With school back in session and winter sports just three months away, the Queen Creek High School boys basketball team is using preseason tournaments to test themselves in the off season.
Last year the boys basketball team went 8-10 in its conference, finishing 15th out of 41 teams from around Arizona. In the playoffs, they fell in the first game to the eventual state champions Perry High School. The boys basketball team plays in 6A, which means they play against some of the biggest and best schools in all of Arizona.
“We play in a really tough region and there's a difference between going from 5A to 6A. It’s bigger, faster, stronger, typically and it's been a challenge for sure, but we've done a really good job,” the team’s head coach, Daniel Bobik, said.
Bobik was brought on four years ago when the team first made the transition from 5A to 6A. He played basketball in college for Oklahoma State, where he made it to the Final Four in 2004, missing out on a championship birth via a last-second game winner by Georgia Tech. His coach at Oklahoma State was Eddie Sutton, who is one of just eight NCAA Division I coaches with over 800 wins.
Bobik has been in charge of guiding the team to success in its new conference and he said that playing in preseason tournaments has become more important because the game of basketball becomes a year-round commitment at that level.
“If you look at a lot of the best programs, really at any level, but in particular the 6A level, you got kids that are playing year-round. They're not just playing three months out of the year,” Bobik said. “Basketball is a very skilled game, dribbling, passing and shooting are all very hard things to do and if you don't practice them consistently, then you're not going to be very good at it. So that's part of the commitment level of these kids is playing year-round and commitment in the weight room, (those) are probably the two biggest things that we've done to help develop these kids.”
As part of that increasing commitment, the team plays in multiple off season tournaments while many players also play on a club team in the off season coached by Bobik. He said the high school team played in about three tournaments while the club team played in six. The team plans to attend a tournament in Las Vegas before the start of the season as well as participate in a fall league.
These off season tournaments not only give the team a chance to bond and build chemistry, but they give coaches ample opportunities to experiment before the regular season. Over the course of the off season there are dozens of high school basketball tournaments across the country bringing together hundreds of teams. These tournaments also give players the chance to showcase themselves on a national stage in front of college coaches and scouts, many of whom might not have made it out to a regular season game.
One of these tournaments that Queen Creek recently played in was Section 7 at State Farm Stadium in Glendale. Section 7 had over 200 teams playing on 12 courts in front of hundreds of college coaches across all levels.
“I think that Section 7 is a really good deal,” Bobik said. “There were more scouts and college coaches at Section 7 than will be at all these prep teams, their entire season. There were more guys there at that one weekend event than they will see their entire club season, guaranteed.”
Beyond giving players the chance to play in front of college coaches, off season tournaments like Section 7 also give young players valuable minutes against quality opposition, sometimes before they’ve even played a varsity game. Bobik said that players have often played an entire regular season’s worth of games through these tournaments.
“That's really what it's about, getting used to it. I typically end up playing a lot of younger players. You know, all these kids need experience and how do you get experience, where you get experience? By going out and doing it,” Bobik said. “These tournaments, that's what they're really good for…kids that essentially haven't played any varsity minutes…they're going to come play varsity and now in the spring, in the summer, in the fall, they've played two full seasons of varsity basketball.”
As high school basketball becomes increasingly competitive, more of these tournaments will continue to pop up and each one gives coaches the chance to develop and teach the players their system and play style, so that come winter there’s no adjustment period.
He says he gives the team a lot of freedom over the summer to make mistakes and then learn from them and that preseason tournaments like Section 7 allow players to test themselves and develop their game in a lower-risk environment.
“It exposes them a little bit to where their weaknesses are, so that they can work on it and to me, that’s what this is all about,” Bobik said. “It’s giving these kids opportunities to learn about themselves, so they can go work on their game, so that come wintertime they are ready to roll.”
Until the wintertime arrives, the team is focusing on using the last few chances it has in the off season to identify its weaknesses and improve upon them ahead of a tough battle for playoffs in the 6A season.