By CLAUDE SCILLEY
As Brock McArthur sees it, when it comes to playing basketball, the x’s and o’s have their place, but the essence of the sport should be having fun.
“You have to be yourself on the basketball court,” says McArthur, whose minor midget Kingston Impact team will play in the Ontario Basketball championship tournament at Queen’s University this weekend.
The under-15 Impact team, which finds itself seeded sixth among eight teams in Division 7, will begin play Friday at 9 p.m. in the Bews Gym. If it is to be successful in its quest for a provincial title, the team will play an free-wheeling, up-tempo game, McArthur said, that capitalizes on the energy of his players and the spontaneity of the moment.
“I don’t describe basketball as ‘You have to run here and here and here.’ You have to think for yourself,” McArthur said. “There is structure. We have our plays and our sets … but at the (essence) of it, they’re high school kids. They’re not university; they’re not college. They’ve got to learn how to play for themselves first. They’ve got to know how to put the ball in the net for themselves.
“It should be fun, where you get the ball and you run. You get to the net or you find your shooter, if we don’t get that good look, then we want them to run the play. Right now, that’s where we struggle: when we don’t get the good shot right off the bat, is pulling it out and running a set to get a good look.”
McArthur believes the best way to learn how when to take the shot, when to cut, or when to set a screen, is by doing.
“We want them to think, because on the court I’m not out there; they’ve got to think for themselves,” he said. “That’s what we try to do every practice, show them little things they can do to make it easier for them on the court.
“Does that necessarily work out all the time? No, but for them, as individual basketball players, they’re all getting better. That’s the important thing.”
The season has had its ups and downs for the Impact. At its best, the Impact finished second at two tournaments, but it was 0-4 at the most recent one.
“We ride these waves,” McArthur said, “where we’ll play really well together and it will lead to good things, and then we’ll take an ass-kicking and we’ll be like, ‘Oh, wait, this isn’t how we play basketball.’ We go back to how we play and it starts to work again.”
How his team plays defence this weekend will determine how well it does, McArthur said.
“If we’re playing good team basketball, we make a lot of stops and we run,” he said. “That’s basketball. When I’m saying we try to teach them to be basketball players, that’s one of those things. When you’re in transition, and we run, and it’s a 3-on-2, the shot is always there, but did you see the other two guys and see what they’re doing? And did those other two guys know what to do? Did they know whether to set a screen, or go space out?
“When we play like that, and our guys have their heads up when they’re attacking the middle … we’re a tough team to beat. It’s just a matter of that coming out every game.”
McArthur said that philosophy wasn’t determined by the personnel who ultimately formed the team. “I don’t think it would have mattered who I had,” he said, “that’s how I want to play because that’s just the way I think you need to be taught how to play basketball.
“I played with (the structured format). I was taught to be like a robot, almost. I don’t want these kids to be like that (and) it works with them because we don’t have a lot of big guys. We have a lot of guards, so it works with them because they can dribble and it’s to their advantage.”
Kingston will play its subsequent preliminary games Saturday, at 1:30 p.m., against the third-seeded Niagara Falls Red Raiders, and at 7:30, against No. 7 Motion Basketball of Toronto. All of the Impact’s games will be played in the Bews Gym.
Medal-round games will be played Sunday morning, beginning at 9 o’clock.