Thursday, January 22, 2015

Tallahassee's Escobar Adapting To Point At Elev8

Driven by a Godly way of life and plenty of older influences, Elev8 guard JT Escobar conducts himself with a maturity level beyond most 18-year-old student-athletes.

 Escobar understands the value of relentlessness, having routinely made the five-minute trek from his Tallahassee home to watch Florida State's long, daunting practices.

Training with former Florida State guard Adrien Crawford, who doubles as his life coach, Escobar has devoured a wealth of knowledge both on and off the floor.

He considers Crawford a brotherly presence and credits him for instilling balance and perspective into his life.

Crawford, a captain during the Steve Robinson era at FSU and currently a pastor, has nurtured Escobar's development since he was 10.

When Escobar started to thrive as a hard-driving, score-first underclassmen guard, Crawford began applying unique new methods to cultivate his prodigious young talent.

 He would frequently take him to work out with program greats such as Al Thornton, demanding Thornton not take the 6-foot-2 180-pound guard lightly in drills.

Escobar's beyond his years acumen continued to grow, as he jumped into pickup runs against former hot-shooting FSU guard Micheal Snaer and Ian Miller, a freakishly athletic point guard with a knack for attacking the rim.

"Since I've been in middle school I've been playing against (Florida State) guys," Escobar said.

"Adrien would take me to watch them practice and show me how hard they practice. Being exposed to that was great because I always knew I wanted to play in college."

Escobar's inconsistent 3-point shooting during his freshman year forced him to tear into the driving lanes more and slash a habit of settling.

Becoming more crafty off the dribble, Escobar's scoring engine blossomed.

Constantly in full throttle attack mode, Escobar shot 10 free throws per game while averaging 30 points at FAMU High.

 That 3-point shot became more dependable, as he morphed into one of the state's most explosive scoring threats.

His pull-up game and penchant for left handed floaters expanded his scoring package, as he eclipsed 2,000 career points.

Back to the future.

At Elev8, Escobar is not only the engineer of Chad Meyers' offense, he's a vocal presence on which the team feeds.

The 18-year-old post-grad is understanding the value of time management in sun-soaked Delray Beach, Fla., a barometer for life on the next level.

Though he's roughly two miles from the ocean and there are distractions abound, Escobar's focus has not faltered.

"It's awesome but it's also a sacrifice," said Escobar, an Ole Miss-commit bordered by an assortment of Division-I talent such as wing Kobe Eubanks, high-riser Jamaal Gregory, and man-child Rhode Island-commit LeRoy Butts.

"You're in the middle of paradise. People are asking me what I'm doing and how I'm spending my time, but you really don't have much time. You have to be smart with your time and spend it training. We're always ready to go. In the afternoons my teammates and I will lift and get shots up. We're only here for a certain amount of time. We have to take advantage of the tools and coaches we have here. I can't imagine myself being anywhere else in the country."

Among those coaches is NBA skill development guru Ganon Baker.

 One of the more well known basketball DVD personalities around, Baker's personal skill factory focus has helped mold Escobar into more of a creator.

 Those thirty minutes to an hour of practice devoted to skill work and dissecting different reads, Escobar says, has enhanced his basketball IQ.

"I've just learned to play the point primarily," said Escobar.

 "I know the spots where everyone feels comfortable. My job is to get them involved. Our goal from Day 1 is to win a national championship. It's a day-to-day commitment. You have to practice every day like you're playing the national championship that day."

The transition to sun-baked South Florida has allowed for Escobar to work with less weight on his shoulders.

 Having seized a monstrous green light the past two seasons, Escobar has adapted to taking less shots and putting more energy into spacing, timing, and understanding areas of the floor where his teammates operate best.

Though he's still capable of a 40+ explosion should he catch the hot hand, Escobar isn't required to average 35+ each tournament or account for 65-70 percent of his team's offense. Those gaudy numbers and weighty offensive burden rendered Escobar  a schoolboy prodigy on the other side of the state.

His top priority now, Escobar said, is sustaining the defensive aggression through two full halves of basketball.

"A lot of times we'll play great defense and then we'll just stop," Escobar said. "We like to play full court and uptempo. When you do that you have to make sure you don't gamble too much defensively."

It's certainly not a gamble Elev8 can afford.

With a 15-2 record, Escobar and teammates are cognizant that there's a price tag on their head.

 Escobar grew up enamored with the perennial mystique and national prominence of Oak Hill Academy (Va.), the basketball breeding house which has churned out the likes of Carmelo Anthony, Josh Smith, and Rajon Rondo.

And so a signature victory over Oak Hill last month has bolstered his team's confidence to a higher plateau.

"The biggest thing the Oak Hill game did for us is allowed us to see that we can really play with anyone. If we can play like we're supposed to play, we can beat everyone in the country."

Though Escobar envisions playing uptempo at Ole Miss, Crawford has helped him shred out of control tendencies.

Trading the adrenaline for know-how has helped pave Escobar's metamorphosis into a suddenly pass-happy guard.

One aspect Crawford constantly emphasized, Escobar recalls, was sidestepping lackluster competition and plying his trade on a grander scale.

Now a role player in a sea of mid to high-major talent, Escobar said the experience has prepared him for the grind next season.

"It's different from being a primary scorer to becoming a secondary scorer," said Escobar.

"It's definitely a different atmosphere and great for preparation, because the higher levels you go everyone is just going to keep getting better and better."

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Eubanks' Eruption Lifts Elev8 In Ballin' At The Beach

Attacking the rim with both hands, investing more energy into his defensive game, and levitating above the rim more than ever, Elev8's Kobe Eubanks has become one of the nation's most hotly pursued recruits.

A man-child 6-foot-5 wing, Eubanks has the body of a Big East recruit and the stroke of a kickout shooter.

 Scoring 37 points on a full arsenal of hard drives, shots from well beyond the arc and acrobatic finishes through traffic, Eubanks piloted Elev8 to a thorough 112-87 thrashing of FCI in Friday night's Ballin' At The Beach tournament.

Oregon, Missouri, Kansas, UCLA, Providence, Minnesota, Maryland, Louisville, UConn and myriad others have expressed an uptick of interest in the Fort Lauderdale native.

"There's Oregon, Missouri's still showing a lot of love, Louisville's been loving it, Michigan just jumped in," said Eubanks.

"I spoke a few words with Texas recently. I'm just taking it day by day."

Eubanks' emergence as an adept scorer has paralleled 14-2 Elev8's ascension of the national mountain.

He's playing with less flair and more focus.

On Friday, it wasn't difficult to see the threat Eubanks poses for defenses.

"If they put a smaller defender on him, he can go to the block and score. With his range, you can't put a big on him because he can step out and stretch the floor," Elev8 head coach Chad Meyers explained.

"I think he's a major mismatch problem. Everybody wants to know at the next level if he's a two or a three. I think he's just a player. He's a wing. He can score on all different levels."

That much was evident in the first half.

Getting to the rim with ease and spreading the floor out, Eubanks scored 25 of his team's first 37 points.

 Elev8 broke a 16-16 deadlock with an 11-0 surge, capped off by a 3-pointer from Nick Rogers.

High-rising Jamall Gregory (Maryland, VCU, South Florida) set the tone defensively, registering a pair of loud blocks at the rim.

Ole Miss-bound guard JT Escobar facilitated the souped-up attack and Radford-signee Caleb Tanner drained 4-for-5 from beyond the arc in under 12 minutes.

"I think the zone lights our guys' eyes up," Meyers said.

"I'm selfish but I think maybe we have one of the best shooting teams in the country."

Elev8's ability to accelerate the transition game and jump out on the break overcame some early defensive lapses which kept FCI hanging around.

 They built an insurmountable lead at the start of the second half, after Escobar splashed a straight-away 3-pointer.

Helping nurture Eubanks' development has been fellow Fort Lauderdale native and Milwaukee Bucks guard Brandon Knight.

"Oh, we used to go at it in the gym," said Eubanks, recalling his deep and detailed training sessions with Knight, during which they were constantly trying to one up each other.

"He'd lift a certain weight and I'd try to match it. It's a competition. We got out on the football field, ran sprints and just pushed each other. Brandon's obviously doing great right now and that motivates me because I've got to get to that same position."

Witnessing the 'never settle' mentality of Knight, Eubanks said, helped ingrain a new work ethic in him.

"Even though he's making money and playing in the NBA and that's his dream, no matter how much he produces he's still working very hard," Eubanks said of Knight.

"He comes out there and gives everything. He just taught me about getting better and preparing yourself for the next level."

While decommiting from Baylor and the controversy which followed was a patience-taxing experience, Eubanks said it helped him understand the power of resilience.

"Windows always close, you just have to wait for another to open up," Eubanks said.

"Opportunities open up here and there, it's up to you to take it. I just never gave up. I've got to keep pushing myself."

Spending extra time in the gym and launching shots for hours, coupled with workouts with Elev8's Cody Toppert and NBA skill development guru Ganon Baker has made Eubanks more multi-layered.

 He said he's been playing more instinctively and looking to create offense more, locating the best possible shot.

How coachable is this kid?

"He's a sponge," Meyers said.

"He wants to listen. He wants to be good. We were on him earlier about playing harder and tonight he was flying around getting rebounds. He's definitely a high-major guy. There's no doubt. How he progresses every day in the next couple of years will likely determine if he's got a chance to make money playing basketball. I don't think that's a bias take at all."

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Uno En Uno With: Jamall Gregory, Elev8 Basketball

How prodigious is the vertical leap on Elev8's Jamall Gregory?

 The 6-foot-4, 180-pound high-riser finishes in ways only rarified athletes can even simulate at this level.

While clearing five teammates on an extravagant dunk and plucking a 3-point attempt at point blank range renders Gregory Youtube Sensation-eligible, his unbridled defensive energy and scoring acumen makes him appealing to Division-I coaches.

Maryland, VCU, and South Florida have expressed interest in Gregory, who emerged into a double-double threat at Coolidge (D.C.).

 At Elev8, Gregory finds himself flanked by more talent.

 Hunting for his shot less and creating off the dribble more, he's found his niche as an energizer and multi-layered weapon.

 Scoring via putbacks and providing the interior manpower as effectively as he infuses coach Cody Toppert's offense with freakish displays of athleticism, Gregory's killer instinct has grown since trekking to sun-splashed Delray Beach, Fla.

 Gregory attributes the unrivaled hops to constantly riding a bike alongside his little brother as a young kid, gaining the leg strength ahead of the game.

Now, Gregory's deceptive and unparalleled  athleticism allows him to convert turnovers into points at a furious pace.

His defensive aggression has become a stabilizing force guiding the 13-2 squad, which kicked off the season with a win over Oak Hill Academy.

The intensity and drive of skill development guru Ganon Baker, who has trained household NBA names such as Lebron James, Kobe Bryant, and Amare Stoudemire, has allowed Gregory's awareness to grow.

Under Toppert, a deep 3-point trigger man at Cornell in his heyday, Gregory has the freedom to attack with a variety.

 He no longer shoulders the burden of knifing through intensified pressure and double and triple teams. Gregory has been working diligently to develop a 15-18 foot jumper, along with a beyond-the-arc game.

Elev8 is slated to host tomorrow's Ballin At The Beach Showcase, which will include 41 Division-I players and traditional prep breeding houses across the South East Coast.

The event starts at 3:30 PM tomorrow, at the Village Academy on 400 SW 12th Ave in Delray Beach, Fla.

Gregory On His Role

At Elev8, I don't have to score on every possession. I can relax and do other things across the court. I have a bunch of different weapons that I can use. 

My teammates are reliable, they can knock down big shots. In Coach Cody's offense, I like to get to the basket. 

We like to press up, which allows us to get fast breaks. 

On His Teammates

We all get along, we have great chemistry on the court and off it. It's really a college environment, being on campus. 

On His Influences

I looked up to my brother, he played all the time and really got me into basketball. My uncle Dwayne, he played football, and I looked up to him as well.

 I played every sport as a young kid so I really looked up to those two for support.

 We played a lot of playground basketball at Upshur Recreation Center. It's in uptown, Northwest D.C, where I'm from. That's where it all really started for me.

 I've gotten better in the WATTS League, it's like a grown men's summer league. 

On Team Focus

Tomorrow in the Ballin' At The Beach tournament, we're just looking to come out and play hard from the jump and not let anyone get the jump on us.

 We've got to set the tone and play our tempo of basketball. If we do that, we should get a W each day. 

Friday, January 9, 2015

Versatility, Scoring Pace Of Haldane's Hoffman Is Rather Familiar


Scoring-wise and leadership wise, Haldane senior guard/forward Peter Hoffman's role is jarringly similar to former Blue Devil Jackson Zuvic.

Zuvic, a 1,000+ point scorer and like Hoffman a four-year varsity player, etched his legacy with a clutch County Center performance.

It was Zuvic's memorable, buzzer-beating short corner jumper from behind the glass that lifted Haldane to a dizzying Sectional semifinal win over Lincoln Hall back in 2011.

Zuvic now plays at SUNY Oneonta, bordered by Section 1 products and sharpshooters such as JFK's Frankie Kelly and Brewster's Jack Dignan.

 Hoffman is currently one shy of the 1,000-point milestone, following a 30-point showing during a 72-45 win over North Salem.

 Since running the point as a callow freshman thrust into meaningful varsity minutes, Hoffman's path has been akin to Zuvic's.

Though slightly shorter and a bit more athletic than the 6-foot-7 Zuvic, the notes and descriptions once synonymous with Hoffman's game are essentially the same as Zuvic's:

Small-school savior. Capable of going off for 30-40 any given night. Multi-sport athlete. Basketball family. Underrated. Shouldering the burden of leader. Drawing double teams. Go-to-guy in crunch time. Must avoid foul trouble. Carrying a lot of weight on his shoulders. Division-III player, Division-I athleticism.

"They both played at elite levels," said Haldane head coach and homegrown product Joe Virgadamo.

"Peter, like Jackson, has progressively gotten better up until his senior year. Their handle. Their moves. Playing with more confidence. They both know that when push comes to shove, they've got to take the key shot at the crucial time."

The senior learned that late in the Blue Devils New York State/Class C regional semifinal last season, in which they outlasted S.S. Seward 61-54.

"We were in a timeout and I basically turned to Peter and said, "you got us here. You've got to get us out with a win. We're practicing tomorrow," Virgadamo recalls.

Hoffman looked physically and mentally drained at that point.

The wear and tear of fighting for his shot amid increased pressure while constantly guarding the opposing team's best player had caught up to him.

Immediately after the timeout, Hoffman drove into traffic for a lefty layup. Then he splashed a 15-foot jumper with a Seward defender aggressively face-guarding him.

"He scored about seven points in a row and just completely changed the game," Virgadamo recalled.

"They went on a run to cut it to be about three, from what I remember. He just took it back about to about an 8-9 point lead. The momentum just swung our way."

As was the case with Zuvic, Virgadamo has the freedom to play Hoffman at all five positions.

He's capable of handling the ball and orchestrating offense, his role when he transitioned from Garrison's modified to Haldane's varsity to replace pass-happy veteran point guard Jimmy Meekins.

 It was Meekins, who graduated prior to Hoffman's arrival, who kicked it to Zuvic for that aforementioned short-range buzzer-beater.

He's a post up threat. He now takes advantage of a two-guard or smaller defender draping him, bullying him inside on a four-out, one-in.

Hoffman is a stretch four type, a passing big man with a dependable shooting touch from mid-range and deep. Facing box-and-one coverage and amped up pressure, he's still been putting up high-20s and 30-point performances.

This summer, Hoffman got a chance to showcase his vertical leap in the dunk contest at the BCANY Summer Hoops Festival.

Virgadamo helped pilot Haldane to Section 1 championships in 1999 and 2001 as a rugged guard. He's a Blue Devil through and through.

With all the perennial mystique surrounding the potent girls program, Virgadamo has helped yield the boys basketball seed in the tiny, antique store-laced town of Cold Spring.

The supporting cast, like last year, has been critical.

 Edmun Fitzgerald, a 6-foot-5 senior, 6-foot-4 Garret Quigley, and 6-foot-3 Miguel Torigibio have provided size and can turn in double-digit scoring every night. Guards Ryan McCullom and junior Will Zuvic--Jackson's younger brother--have been instrumental in getting the ball to Hoffman and stretching out the floor.

"He's dangerous," Virgadamo said of Will Zuvic.

 "He's one of our best shooters, along with Peter. He's another guy who can post up, hit the three. He's been a problem for a lot of teams this year. When you have guards like Tucker Beachek, you can get Peter on the wing."

The year-round work ethic and constant desire to get better has allowed Hoffman to put up the type of numbers he has. Virgadamo said the time that Hoffman has put in and the way in which teammates gravitate to him has been like few others he's had at Haldane.

It also makes him a reliable crunch time deliverer, the kid they'll feature down the stretch.

"Peter needs to get a touch, if not every possession, every other and especially in key situations," Virgadamo said.

 "If guys are struggling, Peter does what he has to do. He showed that against Clark. When a lot of guys struggled, Peter dropped 28 points. He managed to hit some big shots and have a couple of big putbacks. In Peter's off game he might have 15-20 points, where in somebody else's off game, they might not score."

Monday, January 5, 2015

Memorable Monday: The Price Is Right

Longtime UCONN coach Jim Calhoun was quick to cite a sudden theme, emergent as the Huskies have navigated through the first semester schedule.

When point guard A.J. Price plays like the dual threat that he is, finally resembling the cerebral pull-up specialist who averaged 29PPG at Amityville High, UConn has the best chance of winning.

After a second-rate sophomore campaign, Price has helped revive a UConn team which toiled deeper and deeper into mediocrity last season.

A flair for the end game, which Price so lacked throughout a tumultuous 2006-07 campaign, has paralleled a 7-2 start.

"Look it up in the notes," said the loquacious Calhoun, who recalls hounding the gritty 6-foot-2 guard throughout Long Island several seasons ago.

There was Price's nine assists in the Huskies' season-opening win against Buffalo.

 There was Price's clutch traits against Memphis.

 There was Price's refusal to die against Gonzaga, his second half resolve during the first of two games against upstart Gardner Webb.

All performances are indicative of Price's new function as the game-altering weapon at Calhoun's disposal.

Last week, during a wire-to-wire 82-49 trouncing of in-state foe Quinnipiac, the new and accountable vocal leader registered his presence.

With just 3,500 fans braving the snow-blanketed streets and Fargo-like conditions en route to the sprawling 16,294-seat XL Center, you could hear Price running the team.

You heard him imploring 6-foot-9 forward Stanley "Sticks" Robinson to spot up, to get open from 15 feet along the baseline and be more aggressive scoring-wise.

You heard him aggressively calling out defensive switches and chiming in on huddles.

You saw him pushing Jeff Adrien to post up and take advantage of a thinner Quinnipiac frontline.

You heard him instilling supportive words in mercurial off guard Doug Wiggins.

Wiggins, the Hartford schoolboy legend, spent the pre-season nestled in Calhoun's doghouse.

After weathering through the shooting woes and mental funks that come with being entirely out of basketball for two full seasons, Price has displayed a new measure of maturity.

 The Huskies boast zero seniors and Price is one of the longest-tenured players.

 Last season, nine freshmen had trouble acclimatizing to the demands of the physical Big East.

 UConn caught the deer-in-the-headlights look often times. Even in games where they outplayed the opponent, most notably against D.J. White-fueled Indiana, they simply couldn't avoid implosion.

Now Price is healthy and constantly engaged through 40 minutes, savoring Calhoun's challenge.

"(Calhoun) has been trying to get me to step into a leadership role for a long time now," said Price.

"Now, things are finally coming along. Sunday was the first day where we were clicking on all cylinders. I think it was the beginning of something real special with this team."

For Price, the future is as exciting as the past has been eventful and trying.

The road to this point has been about as smooth as this weekend's snow-pelted, slippery drive through I-95.

 Price was sidelined his first two seasons due to health and legal issues.

 He was able to streamline the struggle in 2006, finally returning to the court.

In 2004, Price suffered a life-threatening condition.

 Instead of dishing out pinpoint passes to then-Husky teammates Charlie Villanueva, Rudy Gay, and Josh Boone, Price was having a thin cocktail of medications dished to him.

Price suffered a brain hemorrhage, caused by an Ateriovenous Malformation (AVM) birth defect in his brain.

Just learning how to walk again and move parts of his body become a laborious, arduous task for the highly-coveted recruit, who Calhoun once pegged as the most gifted guard to ever sign with the Huskies.

Price remembers his road to recovery. He recalls waking up earlier than usual, praising God and being "happy to be alive."

With radiation treatment and more hospital trips than Price had envisioned, strenuous activity was not an option.

In the fall of 2005, a season in which he still hadn't been cleared for, Price was suspended and arrested for his role in the theft of labtops on campus.

Price was slapped with three counts of felony larceny and lying to the police, a misdemeanor.

UConn took immediate action, rightly suspending Price for the entire 2005-06 academic year.

What's the best part about the past for Price?

"It's over," said Price with laughter.

After averaging 9.4 points in 23 starts last season, Price is deferring less and thriving with an increased dose of  dribble drive penetration.

He averaged 22.3 points and 3.5 assists in two games against No.2 Memphis and No.20 Gonzaga, turning in big plays when the pressure was at its crescendo.

The true barometer for Price and UConn lies ahead.

With Georgetown, Marquette, and Pittsburgh waiting in the wings, Price knows it's his engine that will ultimately ignite this team.

"Coach expects greatness from me," Price said.

"If coach Calhoun, a Hall of Fame coach expects it from me, it makes me work that much harder to prove him right."

Uno En Uno With: Mason Dyslin

When Kevin Downes inherited the heavily-pursued Yorktown job during the summer's Section 1 coaching carousal, one of his initial priorities was to build up the Huskers'  frontline.

He vowed to work at shedding all traces of softness and installing adequate rim protection.

Following the heyday of Keith Thomas, bruising behemoth Jacob Mercado, and Chris Schmitz, the Huskers suffered from a dearth of true big men.

Beyond the presence of Ricky Corrado-- a rugged and undersize 6-foot-1 double-double threat who clawed and scrapped amid mismatches almost every night--Yorktown was undersized and vulnerable around the rim the last few seasons.

Changing the culture and revitalizing an ailing program would entail a renewed rebounding focus. 

And so the emergence of Mason Dyslin, a 6-foot-7 senior center with arms as long as stickball bats, has paralleled the Huskers' 5-1 start while simultaneously expunging demons of the past. 

Suddenly putting up All-Section numbers, Dyslin is beginning to play to his size and wingspan.

With a newfound back-to-the-bucket game a feathery 15-foot sling shot, Dyslin's scoring aptitude has come alive since a 35-point eruption in a 87-83 overtime loss at Peekskill.

 He dropped 16 points and snared 12 boards in a 61-47 win over athlete-laden John-Jay East Fishkill--fighting through intensified interior defense, absorbing the brutal hits in front of the rim, and finishing through contact. 

During the Huskers' win over Mamaroneck at the Harry Jefferson tournament, he poured in a team-best 21 points. 

During an ugly, black-and-blue marked 43-34 win over border town rival Lakeland, he finished with 10 points and manipulated and intimidated several shots, steering the Hornets clear of the driving lanes. 

Cultivating a post presence and kicking the habit of deferring, Dyslin has played more on instinct and hunted for his inside shots more than ever. Finishing strong and incorporating a nifty spin move, Dyslin has helped a lacrosse power and football school re-register its basketball relevance.

 Creating a 1-2 punch with junior point guard Nick DeGennaro, an offensive orchestrator and now a dependable knockdown shooter from beyond the arc, a new confidence has been discovered. 

Dyslin's rapid evolution isn't just traceable to last season...

How about last month? 

In Yorktown's home and season-opening 51-37 drubbing of Walter Panas, Dyslin started off jittery before turning it around completely in the second half. Guarded down low by Mike Evans, Panas' bounce-happy 6-foot-2 senior forward, Dyslin unveiled a new nose for the rim and buried a pair of back-to-back 15-foot jumpers during a second half tear. The versatility, the ability to draw bigs away from the rim and draw defenders showed the problem a guy of Dsylin's size poses for area foes.


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Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Uno En Uno With: Anthony Gibbs, Bedford Basketball

All the early morning workouts, Scrimmage Wars, and long summer afternoons at Dean Street prepared Brooklyn's Bedford Academy for games like this.

The tiny school featuring tiny guards scored a marquee 58-52 victory over Don Bosco last night in the Monsignor King Classic, improving to 14-0 on the season.

An adversary to AAU, Rob Phelps' team is predicated on in-your-grill defensive pressure and fluid angle-to-angle ball movement rife with dribble handoffs, pick-and-rolls, and countless ball screens creating perimeter space.

Playing together throughout a 12-month period, working extensively with former Bishop Loughlin head coach and shooting guru Ted Gustus, and even holding boot camp-style clinics in which they're confined to the weight room (without even touching a basketball), Bedford's cohesiveness and continuity is always established well before the season.

They vowed not to alter their game plan based on the opponent. Though they simply couldn't simulate the height, length, and athleticism of Bosco's bigs, Bedford survived several mismatches and closed up the passing lanes.

Sharpshooter Ian Roach, whose emergence as a catch-and-stick threat has earned interest from Monmouth and Columbia, poured in a game-best 18 points (four 3-pointers) to bag MVP honors.

Junior guard Anthony Munson submitted 14 points and had a game-best seven steals. Trevis Wigfall, a versatile senior combo guard, added 10 points and six steals.

Bedford stayed in a man-to-man set throughout. Even as Bosco's bigs roamed along the perimeter, they refused to go zone.

With pesky little guards Anthony Gibbs and Romello Ford providing quality defensive pressure, Bosco's routine offensive cadence was halted.

 Gibbs and Ford, both certifiable defensive pests, have been vital X-factors on a team with nary a big man in sight. Just how well the juniors would handle the uptick in responsibility was answered during Bedford's wild season-opening 62-58 win over Banneker.

A two-hour battle, which saw new-look Banneker storm back from a 20-point deficit, was an early barometer of this team's mental toughness.

 Romello sounds strikingly similar to "Carmelo," only this gritty little guard has etched his niche as a defensive threat first. Ford drew an offensive foul in that Banneker game with under a minute remaining and the game, laying out for a charge.

The win was sealed when Gibbs pick-pocketed a guard with 10.3 seconds remaining, the final jab of  a dizzying and chippy affair.

That's a reality check for Bedford. They have the four-guard look, a la the 2006 Villanova team with Mike Nardi and Randy Foye.

Yet without a true post presence, they must win with heightened pressure and box out at a maniacal rate. That's become their identity.

Though they've got a go-to-guy in Munson and a knockdown shooter in Roach, Bedford knows it will start and end with defense.

Munson, a three-year starter, gave an accurate account of himself in the 70-41 dumping of St. Edmonds, scoring a game-best 20 points.

Wigfall, who has met his coaches' demands to stay engaged throughout four quarters, scored 12 points, dished four assists, and had seven steals.

We caught up with Gibbs, the team's point guard and a high honor roll student at the academically-enriched school, in this week's Uno En Uno:

Gibbs On The Bosco Win 

The key was definitely our defense throughout the whole game. That's really a result of all the conditioning we do in practice and in the off-season. 

On classmate and lifelong teammate Anthony Munson

Munson's play down the stretch has been very critical to us. Munson is who we go to when we need a crucial bucket. There's no secret about that. He gets it for us a lot of the time. He has become a top-tier talent simply because of his killer instinct and his want to score in high-pressure moments. Because of his killer instinct, he's learned how to take over the game before it's too late. 

On Team Aspirations

The end goal is nothing less than a city championship. Beating a great team like Don Bosco was a good way to end the season. We set immediate goals and being undefeated before the break and heading into 2015 was one of them. 

On The Game Plan

Coach Phelps told us before the Bosco game that this opponent was another obstacle on our journey. He told us that we had to gang rebound and we had to play the help side when they throw it in the post and rotate and put pressure on their guards to make them uncomfortable. 

On His Favorite Class At Bedford 

My favorite class at Bedford would be physics because I like science and math and physics is basically those two subjects in one.