Coach Kramer Earns Atlanta Coach of the Year Honors

Co-author at www.beyondthehardwood.com Matt Kramer was honored by the Atlanta Journal Constitution as the All Metro Atlanta North Fulton Coach of the Year. Joining Coach Kramer on the All Metro Atlanta North Fulton first team were two of his Milton players, 6’9″ Harvard-bound senior power forward Chris Lewis and 6’6″ junior shooting guard Alex O’Connell. Lewis was a four-year starter and region player of the year this past season at Milton who tallied over 1300 career points and over 1000 career rebounds, and recently had his #23 retired by the Milton program. O’Connell, who led the team with a 22.3 ppg scoring average, heads into his senior year next year with SEC, ACC and Big 12 offers in hand along with 999 career points, which puts him in position to become Milton’s all-time leader in career points.

The All Metro Atlanta North Fulton team is also highlighted by Player of the Year and McDonald’s All-American and University of Arizona-bound shooting guard Kobi Simmons from St. Francis. All of the Metro-Atlanta area honorees can be seen at the following link:

Coach Kramer Leads Milton on a Memorable Run to the Georgia 6A Final Four

In his third season at the helm, beyondthehardwood.com co-author Matt Kramer led his Milton Eagles to the Georgia 6A Final Four with a 94-83 win over Campbell on Friday, February 26th at the University of West Georgia. Milton was led in scoring in the round of eight by junior shooting guard Alex O’Connell. A 6’6″ high major recruit, O’Connell punctuated the evening with a reverse dunk in the closing seconds, punching Milton’s ticket to the Final Four, Kramer’s first as a head coach. However, it was not the Campbell game that will go down as the most memorable on Milton’s playoff run.

Six days before the win over Campbell, Milton traveled four hours from Atlanta to the southernmost part of Georgia for a “Sweet 16″ match-up with 27-0 Tift County, in a gym where Tift had not lost a game in over three years. Known to be a blue-collar program that sends kids to play Division I college basketball, Tift, led by sensational senior guard Tyrie Jackson, led by eight points at the half and by 9 with less than five minutes to go in the fourth before Coach Kramer’s Eagles dug in and showed a whole lot of blue-collar grit of their own.

Down nine points with 4:48 to go in the game, Alex O’Connell intercepted a pass near the top of the key and drove the length of the floor for a two-handed slam that ignited Milton’s season-defining rally. At the defensive end, 6’9″ Harvard-bound Chris Lewis and 6’8″ University of North Carolina-Greensboro-bound Kyrin Galloway, Milton’s bookend rim-protecting senior twin towers, contested and blocked one Tift foray to the basket after another down the stretch, jump-starting the Eagles fast break, while on the offensive end it was a mixture of Lewis on the inside and senior wing Charlie Newell giving O’Connell help on the perimeter.

Trailing by four with less than two minutes to go, the Eagles turned in a key sequence that started with Galloway going high in the air to block a Tyrie Jackson shot off the backboard, leading to the senior Newell hitting the second of his two huge three-point goals from deep in the right corner to cut the Tift lead to one–the closest Milton had been able to get since midway through the first quarter. Newell’s shot was followed by a Tift player missing the front end of a one-and-one, which led to Alex O’Connell giving Milton it’s first lead since it led 7-6 in the first quarter on a floater in the paint with 37 seconds to play. However, Tift did not get to be 27-0 in the state of Georgia by caving to pressure, a point driven home when Tyrie Jackson was fouled on his way to the hoop and made two free throws to re-establish a one point Tift lead with 24 seconds to play, setting up the dramatic finish.

With no timeouts remaining, Milton’s sophomore PG Justin Brown quickly advanced the ball against token Tift pressure and got the Eagles into the set called during Jackson’s free throws. Brown crossed half court and passed the ball to Newell curling from the left to right wing and after a brief look into Lewis, who was surrounded by three defenders in the post, Newell reversed the ball to Galloway at the top of the key. Galloway, who had hit a key three during the late run, looked at the basket for a count then checked a surrounded Lewis inside before passing the ball back to Brown who had made his way across the baseline to left the corner. With twelve seconds left, Brown looked inside and attempted to get the ball to Lewis on the left block, but the defender reached around Milton’s first option and poked the ball with the help of Lewis back to Brown. With seven seconds left, Brown, a left-handed guard, dribbled up out of the corner with his right hand, locking in on Lewis, and appeared to want to deliver the ball back inside to the big fella. However, he realized that Tift had continued to surround Lewis with three guys, making an entry pass impossible; so, with three seconds to go, the ball and the season was in the hands of a sophomore guard.

Brown may be young, and he may not be the first player people think about when they think of this Milton team, but he is a high level player on the rise and he does not lack confidence. Nicknamed “The Louisville Lip,” a Muhammad Ali reference bestowed upon him by assistant coach Sean Revels, referring to his Ali-like ability to run his mouth at the opponent in the heat of the battle, Brown, closely guarded, took a dribble inside the key and stepped back in an attempt to create enough space to get the shot off before the buzzer sounded. Soon after the high-arcing shot narrowly cleared the fingertips of the taller Tift defender, it made a clear path right to its target, grazed the inside front of the iron and nestled softly in the net, sending the Milton bench into a frenzied celebration on the court in front of its bench as an estimated 3,500 Tift fans fell deathly silent. Milton 54, Tift 52: Eagles on to the Elite 8, where, as detailed, they would defeat Campbell.

In the end, Milton would fall to Pebblebrooke in the Georgia 6A Final Four by a score of 77-70, but the memorable win over Tift, the 25 wins, the first-round 96-70 playoff blowout of Central Gwinnet and the Elite Eight victory over Campbell had Coach Kramer talking with great pride about a successful season he believed had shown that Milton’s basketball program had established a championship culture. “We have had some terrific players here at Milton in my three seasons and we have won many games, but this was the first time we have had the togetherness, the toughness, and the investment in one another to go out and beat the teams we beat on this run to the Final Four. That speaks to the championship culture we have worked so hard as a program to develop here over the past three seasons. Winning games is one thing; it takes a championship culture to do what we did here in February. I’m proud of these guys and the guys who came before them here in these past three years who helped develop what we have now established and what we now call The Milton Way. It was a great run that none of us will ever forget, and I am certain we are in a position to build on it and make another run next year and in the years to come.”

With Alex O’Connell and sensational junior point guard Kendrick Summerour returning to headline a talented core of players, “The Milton Way” is certain to remain in the conversation with the elite basketball programs in the state of Georgia.

Milton Individual Postseason Awards

I am not a huge fan of giving postseason individual awards to my players because I am always afraid awarding one thing, like scoring, but not something else of great importance, like taking charges, sends the wrong message to the players in our program. Similarly, I struggle with giving an award for everything because then we would be conforming to a society where more and more everyone who plays feels they deserve an award.

All that said, this being my first year at Milton and wanting to establish my expectations for exactly what I want our players to be, I decided to give 4 awards. Here they are:

1. Most Valuable Player: Senior Mo Lewis. Mo was our leading scorer at 15.7 ppg, leading rebounder at 7.2 rpg, leader in 3-point goals made at 62, and leader in 3-point field goal percentage at 43%. Maybe mmm ore importantly, Mo was also one of the top defenders in the nation in high school basketball, often sacrificing his own scoring to spend his energy defending top ranked high school players like Jaylen Brown (Wheeler) and Braxton Blackwood (Christ Presbyterian School, Nashville, TN). On the floor, Mo did whatever it took to help us win; and off the court he is a top-notch student and role model for the youth in our community. Our MVP this year is Mo Lewis, who will play basketball on scholarship at the Naval Academy.

2. Most Improved: Senior, Josh Burrow. A great teammate who worked hard every day in practice to make his teammates better. Josh had several games where he was a major contributor to many of our victoeies, most notably in wins over Fort Myers, Bishop Verot at the City of Palms Classic and a 14-0 Walton team the first time we played them. Our Most Improved Player, Josh Burrow, will continue his playing career at a Junior College to be determined.

3. The Milton Way Award: Sophomore, Chris Lewis. This award was given to the player we felt personified everything a Milton Basketball Player is supposed to be: Talent; work ethic, academics, character, and being a great teammate. Our 6’9″ sophomore high-major college prospect has all of those qualities, and then some. The sky is the limit for our “Milton Way” award winner Chris Lewis.

4. Redeem Team Senior Awards: These awards to go to our 4 seniors who led us to a terrific 19-win season with victories over some of the top high school teams in this part of the nation. Basketball is a humbling sport and these four young men had to persevere through many things, including a one-year ban from postseason action due to things completely out of their control, plus 2 coaching changes in 10 months. Lesser young men would have transferred to another school; DaQuain Watts, Shawn O’Connell, Josh Burrow and Mo Lewis stayed and decided to be the reason Milton will remain a great program in years to come.

In years to come, I do not know if I will continue to give the special individual awards, but I will always be able to give senior awards to hard-working, dedicated, unselfish seniors who give their all for their teammates to

Milton Celebrates Successful 2013-14 Season

Last weekend we celebrated the 2013-14 season with our banquet at Milton High School. Looking back, we were blessed to enjoy many great individual and team accomplishments. Here were some highlights.

Team Achievements:

-19 victories

-Georgia State Playoff Qualifier

-Defeated #1 ranked team from Tennessee, breaking Christ Presbyterian School’s 39 game winning streak

-Defeated #1, undefeated team from Germany, Urspring High School.

Defeated #1 ranked team in state of Georgia, Wheeler.

Defeated undefeated (14-0) Walton in January.

-Defeated backyard arch-rival Roswell 3 times.

Finished Runner up at the Arby’s National Showcase Classic in Bristol, TN.

-Finished the season ranked #5 in State of Georgia 6A.

-Restored the reputation of Milton basketball on a state and national level.

Individual Highlights:

1. -Mo Lewis: elected team MVP by his teammates; named to All-reguon first team; named all-Metro Atlanta; Led team in scoring, rebounding and 3-point field goal percentage (42 3%).

2. -Chris Lewis: selected as the winner of “The Milton Way” Award by hisbteammates for character, academics, talent, effort, and being a great teammate.

3. -Josh Burrow: selected Most Improved Player by his teammates.

4. -DaQuain Watts: Dunk of the season with a two-hand stick back in traffic over two defenders against Yates, Texas at City of Palms Classic.

5. Jordan Burrow: Atlanta Journal Constitution Player of the week for 19 point 9 assist, 8 steal game in a victory over Etowah in December.

6. Shawn O’Connell: 18.7ppg & 14.9 rpg in 3 games vs arch-rival Roswell.

PLAYER SIGNINGS:

1. Mo Lewis: signed full basketball scholarship to the United States Naval Academy.

2. Shawn O’Connell: signed a full basketball scholarship to play at Georgia Southern University.

It was a fantastic year for Milton Basketball. Our four seniors will be missed but they have left a myriad of great memories and laid the foundation for the program to continue its tradition of excellence by establishing what we now call “The Milton Way.”

Team Trips to National Events Build Togetherness

The two trips we took at MILTON back in December were invaluable in helping us to build the team chemistry and togetherness it is going to take for us to make a tournament run in February and March.

It’s kind of similar to the college concept: regardless of how different guys are, when.they have to live together in a hotel on the road they find common bonds and begin to understand and accept one another’s differences.

At the City of Palms Classic In Fort Myers, Florida, we went 2-2. Some coaches DONT like the idea of adding losses to a record. But our losses in Florida were to the NUMBER ONE TEAM IN THE NATION–Montverde Acafemy–and to 2012 National Champion Yates (Houston, Texas) on a running 27 foot bank shot at the buzzer. Those are the kind of games that get a team ready for a tournament run.

At the Arby’s Classic in Bristol, Tennessee we knocked off the number one high school team from Germany (Urspring) , national power Chris School (Ashville, N C) and then in the semifinal, in front of 6000 plus fans, we beat Christ Presbyterian Academy from Nashville, TN, a team that had won 39 straight games and two straight Tennessee state titles.

Trip To City Of Palms Classic Good For the Team’s Soul

Sitting here in the airport in Fort Myers, Florida, I am so grateful for the opportunity our kids had to play in the City of Palms Classic. When we left Atlanta last Tuesday night, we were a group of talented players who were playing well together, but something was still missing. That something was discovered on THIS trip: a 100% commitment by every player to each of his teammates.

On this trip, we had a resounding victory over the host school, Fort Myers Bishop Verot and its Michigan-bound big man Ricky Doyle; we stood up to the#1team in the nation for a half only to run out of gas and be humbled in the second half; we came back from a 23-point deficit against a terrific Yates team to tie with 6 seconds left, only to lose on a miracl at the buzzer; And we bounced back to put a thirough a defending state Georgia champion (Green Forest).

But most importantly, we become a more togethtt group–a family–by living together, going to the beach together and a multitude of other team-building activities that this trip afforded us! The success we have the rest of the way was set up by this trip. As the leader of the Program , I know this was invaluable!

For pictures and video and more details, visit www.Facebook.com/TheBestLaidPlans.

New Leadership In Coaching Site Connected to The Best-Laid Plans

For all who follow the discussion here at beyondthehardwood.com, I would like to personally invite you to the new site at www.coachmattkramer.com. The new site, similar to this blog, is a leadership in coaching site for basketball coaches; however, the new site has been constructed to be more interactive user friendly and it has the capability to share content, including practice or game film that will allow those interested to see first hand how some of the things members discuss actually look on court. The new site, like this blog, is 100% FREE TO JOIN.

Give www.coachmattkramer.com a look and get involved now in what we believe will become the strongest high school basketball coaching network in the world!

Milton’s Schedule Goes From National to International

After spending five days in Fort Myers, Florida at the prestigious City of Palms.Classic Milton will fly home on the 23rd of December, take a short break to celebrate Christmas, then head back out on the road to Bristol Tennessee for a likely first-round match-up with the German Jr. National team at the Arby’s Classic. The goal this year is to challenge our program to compete with the best so we can become the best we are capable of becoming. One thing is for sure: we are not scheduling to pad our record!

Click on the link above to check out all the pairings and times for one of the nations top high school basketball showcase events.

Early-Season Adversity Often Makes for a Special March

After a frustrating opening-night overtime loss where we simply were not ale to get our offense in a flow, my guys bounced back with a greater sense of urgency in the second night of back-to-back games and dominated South Forsyth with a smothering defense en route to a 30-10 halftime lead and 63-29 victory.

As the head coach of a new program that has many talented players, the real work has been in meshing things together. We have faced some adversity: some injury-related, some behind locker room doors and the tough opening night loss. AND ALL OF IT HAS MADE US BETTER!

As the head coach, I certainly don’t go seeking adversity, but I welcome it when it reveals itself because my BEST teams over the years have been the ones who have overcome the most. It takes strong character kids to be able to battle through tough times, and we have that at Milton. I am a firm believer that some tough times in November and December can lead to a More TOGETHER, determined, mentally-tough group in March. And when those kids are also talented, special things often happen.

Milton Basketball Practice/Tryout Day 1

Morning Session: 6:45-7:50 am, Main Gym

1. Fire Fast Break: Court organization for Milton Running Game.
2. Intro to Power Offense
3. Intro to Man-to-man principles

Afternoon Session: 4:00-6:00 pm, Main Gym

1. Pre-practice Lock-in shooting and individual skills work.
2. Fire (Running game) build ups & peer pressure drills.
3. Intro to first transition secondary break read.
4. 5 on 5 Daily Double drill (fire). (Free Time & quick read)
5. Individual Man-to-man defense.
6. 2 on 2 Help/recovers.
7. Wisconsin drill: 3 on 3 baseline rotations.
8. 4 on 4 Shell drill.
9. 5 on 5 shell to Fire (Free time & quick read 1.)
10. Power Offense vs. Challenge team man-to-man
11. ob under 1 & side out