Gonzaga College High won its own invitational tournament last weekend. The team’s leader, Nate Britt, played every minute of three games, minus a few moments in the championship when he was saddled with his fourth foul.
“I wouldn’t have taken him out if I didn’t have to,” Gonzaga coach Steve Turner said.
If Britt can do it, why can’t everyone?
How many times have you gone to a high school game and seen kids struggle to get up and down the court, or not even play hard? Often times they force the coach’s hand and non-verbally ask to come out. They approach the game in a way that makes it hard for them to stay in the contest.
“Kids have to work on conditioning,” Turner said. “They just don’t do it. Plus we’ve got a strength and conditioning coach named Blair O’Donovan who does a great job. (Nate Britt) is self-motivated to do more while everybody else is sleeping.”
In Friday’s game, Britt never looked to the bench for a replacement and I don’t think anyone played harder. Turner needed him in the game to run his team and Britt played every minute, just like he typically would.
Don’t get me wrong, some guys aren’t made to play 32 minutes. The bigs who change ends with the intent of being involved in a play might need a break or two, but the guards? Then there’s the specter of foul trouble. But if you love to play and you’re the best player on the team, why not go all out? Better yet, why not prepare from a conditioning standpoint to go all out? The great ones incorporate conditioning into their routine.
One of the best high school backcourts I’ve ever seen was Rice’s Kenny Satterfield and Andre Barrett. I don’t recall their coach, Mo Hicks, ever needing to sit them down for fatigue and they pressed as soon as the ball went through the net.
The reality is not everyone is in the kind of shape needed to pull this off. It's easy to see Britt makes it a point to be ready to play hard for 32 minutes.
On the flipside, coaches who have the horses could stand to let them run. It really struck me how many kids don’t empty the tank and their coach still feels the need to shuffle them in and out of the game. There’s no need for coaches to impress their friends with substitution patterns. If your best player can make it all the way through, why not let him? Once a player proves ready and able to play the whole game, in my mind, by all means loosen the reins and trust him out there.
Overall, I just wish more players would take on the responsibility of going harder and maybe their coach would give them the reward of playing longer. Until then, kudos to Britt for playing with purpose and intensity and making the commitment to ready himself for the challenge.