Monday, October 17, 2016

TCA's Farrington Possesses Ivy Caliber Potential

Hailing from the same regal recruiting breeding grounds that has produced Brandon Knight, Kobie Eubanks, Joel Berry, Trent Frazier and myriad others, The Conrad Academy guard Malcolm Farrington possesses both the IQ and the experience factor.

Now the Palm Beach County native will look to offer scoring, vastly improved on-the-ball defense and poise in an absolute pressure cooker of a conference: the prospect-packed SIAA.

After averaging 15.0 PPG as a sophomore at Central High-Fort Pierce and playing a prominent role on the U-18 Virgin Islands national team, Farrington's game has expanded rapidly these last 12 months.

 After playing sparingly as a freshman at Dwyer, Farrington was catapulted into meaningful minutes as a sophomore. He shot the ball at a 51 percent clip.

In incorporating a defensive pest approach into his game and becoming more aggressive in hunting for his shot, the 6-foot-3 guard will look to rack up interest.

He didn't take long to register a perimeter presence with the newly-minted program, either.

During the team's weekend tournament in Panama City, Fla., Farrington connected on 6-for-6 from beyond the arc in a six-point loss to Ahtlete's Institute.

He hit eight of his first 10 in the tournament, which witnessed TCA struggle to find consistent offense and fluid ball movement.

Led by Florida and Louisville target Luguentz Dort, TCA will need a steady 3-point threat.

TCA coach Shaun Wiseman hopes Farrington's pre-season debut is a portent of what's to come.

"My coaches have always just preached to me, 'push the ball, keep the tempo, and if you're open shoot," said Farrington, who holds a 3.7 GPA and has aspirations to attain a 4.0 this semester.

"Scoring, passing, pushing the tempo, that's my role on this year's team. Really, my goal is to help the team win in any way I can and beyond that gain some scholarship offers and eventually go to school for free."

With the aforementioned 3.7 GPA and a steady diet of challenging courses, academics have long been first and foremost for Farrington.

"My parents always pushed me to do well in the classroom," Farrington said.

"If I wasnt done my homework I wasn't able to do anything else. So, that mentality of getting work done and having no other option besides academic success, it stuck with me."

Instrumental in pushing Farrington's development has been Brad Traina. Traina, who starred at UCF and is now coaching at TCA, helped sell him on the opportunity to grow his game against a national schedule in Orlando.

Farrington hopes, when it is all said and done, to be sifting through a bevy of Ivy League and Patriot League offers.

That is where the bar is set fairly for the young man.

He also wants to represent for South Florida and Palm Beach County, where there's a desire hope for basketball to help put basketball on the same plane as football.

"Basketball really is a big deal back home," said Farrington, rattling off a list of high-profile recruits from the area.

"A lot of guys have come out of the area and I expect that trend to continue."

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

West Oaks' Figueroa On The Rise

It doesn't matter the court, the opponent, or the number of college coaches meandering through the stands.

LJ Figueroa, one of Florida's and now the country's elite scoring wings, takes every game with the same focus and methodical approach.

Major games, against more highly acclaimed recruits and those situated in the Top 50, have extra juice for Figueroa.

A 6-foot-6, 190-pound wing now at West Oaks, Figueroa is lethal for his consistency.

Known for a prodigious shooting range and the type of scoring acumen which propelled him up Florida's "who's who" Figueroa thrives on big matchups.

He's still not completely equated with the same star status of recruits he's gotten the better of.

Now Figueroa, who averaged 20.4 PPG for Team Breakdown, will shoulder the role of all around threat at West Oaks.

"He can make plays, he can play above the rim, he can put the ball on the floor and now we have a defender in him," said West Oaks' assistant coach, Alex Arias.

"He's really the total package at this point, he's the most consistent. He just puts the ball in the rim at a high rate."

Such a presence is needed at West Oaks, which will again yield the basketball seed in Orlando. Coming off a 2016 state title, West Oaks must fill the scoring void left by Andres Feliz and Richardson Maître.

This two man foundation accounted for a considerable percentage of the program's offensive output last season.

Figueroa, who has become a hotly pursued recruit with schools such as Louisville, Miami, St. John's, UCLA and Florida giving chase, will look to keep the school reputable on a national scale.

Hunger and an insatiable thirst for buckets are both immeasurable intangibles. You simply can't teach the nose for the rim Figueroa has displayed this fall.

Head coach Kenny Gilliam and company will hope this consistency and routine 20+ performances continues in the SIAA, widely regarded as one of the country's most brutal and prospect-loaded conferences.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

No Slim Expectations For Amsterdam Native at NTSI

In building a spanking new program at National Top Sports Institute, head coach Chris Chaney tapped into the international market.

He wound up hauling in several unsung and unknown recruits, each evolving and flashing Division-1 potential.

In Lawrence Slim, out of Amsterdam, Holland, Chaney found a 6-foot-6 sharpshooter who will take on a leadership role both on the court and off it.

Boasting a commendable perimeter game and the ability to put the ball on the floor and make plays, Slim is also a high academic kid. He has Patriot League interest and provides a presence which teammates feed off, according to Chaney.

"He's long, athletic, has developed an IQ and a feel for the game, so we see a lot of potential in him as we keep progressing and moving along," Chaney said.

"He can really stroke it from beyond the arc. In addition to this, he brings a solid character and those attributes which could render him a locker room guy as well."

Slim also brings a decent bloodline.

His older sister, Isabella Slim, is now a 6-foot senior starter for national runner-up Syracuse. She played on the Dutch U17 national team in high school and registered four double doubles as a key interior cog for the U20 European team two summers ago.

Chaney learned of Slim through Syracuse head coach Quentin Hillsman, a longtime friend who spearheaded the girls basketball programs at Laurinburg Institute (N.C.) and The Patterson School (N.C.).

"Q and I are very close and we definitely go way back," said Chaney.

"He is a Maryland guy as well. He was my assistant coach at Newport School in 1998. Fortunately, I was able to persuade him to start the girls program at Laurinburg in 2002. Then he found The Patterson School and I went to coach there in 2006 after he left to go to (University of) Alabama."

After serving as an assistant at Alabama, Hillsman took the Syracuse job 11 years ago.

He initially inherited a downtrodden, dungeon dwelling program that was the oft-ignored stepchild to the monstrous men's program.

Now Hillsman is just 11 victories shy of becoming Syracuse's all-time winningest coach. Hillsman has gone 219-116 after inheriting a train wreck which managed just 28 victories in three seasons combined. He's driven the team to national acclaim and now a berth in the 2016 national title game.

Hillsman's stature in Holland, where he has coached several national teams over the years, tied him into the Slim's.

Slim brings versatility as a triple threat caliber scorer. With his length and the culture of toughness Chaney is known to implement, there's plenty of promise.

"Right now, he's one of those kids that just has the smarts on the court and off it," Chaney said.

"He's the type of kid who might be the poster boy of your program."

Friday, October 7, 2016

Chaney To Get Most Out of Unsung Core

En route to collecting 685 career wins, National Top Sports Institute head coach Chris Chaney's teams have been known for depth, balance, and position-to-position power.

Now in his inaugural season at NTSI, however, Chaney will pilot a less-heralded, less-known core of recruits. A steadfast, one step at a time proponent, Chaney said he's focused on team progression and garnering national visibility as a team above everything else.

Though the expectations aren't as lofty as a contender  on the same plane as an Oak Hill or IMG an unproven core has the potential to take people by surprise.

"We have a big group this year, I don't think b national title contenders or anything like that but I think we have a lot of good, under the radar, hard-working kids," Chaney explained.

"Really, we spend a lot of time with the kids. Basketball-wise, we're going to teach them the right way to play and more importantly the right way to play as a team also. I think that's why, over the years I think our kids not just go to college but find success at their respective levels. They go in there with the right preparation, and mentality, and maturity so that there are no surprises.

NTSI hopes to have surprises with underrated guard Jalen Jordan.

Jordan, an athletic and instinctive 6-foot-3 guard, will seize some ownership of the program this season. A Conyers, GA product, Jordan proved his worth on the travel circuit with Stackhouse Elite this summer.

After averaging 17.5 points and creeping his way into Rockdale County's elite group of guards, Jordan has garnered Division-1 attention. A short list that included New Hampshire, Savannah State and Georgia State helped push the late bloomer to the prep route.

"Right now he's starting to get good, solid Division-1 attention," said Chaney of Jordan.

"He's stepping his game up tremendously and hopefully he'll play with a chip on his shoulder."

Also flushed into a prominent role for NTSI is Rasheed Browne. The 6-foot-1 guard from Philly, who committed to Florida Gulf Coast University, brings leadership in fortifying the backcourt.

"He comes from a great High School program in Neumann-Goretti (PA.). Rasheed has the opportunity to be a very special player."

NTSI has bolstered its frontline with the addition of Jose Moreno, a 6-foot-10 Columbian import.

Moreno will provide an immediate post presence with adequate rim protection. As Chaney noted, Moreno  continues to improve with a refined back to the basket game.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Legendary Prep Coach Chaney Now At NTSI

Chris Chaney may not be recognized as the same household name as Jim Calhoun or Rick Pitino or John Calipari.

He may not have the same clout and fanfare and worldwide visibility as some of the game's pioneers.

Despite this, one would be hard-pressed to find a more widely respected prep coach. Chaney is know throughout the NCAA, NBA, and areas across the world as a clinician and innate molder of high-end recruits.

Chaney, whose work has earned plaudits from Calipari to Lute Olsen has won three national prep championships and three Maryland state championships.

He orchestrated a veritable Division-1 launchpad at Laurinburg Institute, where he went 40-0 one season.

Chaney has operated clinics all across the world, etching a name for himself in China, Nigeria, France, Iceland, and a bevy of other locations across the pond.

Instrumental in helping churn out 18 NBA draft picks and possessing more wins than any coach his age, Chaney will now spearhead a new program in National Top Sports Institute in Scotland, PA.

The prep program is located on a college style campus with two gyms, dorms, and a dining hall. While Chaney is still in the process of getting the program out there, he plans on implementing the same system that turned Laurinburg and The Patterson School (NC) into rich recruiting hotbeds which routinely harvested new talent.

"I don't think we're national title contenders or anything like that, but we've got a lot of under the radar type, hard-working kids," explained Chaney, who was most recently at DME Academy in Daytona Beach, Fla.

"We definitely preach the team aspects a lot more. Definitely when you see them, you'll be impressed with some of these guys. They're under recruited and hopefully we'll be playing with a bit of a chip on our shoulder."

Taking unheralded recruits who don't come with a four or five-star billing and making them respectable is part of what makes Chaney appealing.

Chaney and his staff recall a rough-around-the-edges and extremely raw kid named Jordan Hill. Hill did not play high school basketball initially, flying well below the radar before attaining the skill-set that brought him to Arizona and the NBA.

Chaney recalls a similar experience with Hassan Whiteside, who arrived at the doorstep lacking any offers and only minimal interest from low and mid -major programs.

"Really, we're just trying to get the most out of our kids," Chaney said.

"We're going to teach them, basketball-wise, the right way to play. More importantly, teach them the right way to play as a team also. We're taking it one step at a time, focusing on building it the right way. We're trying to take a step this year and get the name out there and keep getting better as the years go by."

Monday, October 3, 2016

Stakic Brings Major Post Presence To TCA

Possessing the body of a street bully and a feathery hook in both hands, 7-foot-1 and 275-pound center Milan Stakic has lofty expectations at The Conrad Academy (FL) this season.

Originally from Bosnia, Stakic came to Orlando with considerable aspirations. He wanted to become a key cog in the post, incorporating a package of post moves to his meager arsenal.

He also wanted to learn the intricacies of the post game in America, a task which would entail more physicality from the big fella.

"When I stumbled upon Milan I just noticed a huge kid, I mean he was about 6-foot-9 at age 14 and you just don't see that very often," explained Nikola Cicic, once the Serbian sharpshooter at Rise Academy (PA.) and now an assistant under Shaun Wiseman at The Conrad Academy.

"He's currently close to 7-foot-2. UMBC and Kent State have already taken notice and this is Milan's third week in the United States. I see him as a mid-major right now and it is up to him if he's going to get higher than that.  He has all the tools right now. He needs to lose some weight right now and get stronger and get adjusted to the American speed of the game. That's his problem right now. As soon as he gets adjusted to the tempo in the next couple of months, I would think a lot of programs will be intrigued by his size and discipline.

Stakic has shown a recent propensity for both attacking the rim and finishing amongst considerably smaller, helpless defenders. Coach Brad Traina, the former professional and UCF star, has been instrumental in helping Stakic open up a dependable 15-18 footer.

The goal is to keep the monstrous teenager lighter, with his targeted playing weight around 250-260. Wiseman's system has long been predicated on a revved up attack, which would demand Stakic to play rim-to-rim.

His size in the paint will help with rim protection, as his wingspan helps block, alter, and change the trajectory of shots while simultaneously steering guards clear of the driving lanes.

One aspect pushing Stakic's evolution is TCA's roster. Stakic is bordered by beastly bigs in Auburn-commit Austin Wiley (a co-MVP of the prestigious Elite 24 game this summer) and 7-foot-1 Aristide Boya out of Cameroon, Africa.

"Practicing and working out with Austin Wiley definitely shows me how much I have to work and what it takes to be on the next level," said Stakic.

"That's because he's just a tremendous player who has shown me just how good you can be if you are dedicated and constantly focused on your game."

Cicic, who has been instrumental in taking Serbian and Bosnian talents and acclimatizing them to the American game, is constantly pushing Stakic.

Cicic ingrains footwork principles in Stakic, also imploring him to post up and bully smaller defenders in the paint. Cicic additionally helps him monitor his diet and helps propel his conditioning.

The end result could potentially be a sought after 7-footer on America's recruiting market.

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Uno En Uno With: Teddy Dupay

ZS: Which experiences or events were integral in helping you find the higher power? Which moments helped steer you into turning your life around? Was there an epiphany or self-awakening?

TD: You know, it's kind of a combination of things. Like they say, 'when you hit rock bottom there's only one way to go. That's up.' 

Me, really just turning my life over was a major turning point. Going ahead and accepting that I don't control everything. 

I have control over the things that I do control, that's making good choices.

 Even more important than that is putting myself in situations where I can be successful. 

 So often, if you put yourself in a bad situation, the only thing that can happen is option A and Option B. Both of those options are bad for you.

It's tough to put a finger on one day or one turning point. 

Except for me obviously accepting that I'm not in control, God is. I'm not sure which Bible verse exactly it is, I think it's in Romans, it speaks about "adversity builds endurance.." Your supposed to be thankful for everything. Not just the good things.

ZS: As an athlete and having some of the perks that surely come with being an athlete, you've had a lot of good. Obviously the good, in your eyes, outweighs the bad. Especially when you assess your life now.

 Having these cherished experiences and now possessing this presence that kids seem to eat off of, does it keep you grounded, especially when you think of what could have been?

TD: So as I look back, there's good times. There's amazing times. Things that other people could never ever imagine. 

Jumping on Mike Miller after he hits that shot, one of the top-10 plays in the history of the NCAA tournament. That's incredible. 

Then watching those guys succeed with their careers and in life, that's incredible.  Setting the all-time scoring record in the history of the state, the record is still there.

I don't think anybody can understand what that was like. Not just to break that record but to put in that work. To, over the long period of time, continue to move towards that.

 That's an experience which is mine and mine alone. And also the difficult times also. I'm really thankful for those (difficult) times. Had all of that stuff not happened exactly how it had, I would not be in the place I am right now. I'm very thankful in the position I am in now. 

I love that I get to coach basketball, I love that I get to be in the gym everyday. It's just worked out perfect. It's a lot of good times. Undoubtedly, there's a lot of adversity coming.

But, I'm not scared of it. 

I know that we're going to be OK, we're going to be able to push through it. If I can explain that to the kids. If I can explain to the kids that they can, not just be a lawyer or be a doctor, but be anything...through God. That's more important. 

I take a great sense of pride knowing I can teach kids that they can get through anything God, you can get through anything. When those tough times come, you are definitely going to persevere and get through it. 

The world is not going to end. I just think that the anxiety that a lot of kids have about a bad situation...whether it's not getting to college or something of that often what we fear is bad and we are afraid of never happens. 90 percent of the time it never happens.

ZS: What was your experience like at Florida and how did you handle being a local kid who was vastly undersized at that high-major level?

TD: We came in, we had four freshman in our class. Brett Wright, he was a sophomore. He was the other starter. I remember the first exhibition game. There was probably only 6,000 people in the seats. They turned the lights out for the introductions and I remember being just overcome by emotions. Being there, having that dream come true was just unreal. It was kind of embarrassing because I was a little guy, I considered myself a tough guy. The lights come on and I've got tears in my eyes. I looked at Udonis (Haslem), I looked at Mike (Miller), I looked at Ladarius (Halton), and Brett.  It was just very emotional. It was pretty neat I'll never forget that.

Eddie Shannon, he was the starting point guard. He was a senior, but he was out for a few games. So, we got right into the starting lineup and played a couple of exhibition games. Our first games was Georgia Southern. I think I had 16 and 8. I had another game, and I answered the pressure real well. Florida State, I performed really well that game. Offensively, I think my ability to shoot the ball it really secured me on that level.

Defensively, certainly I had a lot to learn. Just from an overall preparation and effort standpoint, I think that was the biggest adjustment. Understanding how important each defensive position is, was critical.

Luckily coach Donovan he lived with a lot of the mistakes I made. Because he was able to do that, I was able to make a lot of plays too. It was a lot of fun. We had a great group of guys. Nobody expected a lot from us. I think that first year we were projected to finish dead last in the SEC and we went to the Sweet 16. Then the next year obviously we won the SEC and made it to the final four and the final game. The next year, we won the SEC again. It was a really cool run and a very special time. It was a pretty awesome cast of characters we had there. We assembled quite a team.

ZS: What was it like trying out for the Miami Heat and how did you prepare yourself for such a daunting challenge at that age?

TD: Understanding that you know, I was 35 at the time. So not heavy, heavy running, stuff that would really strain my body. A lot of elliptical. A lot of intentional heart work, in terms of understanding what my heart rate would be while I was playing and then artificially getting in there on the elliptical and keeping it there. Really it was just training the heart. When you get out of shape, you do body yoga. I do a lot of that. I do yoga two, sometimes three times a week. At least. I belong in a studio here in Tampa I do it here with the kids. It's great for flexibility, great for flexibility. It's just quiet time, to really relax and think about nothing. Just to focus. Life is so busy for so many people, we don't really take much quiet time. I know I sure never did.

Obviously, I was shooting every day. Being able to play basketball everyday, it's awesome. I mean it's what I'm supposed to be doing from the very beginning.