By Mark Kitchin
HOPATCONG — Coaches always have mixed emotions about summer league basketball. Not everyone shows up for every game and lessons learned in a gym without air conditioning might easily be forgotten months later when the games count for real.
However, when Roxbury emerged as champion of the Hopatcong Summer League last week, the feeling was that the Gaels might have done a little more than sweated out a 47-46 victory over West Morris. Some seeds for future success may have been sown.
“You try to give them some playing time, some experience,” Roxbury coach Jon Deeb said of his summer league players. “You try to get to know a little bit more about your team as a coach. You try to get them playing in pressure situations. We were able to do well in the tournament this week and play in the playoffs and play in some tight spots because those things will pay off next year.”
While watching the Gaels compete, it’s easy to see where Roxbury might find its strength. Doug Alexander had a fine tournament overall and should emerge as one of the better forwards returning to the area for a senior season.
“Doug has gotten better on varsity every year,” Deeb said. “He’s experienced, he’s matured and he has improved every year as a player.”
Alexander was tireless especially on the offensive end, setting screens in the low post then often popping out to get the ball himself and driving to the basket for a score or to draw a foul or both. He seemed to think the games were worthwhile.
“This is a great time,” Alexander said. “Thirteen games in seven days. It’s tiring but it is definitely an experience and it definitely helps us out. … It gets (the new kids) up to pace. They get to see how fast it is on varsity. They stepped up. They did a great job of getting with it and helping out.”
It’s also a good time to develop a winning attitude, something several of the HSL tournament teams have struggled with the last few seasons.
“It’s always important to win,” Alexander said. “It’s a great learning experience to step up and play how we are supposed to at the end of games. It’s going to help us out in the season going into the winter.”
Roxbury emerged with a 47-46 win in a hard fought Hopatcong Summer League final last week. (PHoto by Mark Kitchin)
It might also be important to a player like Anthony McMyne. The Roxbury athlete is going into his second season as the team’s point guard. He was pivotal late in the championship game, sinking a pair of buckets in the final seconds to cap the team’s 11-0 run and give the Gaels the victory.
“Anthony does a great job for us,” Alexander said. “He definitely pushes the pace and finds us all. He has a great shot that he’s getting a lot better at. … I think he will see the patterns more. I think he’s been doing a great job of finding us and knowing what to do and finding everybody. He’s stepped up a lot.”
There’s no immediate reward for winning a summer league title except maybe a pat on the back and a greater chance of spending more of the summer at the pool or down the shore. However, down the road some of the lessons learned may indeed bring tangible benefits. Teams like Roxbury believe it will.
“It’s better to be here and win or lose than not be here today,” Deeb said. “There was a little bit of pressure. There was a little noise in the gym. It’s fun and it gets you ready for those spots next year.”