It’s the playoffs, baby! As usual, we’re moving to LA Southwest College for round one of the 2019 playoffs and we’ve got some truly incredible matchups lined up. Here’s a breakdown of each—but no predictions! In most cases, it’s impossible to determine which side has the advantage and besides—at the Drew League, anything can happen.
(1) Redemption vs. (8) I-Can All-Stars
The champs are taking on I-Can All-Stars early on Friday, but their success in the playoff opener is largely dependent on 1. Who shows up and 2. Whether or not they play Redemption ball or play down to the level of their competition—a bad habit they’ve displayed throughout the year, especially in the regular season closer.
I-Can has a collection of players who can explode at any time, but Redemption has Jonathan Gibson and Chuck Garcia, who’ve each earned Top Performer honors at various times throughout the season—when they come to play.
Redemption might be the favorite, but they can also leave a lot of holes in their perimeter defense, which I-Can might be able to exploit. When they last played in Week 9, Redemption came out on top, but if they let Mark Hill shoot closer to league average than the 20 percent he hit from three, it could be a wrap for them.
(1) All In vs. (8) Hometown Favorites
All In transformed mid-season with the infusion of previous MVPs Vince Camper and Pat Rembert. That makes them dangerous from all over the floor when Zafir Williams and Stephaun Branch are engaged and ready to play.
That group has defeated some of the best teams in the league with balanced scoring and bruising, big bodies, something Hometown Favorites should be aware of. But for All In, Hometown presents a danger because they are so unpredictable.
They can do a ton of damage from the wing courtesy of Gerry Blakes and Khyri Thomas, and if Bobby Portis shows up, All In may not have a matchup for him. Hometown’s roster has fluctuated all year, as usual, so All In probably won’t be able to game plan for them, either. If they come in expecting the usual big Vic Michel minutes and instead get a vintage Gerry Blakes game, they could be facing an upset.
(2) Young Citi vs. (7) Panthers
Young Citi overturned Panthers in their Week 7 tilt, but it wasn’t exactly a cake walk for either team. Both teams are defined by defense more than offense, with Panthers’ center Selom Mawugbe leading the league in blocks and the addition of Terrell Gomez in the backcourt providing them the shooting they lacked in previous seasons.
Meanwhile, Young Citi’s Keith Smith has earned his “Bulletproof” moniker in the backcourt, while Tremayne Johnson shores up their frontcourt attack. Unfortunately for Young Citi, Smith has been injured, as has his backcourt mate Keith Shamburger, meaning their frontcourt will have to make up the difference. Both teams match up like evil twins, basically, so this game will probably come down to the oldest sports cliche around—who wants it more.
(4) MHP vs. (5) Baxter’s Legacy
MHP very narrowly defeated Baxter’s Legacy when they met in Week 8, in the middle of the latter team’s late-season slump. Since then, Baxter’s Legacy has bounced back in a big way, knocking down the intimidating Public Enemy—who beat MHP in Week 6—led by MVP candidate Justin Stommes and Jerrell Tate locking up Franklin Session the way Frank locked up MHP’s own MVP candidate Askia Booker.
Booker, though, can still throw flames from deep and is flanked by a big, rangy team that includes Nick Young and Victor Rudd on the wings and DJ Shelton inside. Baxter’s wings have their work cut out for them.
(3) Public Enemy vs. (6) Tuff Crowd
Tuff Crowd can bring some pretty big guns to bear, including Brandon Jennings, Shareef O’Neal and KJ Martin, the latter of whom give them a sizeable frontcourt advantage over Public Enemy—especially if playmaking forward Jarion Henry is, indeed, out of the rotation after his Week 10 meltdown under the bright lights against Baxter’s Legacy.
In that case, Public Enemy may end up playing four-out—a strategy that has paid off big for them in the past. Hopefully, their defensive sharks Roshun Wynne and Markus Monroe will both be ready to run and support three-time MVP Frank Session in locking down Tuff Crowd’s guards, especially with Monroe injured. Otherwise, it’ll be the Frank Nitty show as he tries to once again lead his team to the promised land.
(2) CitiTeam Blazers vs. (7) Reapers Black Ops
The revamped Blazers are the hottest team in the league since they heisted BB4L’s marquee backcourt, consisting of ballhawks Casper and Ervin Ware and steady, stalwart presence Van Girard. They joined existing Blazers centerpieces Kyle Gibson, Malcolm Thomas, and Jushay Rockett to become one of the most formidable two-way teams.
They beat up on Reapers in Week 9, despite 18 points from Steph Hicks and 17 from Jahmel Taylor. Reapers tend to leave a lot of spaces on defense and get away from playing team basketball in crisis situations, but if Taurean Prince shows up, they’ll at least have a player who can put the team on his back if they fall into hero ball again. Also, Kyle Gibson is out with a shoulder injury, which will affect Blazers’ shooting from range. If Reapers can find a way to slow down Thomas, they can prevent a repeat blowout at the very least.
(3) No Shnacks vs. (6) Nationwide Blue Devils
No Shnacks beat Nationwide in their Week 4 meeting, but at the time, Nationwide were incorporating an entirely new lineup of players unfamiliar with each other’s skill sets. Since then, they’ve gelled and beat some of the league’s top flight competition—including last year’s champs, in a rematch that found the runner ups getting their much-desired revenge for coming in second.
They’ve also brought back centerpieces like Chris Allen, an easy 20-piece, Mike Martin, a solid, shooting big, and Marcus Williams, one of the Drew’s premiere scorers. No Shnacks, with its duo of athletic, young stars, LaMelo Ball and Eli Scott, who put up a whole highlight reel of electrifying plays this season, hasn’t taken very many L’s and has a distinct size advantage. This one is going to be a lot of fun.
(4) Problems vs. (5) CABC So. Cal
Problems last faced CABC way back in Week 2. Back then, they had no Garrett Nevels. They had no Corey Allen. Deshawn Stephens hadn’t yet arrived, nor had Jaylen Bland. The roster included Larry Anderson, who has since defected back to the Blazers, and Marcus Bell, who hasn’t been on a Drew League roster since. It was a completely different team.
All those players are back and Problems has become a juggernaut. CABC’s young core—Gary Franklin, Jake Kyman, Max Agbonkpolo, and Colin Welp—has also proved they can run with the best of the Drew, showing off a polish and talent way beyond their years.
Point guard AJ Gasporra also put up a vintage performance in Week 10, earning Player of the Game against Team Watson and proving he’s still got a little left in the tank for the playoffs. This rematch will be against two completely different teams, so expect sparks to fly and surprises from beginning to end.