It looks like the 45th season of the Drew League is going out with a bang. There were plenty of fireworks in the Semifinals, but Saturday afternoon at Los Angeles Southwest College set the stage for a truly spectacular showdown with plenty of history yet to be made.
In the final battle of the Jonathan Baxter Division, Keion Kindred’s Redemption faced off with Gary Clark’s No Shacks in a hard-fought heavyweight bout between two teams with underdog mentalities and plenty to prove. While No Shnacks jumped out to an early lead propelled by a stunning performance from guard Marvelle Harris, Redemption simply outlasted No Shnacks as Jonathan Gibson left everything on the court. Gibson ended the game with 30 points and five assists, leading Redemption and Kindred to their first ever Drew League Finals.
Then, in the final for the Christopher Baxter Division, Nation Wide Souljas showed up big against the Most Hated Players in a rousing shootout that brought the crowd to their feet and Nation Wide to the Drew Finals. Tabbed by Voice of the Drew, George Preciado, as the “most dangerous team in the league,” the Souljas, led by coach Roland Jones and Glen “Big Baby” Davis found a winning strategy despite being technically outgunned Nick Young, his dad and coach, Charles Young, and DeMar DeRozan. Ultimately, MHP’s late-season chemistry issues and lack of interior defense came back to bite them as Big Baby racked up 34 points inside, proving to be an unstoppable force—and a thoroughly entertaining one at that.
Now, two of the league’s best coaches will meet to settle an old rivalry as Kindred, once Jones’ apprentice on the bench, meets up with his one-time mentor in what feels a lot like fate. Keion had nothing but praise for his former teacher, saying: “I’m beyond proud of Roland and what he has been able to accomplish. I always told him that coaching was his calling!”
Jones echoes the sentiment.
“Tomorrow will be a great game from two great teams,” he says, “ [There’s] A lot of history between me and coach Keion Kindred and his players. This will be one of the greatest Finals in Drew League history.”
He might be right, as the matchup is fascinating all over the floor. Nation Wide sports a cadre of proven scorers on the perimeter led by “Mr. Iso” Marcus Williams and featuring Jordin Mayes, Chris Allen, Kwamere Gredic and defensive specialists AJ Harris and Aaron Harrison. They are anchored inside by Big Baby, who has proven a tough mark for the big men tasked with wrangling him on the block so far. But Baby has yet to contend with anyone as long as Redemption center Chris Johnson (of LSU). Johnson’s a legit 7-footer, and with his willowy limbs he won’t stop Davis from marching inside, but he can certainly knock down any layups Davis attempts.
Meanwhile, Redemption’s got plenty of firepower themselves, in the form of Gibson, Chuck Garcia and Marc Wilson, aka “Starscream.” Forward Ekene Ibekwe has also proven to be a defensive force. The teams are more or less evenly matched, so it comes down to the coaches, who are two of the best at pre-game planning and in-game adjustments in the Drew League. The main attraction will be the action on the floor, but the deciding factor just might be the chess match taking place on the benches. Arrive early and don’t blink; these two teams—and their coaches—are going to put on a show.