The 2017 Drew League season is now more than five weeks in, and what a doozy that Week 5 was.
No less than three games were decided by a goal or less, in the last seconds of the games. BB4L vs. LA Loop, Jaguars vs. FootPrint, and NWA vs. LAUNFD were all absolute nail-biters down to the final buzzers. Taylor Statham, Patrick “P-Stacks” Rembert, and “Mr. Iso” Marcus Williams all deserve props for having ice water in their veins with the game on the line.
A key theme that came up over the weekend was defense. The Voice of the Drew League, Mr. George Preciado, said it best: “You can’t win games in the Drew if you don’t play D!”
While some teams, like Legacy and MHP, have never been known for defense, those are also the teams that have “cadillacked” their way to middle-of-the-pack finishes, just barely squeaking into the Playoffs in previous years only to be blown back out by superior competition that plays both ends of the floor.
On the other side of the pendulum, Birdie’s Revenge and Houdini’s Problems are undefeated on the season, and have both been known for their lockdown perimeter play, often squeezing ball handlers in traps til the ball pops loose for easy buckets in transition. The same could be said of Hank’s Panthers in the Marty Walzer Division.
They have won 5 of 6 games despite not having a high-powered offense or any standout scorers. They’ve gotten it done with hustle and grit. It might not be enough to take down teams with pro scoring machines like James Harden and Brandon Jennings, but “hard work beats talent,” as they say.
Going into Week 6, lookout for which teams take George’s admonition to heart. The teams that start to move up the rankings, like the resurgent Hometown Favorites and New Edition, will be those that decide now is the time to put the straps to the competition, instead of waiting for erstwhile pros to come and save them for the back half of the season.
Oh, and those pros are coming back this week. July 1st, all bets are off. DrewLeague.com doesn’t even get advance notice so take everything we say here with a grain of salt like a tiny margarita. When the big names come in, anything can happen. Teams with superstars could shoot up from the dregs, while those without might fall off like meteorites. You know the motto, though: No Excuse. Just Produce.
Games will start Friday night at 5:30 p.m., with another Friday triple-header, and seven games each Saturday and Sunday. Thank goodness for A/C.
Here’s what to look forward to:
Friday night’s highlight game will be between LAUNFD and Ascension. Here are two teams with tons of Drew League star power that just can’t seem to get it together. While LAU’s lineup has fluctuated from week to week leaving them playing with groups lacking either shooters or size, Ascension has already seen its first defection due to playing time in the form of Tarron “The Beast” Williams leaving to play with the Jaguars.
Ascension has got two sets of players, vets and young studs, and a coach who haven’t quite managed to gel after five weeks, but are starting to show signs. Meanwhile, LAU has run with the Bearded One for the last two seasons; no telling if he’ll make a comeback with this team or not, but this could be their last chance to assert themselves before his return—if he comes back at all.
On Saturday, there’s at least one team whose pro debut isn’t in doubt: Nick Young, The Most Hated Player, can’t play for any team other than the one he named after himself. And boy, does MHP need their star gunner back, badly.
They’ve been outshot, out-defended, and outclassed in nearly every game they’ve played so far, resulting in a 2-3 record, and a No. 10 seeding in the Walzer Division. Victor Rudd covered a lot of their deficiencies as a team in prior seasons, and Dwayne Polee, Jr. hasn’t exactly been an equivalent substitute.
Nick is likely bring Jordan Clarkson and Demar DeRozan with him, so they’ll likely put up a more decent showing than usual against LAUNFD, who will be on the second game of a back-to-back. However, LAU might have their own big shooting guard back, and after their ignominious defeat in last year’s playoffs, they’ll be on the warpath. Expect a shootout!
Sunday’s Game of the Day will feature two of the heaviest hitting teams in the league: BB4L, formerly undefeated and the defending champions, vs. Houdini’s Problems, current holders of the Untouchables title, and former champions themselves (as Houdini’s All-Stars).
Both teams will have firepower all over the floor. Casper Ware, Van Girard, Chris Jackson will all suit up for BB4L, with Terrence Ross and Stanley Johnson possibly returning with the end of sanctions. While Problems may not have the same names and size, Antonio “Swagg Champ” Biglow has a few more weapons to dish to this season with BJ Johnson, Steve Alford, and “G-Money” Garrett Nevels all sharpshooting from 3 and powerhouse Deshawn Stephens patrolling the paint.
Remember what we said up top about defense? These two groups are the definition of lockdown. This one will be an absolute dogfight from beginning to end, with the outcome being either Problems’ first loss of the season, or an exposed and reeling Basketball 4 Life.