basketball game of the year, a holiday tournament matchup between Whitefish Bay (the team I really wanted to see) and Milwaukee North. Given the snowy weather in the metro Milwaukee area on Friday night, and the fact that the tournament was being hosted at University School, which is not exactly close to where I live, it wasn’t the easiest trip to make. But it takes more than a long trip in bad weather to keep my from high school basketball. Here’s the point-by-point recap”
1) Half the reason that I wanted to attend this tournament was to get my first look at Whitefish Bay, a team with three decent college prospects. The other big reason was that it would give me a chance to see the University School campus. The most expensive private school in the area, I figure on most occasions that someone like me would be turned away by guards at the doors, so I had to take my opportunity to get inside.
2) Speaking of expensive private schools, the choice of the four teams making up the tournament field seemed somewhat curious. You’ve got University School, and the Prairie School from Racine, both private prep schools with pricy tuition. Then there was Whitefish Bay, a public school from one of the most affluent communities in the area. And then there was Milwaukee North, a school located in one of the roughest areas of Milwaukee. If you’d asked me to come up with a four-team tournament field that juxtaposed differing social classes in the Milwaukee area, I can pretty much I would have come up at least two of these teams. It was a unique field to say the least.
3) An injury riddled Whitefish Bay team had a very short bench on Friday night. By my count, there were only eight players dressed and ready to play. Luckily for Bay, only one of their three anticipated stars was out of action for the evening.
4) I saw Whitefish Bay play once last year, and came away severely underwhelmed, after hearing about a couple of guys that were supposed to be big-time players. This game was 180 degrees different. Point guard Steve Gruber, who did nothing in the game I saw last season, had 20+ points, passed extremely well, and acted as an excellent floor leader. He was clearly the most impressive player on the floor Saturday night, though teammate Sherrod Smith was a close second. The leading scorer in the game, Smith appears to have spent some time in the weight room during the off season, and looks primed for a breakout year.
5) I must admit some surprise, as Milwaukee North, not traditionally a power in the Milwaukee City Conference, had some solid players, and could be a mid to high level finisher in its conference this year. Of course, the top 2-3 spots will always contain Milwaukee King and Milwaukee Vincent, but North may be able to hang in there with that next pack of teams this year.
6) The most fun sub-plot during the game was watching Bay’s Gruber battle it out with two Milwaukee North’s guards. Play was heated and physical, and all three players continually attempted to bring the referees’ attention to some of the physical play that they thought went too far. Perhaps the climax came when Gruber, holding the ball in protest to a turnover call, had the ball ripped from him by one of the North guards. To the credit of all of the players, this was one of those rare times when much-heightened emotion didn’t result in anyone losing their cool and committing a flagrant foul or starting a fight. Rather, it was just an exciting battle to watch.
7) Props to Milwaukee North’s coach, who had on a good looking casual shirt. If I could find a shirt like that, I’d buy it in a second.
8) Whitefish Bay, I was told by a nearby fan, was missing two starters, and was giving a freshman (whose name escapes me at the moment) significant playing time. Based on what I saw, even when the regulars return to the lineup the freshman should have a place in the rotation.
9) One of Milwaukee North’s assistant coaches sat on the end of the bench eating popcorn during the second half. It was pretty bizarre to see an assistant actually snacking on the bench. This act vaguely reminded me of a guy I knew in high school who used to warm the bench for his team, and in an effort to keep things fun, would attempt each game to eat a different item of food concealed in his warm-ups without his coach noticing. I still think the licorice rope was most impressive.
10) All in all, I was a fan of the University School gym. It actually contained two basketball courts laid end-to-end, and with a wall separating the two. Capacity wasn’t great, but it was comfortable, and well lit. It’s the kind of place I’d like to build on my land someday when I win the lottery.
And with the Whitefish Bay 80-68 win, I left the gym before the late game. I would have liked to have stuck around, but I was having some people over to my apartment, and needed to get home. Fortunately, my friend Peter was driving, and I didn’t have to mess around with the snow-covered freeway system. And with the things that have been going on with my car as of late, that’s probably a very good thing. Can’t wait to get to my next high school game...