This is it. Twelve weeks of Drew League action have come down to this. The last two teams are Mark Caudillo’s Problems—aka The Evil Empire—and Nick Young’s Most Hated Players. Problems is a team with a championship pedigree through and through. Mark, known affectionately as “Taco” around the league, has been here before and emerged victorious three times in the past.
His star player, Garrett “G-Money” Nevels, was here in 2014 with Houdini’s All-Stars—along with backcourt partner Antonio Biglow and small forward Jordan Sweeney—as well, so they know what it takes to win.
MHP has been to the Championship game as well, but they’ve been the bridesmaid every time, leaving Swaggy P and his offensive dynamo thirstier than ever for final victory. Victor Rudd and DJ Shelton have accompanied him each time but this year, they’ve got a not-so-secret weapon: Hot scoring point guard Askia “The Boogieman” Booker, who put in an early bid for MVP and sustained a ridiculous scoring clip throughout the season.
He didn’t play in the semifinals, but they will surely need him to balance the long-range sniping of Problems guards Nevels, Bruce Massey, and Jaylen Bland, who have utterly drowned opponents in a deluge of threes all season.
These two teams have history as well. In 2016, Taco teamed up with Young to fill out his roster with Young’s athletic picks. That year, Problems marched into the playoffs as an eight seed and once there, they sewed “MHP” patches to their uniforms, pushing Mark’s few remaining players to the end of the bench and alienating him before ultimately falling in the first round. The next year, Taco turned to “Houdini” Allen Caveness to team up, returning Problems to their former dominance. Now, they look like the powerhouse of old and have run into their predecessors in the Problems legacy.
The philosophies of the two teams couldn’t be more different. While Problems emphasizes ball movement and nose-to-the-grindstone defense, MHP would rather play one on one, overcoming their opponents through sheer force of talent. That doesn’t mean they don’t have their defenders though; Shannin Sharpe has secretly been one of the Drew’s best guard defenders all summer, while Shelton, Rudd, and Young have long arms that come in handy when they’re full engaged on D, filling up passing lanes and snuffing shots both at the rim and on the perimeter. With Elijah Stewart rounding out their guard rotation, they outsize Problems at every position as well.
But Problems plays a disciplined form of basketball and have always found the additional gear they’ve needed whether deep in a hole or leading by 15. With new additions DJ Shumpert and Marcus Bell, they’ve filled out their frontcourt depth and knowing that they’ve all won championships throughout the years gives them a calm that few teams in the league can know. In the end, it’ll come down to whether the Problems’ hard work can beat MHP’s talent—which has been known to work pretty hard when it has to.
Either way, there are no excuses for either team—this is the Drew, where the motto hangs over every game. Either you find a way to produce, or you kiss that trophy goodbye. One team is going to pucker up and the other will embrace the most coveted Pro-Am hardware in basketball. The 2019 Drew League Championships have arrived.