Goin’ Hard in the Paint Like Carmelo

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(LARS BARON/GETTY IMAGES)
The most scrutinized group of Team USA Men’s Basketball players – since the 2002 through 2006 team cycle – left the Rio Olympics with gold around their necks.  In a way this team’s personality was similar to the career of its “leader” Carmelo Anthony.  There were questions from the beginning about the strength of this team after so many stars had backed out.  Melo and Kevin Durant were the only two players with Olympic experience. 6 players on the squad had no International experience at all.

The games started and Team USA blew through their first 7 opponents – 5 exhibition games and 2 Preliminary Round games in the Olympics – and many wondered if they’d be challenged. But then they faced Australia, Serbia, and France. The USA would only win those games by a combined total of 16 points while allowing an average of 92 points per game. And just like that the narrative flipped. They were no longer seen as an unbeatable team and the questions about there not being enough stars returned. Any of this talk of no defense and lack of “star” talent sound familiar to the narrative around Carmelo?

The Knockout Round started with a blowout victory over Argentina and a tight semifinal win over Spain.  Both opponents had been familiar with Team USA over the last ten years. Argentina won Silver at the 2002 FIBA World Cup and Gold at the 2004 Olympics.  During the 2002 FIBA World Cup they became the first team to defeat a USA Team composed of all NBA players. That defeat along with a few others led to Team USA revamping the way they selected players.  Meanwhile Spain finished runner up to Team USA in the 2008 and 2012 Olympic Games. This Olympics saw Team USA face Serbia in the Gold Medal Round.  The game was close for a quarter.  Then in the 2nd Quarter Kevin Durant took over and the game was out of reach.  Durant finished the game with 30 points and renewed confidence heading to Golden State.

All types of things were being said about the US Men’s Basketball Team.  They didn’t have enough star players.  They didn’t move the ball enough – I harped on this a lot – or play the type of defense that was needed.  They either won by too much or didn’t win by enough. They didn’t have any competition or maybe they do thought some after a few close games.  The games aren’t entertaining some said and they need an age limit chirped some others. Yet after all of the noise, Team USA won the final game by 30 and defeated its last 3 opponents by an average of 21 points per game.  Funny how they took in everything around them and kept Goin’ Hard in the Paint Like Carmelo.

 

 

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Goin’ Hard in the Paint Like Carmelo

Football Interview, Part 2

If you’re from Jackson then it’s likely that you’re familiar with Newell Field. It is currently used by Jackson Public Schools and Belhaven University. Most of my memories of the field center around JPS middle school and high school football games. I even shared a few personal memories on that field while I was in high school. I’m sure the stands will be filled the next 3-4 weeks as JPS Rival Schools meet to see who will have bragging rights in the City.

Today’s interviewee spoke of his time playing as a youngster and his time in college. One thing he mentioned was the transition from high school to college. He mentioned the term – redshirt – which is a common phrase for most incoming college freshmen (it may also be used by players that are sophomores/juniors/seniors). A redshirt is often designated for players that need time to adjust to college life on and off the field. It allows them to sit out a year and still have their remaining year(s) to play.

My interview today is with an individual that is a product of JPS. He used his talents to earn a scholarship to a NCAA “D-1” school and a college degree.

When did you first fall in love with football/earliest memory of the game?

Wow. 1st memory is easily going to a (I hate to admit this) JSU game. Family was/is huge JSU supporters. Well not so much now but more on that later. We traveled to all the games. Never missed a fall Saturday. I fell in love watching Wavy Dave (RIP) perform and hearing the 2nd best SWAC band perform. My mama never wanted me to play football which is why I didn’t play organized ball until 7th grade. I feel like that cheated me somewhat but I turned out ok.

What was your funnest time playing football? And what was your least memorable time?

Man, I’ve always had fun playing ball. Through the 8 straight losses my sophomore year and the 0-11 year the very next season. I always just wanted to ball. The blueprint was laid for me by very few guys and I tried to follow it. All in all, college was by far the most fun I had playing ball.

What was the recruiting process like once you realized you were talented enough to play D-1?

Good question. I had no idea. Lol. My earliest memories of recruiting is witnessing my high school coach hoard letters from schools that were coming to watch guys play. This was in the 9th grade. Let’s just say me and some teammates stumbled upon his desk and saw that scouts/coaches were communicating or trying to communicate with the seniors that season. And these guys didn’t know until AFTER the season had ended and we missed the playoffs by 1 game. This “by 1 game” would define my career actually. All that being said, led me to feel as if I (Mom and Dad) were going to have to do our own recruiting. I didn’t realize schools were actually noticing me. I mean I had been starting since my freshman year, played both sides of the ball. I even made an honorable mention all metro team. Back then, the paper only published the top 3 selections. I didn’t even find this out until I attended a scholar-athlete banquet. Smh. So when schools were recruiting me, I was shocked. Thing is the two schools that had the most weight for me (Miss State and jsu) were going through coaching changes. Miss State had been recruiting me and a teammate until Sherrill was fired. Croom said nope, lol. jsu and Judge were recruiting me also. Bell, said and I quote “I don’t want you, I’m going after junior college guys”. This. This here, rocked me to my core. I literally was shaken. The only SWAC school I ever knew. Ever cheered for.

swac-logo-football

Is it proper to say “college student playing football?” or “football player in college?”

Depending on the person. Both phrases apply. It’s funny because, people that don’t play sports in college don’t understand the sacrifices we make to just graduate. We do more stuff before 6 am than most do for an entire day. Lol. And then, we don’t have any free time unless it’s after the games on Saturdays.

How did you balance football and college life?

I didn’t really do anything special. It was never hard to manage for me. Football is what I did and I did whatever it took to keep playing. School has always been easy so I never really had a problem.

Describe the NCAA through your point of view

NCAA is trash. Too many rules. Too many ways to make money. Not enough help for athletes. Playing a sport in college, you’re held to higher standards. Almost professional in some places. Yet no one gets paid but the coaches. And ADs. And Presidents. But their not busting knees, dislocating body parts to play. Yes. It’s a choice. However everyone that plays a sport, doesn’t always “have” to play. For example, I could went wherever and just been a student but I wanted to play ball. New stadiums. Student enrollment. All can be attributed to athletics. Not the education majors. Not the IT guys. Not the chemistry majors.

What do you miss about playing football?

The locker room. The road trips. The grind. Having somewhere to be. Learning a new defensive scheme. Studying film. I miss everything about playing. The first practice before the first game. The Oklahoma drill (which I never lost). The competition.

Did you ever think about semi-pro or anything like that?

Yes. I did. Didn’t pursue it further. Was tired of playing ball at that point.

What advice would you give young guys playing the game thinking about reaching the college level?

Run. Run. And run some more. Do a bunch of calisthenics. Take your protein. Run some more. Work on your craft. Try not to get a part-time job. Hard to practice and make money. Gotta sacrifice one. And go where you’re wanted. You’ll have a much better experience. Don’t overthink the process. Forget about depth charts. To this day, I wish I had been redshirted.

Explain why you would’ve liked to redshirt.

Well, by the end of high school… I had only played football for six years. Never had a position coach. A strength coach. Nutrition advice was simply “eat ya vegetables”. My growth as a player was basically all me. Yes, I had coaches who pushed me but only to fit what they wanted. Came to high school not being able to lift 185 pounds. Was always a big kid. Worked my tail off to get stronger. Wanted to be the strongest on the team. I achieved that by my senior year. But even this was misguided. I was young and wanted to play. I started every year I ever played football except 7th grade because of weak *** rules but whatever. Part of not being redshirted was my fault too. I refused to be redshirted. I wanted to prove to everyone that I can play and that’s what I did. Being redshirted would have given me an opportunity to grow my body in ways that I hadn’t been able to before. Would have allowed me to develop my footwork, hand speed/strength and possibly allow me to be even stronger than I was. I mean I left college being able to lift 225 lbs – 36 times. And that was without any supplements or guided training. That was all me. Maybe I should add, being redshirted and receiving the proper guidance would have been beneficial for me.  I just feel as if I would have been that much better taking that shirt.

What are your overall thoughts on the “state of football”? (all the rules changes, injuries, etc.)

Football is in a great place. Still exciting to watch. I’ll admit, I haven’t sat in the stands for a college game in years. SWAC ball looks so different. Rule changes are just a reflection of trying to protect the game not the players. Players are meat in a meat market. Always have been and always will be.

Football Interview, Part 2

Interview with Aaron Lockett

As the new football season approaches I decided to come with some new interviews.  This time around I’m interviewing guys that played football.  My first interview was with former Kansas State All-American Punt Returner/Wide Receiver Aaron Lockett.  Lockett was a standout athlete – in track, football, and basketball – at Booker T. Washington High School in Tulsa, Oklahoma.  From there he showcased his talents at Kansas State where he was a member of the football and track teams.  Lockett set many records during his time at K-State and in the 2000 Big 12 Championship Game he had the first return TD in the game’s history.  Aaron played five years professionally in the NFL and Canadian Football League. His brother Kevin was also a standout player at Kansas State and played in the NFL. Lockett’s nephew Tyler Lockett continued the family’s tradition of great Wide Receiver/Returner play while at Kansas State.  Lockett is currently a blossoming talent – First Team All-Pro and Pro Bowl as a rookie – in the NFL with the Seattle Seahawks. Check out the audio interview and a few of Aaron’s highlights from his time at Kansas State.

 

Interview with Aaron Lockett