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May 16, 2011iS8/Nike Spring HS Classic is probably the most competitive tournament in the Northeast. The slogan on everyone's jersey reads, "Bring your game; Not your name."
Two teams, however, are looking to prove that it's better to bring both your name and your game. The Sean Bell All-Stars coached by Raheem "Rah" Wiggans and Real Scout, coached by Nate "Real Scout" Blue.
The quarterfinals are over and both Real Scout and the Sean Bell All-Stars have advanced, quite possibly heading on a collision course as they head into the semifinals. In pool play, each team cut through their opponents like a hot knife through butter. Out of the original field of sixty teams which included some of the best talent in the Northeast, both Real Scout, coached by Blue and the Sean Bell All-Star under Coach Wiggans are probably the most similar. Both teams have been assembled for the sole purpose of playing in the iS8 and both teams are composed primarily of committed high D-l players imported from all over the nation.
Coach Blue says his team includes seven committed D-1 players, including "Jakarr Sampson, Maurice Harkless, Tavon Allen, Tavon Sledge, Trivante Bloodman, Tayshon Burrell (Rhode Island), Terry Brutus, Max Hooper and P.J. Torres."
Sean Bell's team is equally as impressive. "Khem Birch, Angel Nunez, Naadir Tharpe, Damion Lee, Aaron Cosby, Arthur Edwards, Sir'Dominic Pointer, Jamiek Rivere and Grandy Glaze" is the nucleus of his squad according to Coach Wiggans.
Thus far, both teams have advanced utilizing their superior individual athleticism and talent. In the playoffs, Sean Bell first defeated Sport U. followed by a win over New Heights (K). Both games were grind 'em out wins. Real Scout however has been thrashing their competition, blowing out both Raising Champions and then NIA Prep.
Standing in the immediate way of Real Scout's chances at a championship is New Heights (K) and for Sean Bell, the Playaz Club Srs. look to derail Coach Wiggans' plans.
Both opponents are teams in which the players have played together for a number of years as opposed to being a hodgepodge of star players like Real Scout and Sean Bell. These types of match-ups always spark the age old debate of whether or not better teams beat better individual players.
Blue says that there are advantages and disadvantages to shipping in higher rated players on the fly. "You got a better chance of winning but you have guys who haven't played together," said Blue.
Coach Wiggans sees it as a disadvantage. "I think it's harder. I think a team that plays together always has the advantage." Wiggans added that a talented team like his may tend play beneath their full potential. "The guys get a lead and then they get lackadaisical. We have to keep them motivated."
While both Wiggans and Blue the utmost praise and respect for each other as coaches, their approach to getting at the iS8/Nike hardware is ironically contrary to their on-court personas.
Coach Blue, who's normally laid back and conservative, was somewhat boisterous saying that the remaining teams in the playoff bracket were "standing in his way." Blue says he fully expects to win the championship. The highly animated and rambunctious Coach Wiggans conversely was quite reserved when asked about his team's road to the championship, refusing to show his hand. "I don't know who's going to win," he said.
With the iS8/Nike open roster policy, both Blue and Wiggans plan to import some additional surprise talent for the upcoming semifinals as added insurance. Blue has some local firepower scheduled to appear but told NYCHoops.net off the record who he was. Wiggans wasn't willing to show his hand publically either but did say, "There will be some special guests. You know what special guests means? You can quote me on that and it will be a sight to see."
Historically, good teams have ultimately beaten superior individual talent in the iS8/Nike. Saturday or Sunday will either change the course of that history or continue it on its normal course. What is for sure is championship basketball at its best as four teams face off in quest of the iS8/Nike championship.