4/30/2013 4:04:00 PM Learning the Fundamentals Reflecting parity, Badgers, Timberwolves close out successful Grasshopper Basketball season
Coach Mike Angel discusses strategy with his Timberwolves players during the Grasshopper Basketball championship game April 25 against the Badgers. (VVN/Bill Helm)
Jordan Pollock of the Badgers drives the ball up court against the Timberwolves during the Grasshopper Basketball championships April 25. Also pictured are 10-year-old Justin Ritzenthaler and Keagan Rhoda. The Timberwolves defeated the Badgers 31-28. (VVN/Bill Helm)
"I'd rather have a few challenges than to not have a season."
CAMP VERDE - Anything can happen in the postseason. Just ask the fourth-place Timberwolves of the Town of Camp Verde's Grasshopper Basketball League.
The Timberwolves, with a 3-2 record, defeated the Badgers, also 3-2, in the league's fifth- to eighth-grade championship game April 25 at the Community Center Gym. Mike Marshall, Camp Verde Parks and Recreation Coordinator, says he is pleased with the season.
"The season went well," Marshall said. "It was a little rough, but they were competitive teams. The season was a success, especially since it started late. We had to compete with Little League. It was not our plan for the season to start at the wrong time, but I'd rather have a few challenges than to not have a season."
Normally, the Grasshopper Basketball League splits the older players into two divisions: fifth-sixth graders and seventh-eighth graders. With 52 children signed up this year, Marshall decided to combine the two divisions. Overall, Marshall said, he was satisfied with the results.
"I was pleased with how the older players dealt with the younger players," Marshall said. "The big kids took care of the younger kids, they were careful not to overpower them. If you have 52 kids having a good time, how can it not be a success?"
With agreeable players, and rules based on fair play and fundamentals, the Grasshopper Basketball League is more of a tutorial league than one based on 'every man for himself.' Or every woman for herself.
"This league is pretty good," said eighth grader Alexandria Reynolds, a member of the Timberwolves squad. "The league even has rules for fifth graders."
Reynolds' father, Jason Reynolds, said watching his daughter competing against the boys is "inspiring. She does really well, and she loves playing.
"I love basketball," Alexandria added. "It is my passion."
"The league has its ups and downs," said Isaiah Dawson, a member of the Timberwolves. "But the league is pretty good."
Jordan Pollock, a member of the Badgers, said, "The league is good, probably one of the best I've played in. It's fun. Much better than playing by ourselves in the driveway.
"This year, the teams are more even than in the past few years," Jordan said.
Going into the playoffs, three of the six teams had three wins and two losses.
"Every kid has to play one full period each half," Marshall said. "Every kid has to sit out at least one quarter each game. The intent is for the kids to play. [Worrying about] winning and losing comes along later.
"This is a recreational league, an educational league," Marshall said. "The referees also play a big role in this. They do as much coaching as they do refereeing. They routinely explain to the kids why they blow the whistle."
"A lot of the kids here don't have the opportunity to play at school," said Gary Pollock, Jordan's father and coach of the Badgers. "It's nice to win, but my main thing is to teach them fundamentals."
According to Marshall, the Grasshopper Basketball League has "a somewhat-modified enforcement of rules. A player who is just learning the fundamentals will be allowed maybe two or three steps before he's called for traveling," he said. "The referees will tell the kids 'remember, you've got to dribble.' "