By Mark Kitchin
MOUNT OLIVE — After a year of running up and down the court and scoring at a furious pace, Mount Olive boys basketball may not be as aggressive in running its high octane system. However, the Marauders expect to be just as successful this season.
Mount Olive will not be employing all of the facets of the Grinnell System this year but that doesn’t mean it has abandoned the idea of fast-paced basketball. Mount Olive is altering its approach to find ways to better utilize the ability of its 6-foot-8 big man Zac Heeman.
“I just think that every year you have to reevaluate what you are doing as a philosophy,’’ Mount Olive coach Kevin Moore said. “Rather than try to fit players into my system, I’m going to adjust any system that we run to the kind of personnel that we have. I think we are pretty athletic but we don’t have that core group of shooters that we had last year. We are going to have to change some things up and become a little bit more defensive minded.’’
The size of Mount Olive’s Zac Heeman will allow the Marauders to tweak the system. (Photo by Mark Kitchin)
Last year, Mount Olive sported a 20-6 record, averaged 83 points a game and was a basket away from winning its first Morris County Tournament title. Much of it was due to the Grinnell System which emphasizes full-court pressure, subbing players in short shifts and firing 3-point shots at a dizzying pace.
Apart from team depth, the main reason for the change is Heeman, who has grown another inch from last year. Last season, Heeman rarely had to play more than 20 minutes a game with the system. The Marauder athlete gives his team a clear advantage in the low post and on the boards against most of their conference foes. Altering the system allows Heeman to be on the court longer and become more of both an offensive and defensive threat.
“Zac played football this year and we encouraged him to do that,’’ Moore said. “I think the football season naturally toughens guys up. He has started to realize just how strong he can be after a year on the football field. He’s a much more physical player. He tried to be a finesse player in the past, now he is much more physical and I think it is to his advantage.’’
The Marauders also return Rashaan Spencer, who has been bumped up to point guard and swing man Steven Leonardis. Although the system is being shelved on the varsity level this year, certain aspects of it will stay in the varsity playbook.
“We will still be fast paced,’’ Moore said. “We will still go up and down the floor but it won’t be so rigid in terms of what our goals are for each game.’’
Mount Olive Varsity Coach Kevin Moore believes in adjusting the system to fit his personnel. (Photo by Mark Kitchin)
Mount Olive has a young team with several sophomores and freshmen expected to play on the varsity level. The Marauders open up with Sparta and will be tested during the holidays by appearing in the Boardwalk Classic in Wildwood.
As for the Grinnell system, even though only its vestiges will be seen on varsity, Mount Olive’s interest in the fast-paced style of play is not going to fade any time soon.
“Were not giving up on it,’’ Moore said. “Our jayvees and our freshman will all be running the system in preparation for next year. I think we will re-institute it next year.’’