It’s not that Kameron Williams didn’t think it was possible, it’s just that he wasn’t used to seeing his Mount Saint Joseph (Baltimore) teammate Phil Booth, a junior guard, drive into the lane so aggressively.
“It was like second nature,” said Williams, a junior guard who is committed to Ohio State. “Usually he would’ve pulled up.”
Last week when the Gaels ran their daily pickup games, Williams was taking mental notes about how Booth and the rest of the team had expanded their games since last season.
“We don’t even start practice until Nov. 5,” Williams said. “These after school open gym runs are really important. This is where we kinda set the tone for the whole season.”
It’s a sentiment that’s shared by most ballers across the country, who forgo after school naps to begin building the camaraderie and chemistry inside the gym that they hope will lead to state and national titles.
“That’s the goal,” said Wesleyan Christian (High Point, N.C.) junior swingman Theo Pinson. “That’s what we’re dedicated to.”
So dedicated that Pinson and the rest of his teammates wait at school for three hours until the volleyball team finishes its practice before hitting the hardwood.
Pinson thinks those few hours off the court doing everything from homework to joking around is “just as important as what we do on the court.”
“It’s because we’re basically bonding together,” Pinson said. “We’re getting along and hanging out together. That’s so big because you play better with people that you like most times. So for us to stay at school all that time is big because we’re building camaraderie.”
It’s even bigger since most state high school federation rules prohibit organized practices until late October. Technically that puts the onus of improvement and team building solely on the players.
“I love that part of it,” Findlay Prep (Henderson, Nev.) coach Todd Simon said. “It allows you to see who’s gonna work hard for it. Open gym is where roles are defined and year-to-year roles absolutely evolve.”
That’s certainly been the case for DeSoto (DeSoto, Texas) shooting guard Matt Jones.
This time last year, Jones, a Duke commit, viewed open gym as “anything but a time to work hard.”
“It was more like the joke around time,” Jones admitted. “It was the time to shoot some ball before we got serious about the season.”
This season, Jones, who will step into a leadership role, had an epiphany that changed his perspective.
“There’s no ‘before we start the season,’ ” he said. “The season starts once we’re all together on the first day of school at open gym. That’s the time where you learn about your teammates’ improvements so when the season gets here, you’re that much further ahead. That’s how champions prepare.”