by Michael Smith
Last season, the Grain Valley boys basketball team lacked size early in the season.
Usually, the tallest player on the floor was 6-foot-2, so the Eagles started off using a motion heavy offense and used cuts and backdoor screens to get players open under the basket or on the perimeter.
About halfway through the season, when injuries to starters Avery Garmon and Alex Snyder kept them out of the season, then sophomore Rhylan Alcanter was heavily featured as a post player and consistently put up double digit points.
This year, not only is Alcanter returning, Grain Valley has another big man in the 6-foot-4 Stylz Blackmon, who is also looking like a solid scorer down low.
That was on display during the Eagles sixth summer workout on Tuesday. So far, head coach Andy Herbert has liked what he’s seen.
“It’s been as good of a summer as we have had in a long time,” Herbert said. “We have three or four guys that you have to respect (on the perimeter). That is just going to help Stylz and Rhylan out. If you can’t help off our shooters, that’s one less person Rhylan has to worry about.
“We are trying to figure out how to play (Blackmon and Alcanter) together and toy with some different ideas on what they are comfortable with. The summer is a lot of trial and error.”
The team was able to run different plays on offense with Alcanter and Blackmon providing an inside presence. The workouts, along with scrimmages have helped coach Andy Herbert and his team try new things and work out the kinks with his new-look team.
“We have two of the biggest guys in Grain Valley on our team,” Troyer said. “We are trying to run different plays while running through those guys.
“We had trouble getting guys in the right spot last year, but this year we are trying to get all that down.”
While the Grain Valley offense will still feature a lot of off-ball movement, having two big men like Blackmon and Alcanter will allow the Eagles to play inside and out. Whenever Alcanter or Blackmon get double teamed, Grain Valley has the shooters to make other teams pay.
During Tuesday’s workout, when Herbert had his team run 5-on-5 drills, the inside presence of the big men helped players like Owen Herbert, Raif Graham, Eli Hebert and Jack Shoen get open shots from behind the 3-point line.
“Our post presence is going to be huge this year,” Owen Herbert said. “They don’t necessarily have to score, we just need them down there, to draw defenders so the guards can shoot from outside.”
Up to this point, along with the six workouts, the Eagles have had a scrimmage early in the month at Raymore-Peculiar High School, where they went 3-1 playing against different teams in the Kansas City area like Raytown, Belton and Ray-Pec.
“We did well there,” Andy Herbert said. “Nobody is keeping summer records but we did well to compete. “It’s the summer, nobody has scouted anyone. It doesn’t mean a lot but allows the guys to compete and play.”
Beginning tomorrow, Grain Valley will travel to Warrensburg to participate in a three-day camp as it will be able to scrimmage against other teams who will also be attending.
At the end of the month, Grain Valley will get to scrimmage against Van Horn, as well.
“We’ll probably play seven or eight games with a 20-minute running clock,” Andy Herbert said of the UCM camp. “It will be fun and will be good for the guys. You get to see some teams you don’t see throughout the year. It will be a good opportunity for the kids to get away.”
Grain Valley head boys basketball coach Andy Herbert talks to his team about this week's University of Central Missouri basketball camp. Photo credit: Michael Smith
Grain Valley junior Stylz Blackmon looks for his shot in the post during a Tuesday workout.
Photo credit: Michael Smith
Grain Valley senior Reece Troyer drives baseline while looking for a teammate to pass to.
Photo credit: Michael Smith