I decided to write this blog entry about 2 months ago but did not do so until now based on waiting for the school year to start. This piece is about the state of basketball in NE Pa. and the lack of exposure many of the kids receive.
But before I do that I need to speak about Pocono Mountain West High School and its Basketball Program. As you might have noticed I did say Basketball Program and not team. That was done intentionally and was said based on reflecting on what I said some months back about what I thought I was seeing when watching them play a game against Pocono Mountain East High School.
In that blog post I was totally off base and wrong for ASSUMING! I really became caught up in the hype of the opposing school based on how they were playing against a true legend in Coach Pensyl and all the accolades always given to him and his very good staff. I saw them play against a team I thought they should have beat and wrongly tore into the program based on my expectations heading into that game. For that I do apologize and this apology is sincere! Anyone who knows me and has followed me on my blog or message board postings over the years know I do not kiss up to anyone except GOD, or any program. I just call it as I see it based on years of being around the game. In the case of Pocono Mountain West I let one performance influence me enough to say a few things that were uncalled for and definitely wrong with no truth or substance.
So I decided to do a bit of research on my own. I also looked hard at what those coaches and others in the Pocono region have to work with. I have come to the conclusion it is a very difficult job to say the least. And though it is difficult, Pocono Mountain West, a relatively new HS has done more in its short existence than most likely any other HS in North America that does not recruit (Oak Hill, Finley Prep, etc.) or take kids from around the world in an effort to win games. For that they should be proud.
Looking at the program you see a well oiled machine that goes from a youth basketball program all the way up to the high school. You see a well outfitted team with a history and tradition. You really see an outstanding coach who most likely has forgotten more about the game than people such as me will ever know. From a serious web page complete with bios on players that college recruiters can use, to a super tough schedule that shows they are not running from competition, this is the program of choice in NE Pennsylvania.
Lastly I questioned off season conditioning and more when last writing about this program. Funny how I forgot how you can open the gym and say come work out, yet kids often find other things to do. As the old saying goes, you can lead a horse to water but cannot make the horse drink. It is up to the parents to get involved and make the kids commit to what the coaches want. It is also up to the parents to trust the coaches and let them do their job. With that said, if this happens at Pocono Mountain West High School, The Best Program in NE Pa., people in the area will have a lot to cheer about this season.
And to Coach Pensyl and his Staff, without saying more than what is necessary, I apologize for not doing better homework before making foolish statements. You truly are an outstanding Staff and a excellent Basketball Program that provides a great experience for all the kids involved and something to be proud of as area residents. Now I wait for some hate mail from Pocono Mountain East lol.
In NE Pennsylvania people would be stunned by the quality of players that are under the radar. These kids are well coached and in most cases have very good grades. The programs they play in have wonderful facilities and the gyms are often similar to this at mid major universities. Pocono Mountain East, Pocono Mountain West, East Stroudsburg South, East Stroudsburg North, and Pleasant Valley all have gyms that could easily be on the campus of MAAC, CAA, or NEC conference schools. Ditto the places like Liberty based on size, and Easton, and Parkland, all in the Lehigh Valley. Watching games played at these places are great experiences as are watching the football games on a Friday Evening. From great concessions with very reasonable priced food (like they are really giving it away lol) to Cheerleaders for each team. This experience is something I rarely saw watching games in NY, NJ, and Conn.
This year Pocono Mountain West should be a favorite with at least 2 D1 prospects and others I might not know about. Big tests will be the first 3 games of the season and the game away against Linden who I feel they can beat.
Pocono Mountain East lost a very good, yet underrated player in Kyheim (sp) Hall to St. Francis of Pa. of the NE Conference. But they return some serious ballers with at least 1 and maybe 2 being D 1 material. They also have a wonderful program and a terrific coaching staff.
Stroudsburg is another team you always have to watch out for, The coach there, Coach Thornton (Sp) has been around for a long time and can match X and Os with the best of them nationally.
I want to just acknowledge the new coach at East Stroudsburg South, Rich Baker, the former D1 recruit from Stroudsburg HS who had great games back in the day against great players including Mr. Koby Bryant now residing in LA. Rich has his hands full but I am sure he will get it done in time. It does not hurt that he was on the staff at Pocono Mountain West for a few years and played for Coach Thornton at Stroudsburg. Just hope he gets a good staff including Riley Moye, who works in the school doing public safety.
I now appeal to coaches from D1, D2, and D3, schools as well as those from NAIA, and the Junior College ranks to come out and see the players from the Pocono Area. Jay Wright did and signed one recently from Liberty if I remember correctly. NEC, CAA, and MAAC schools should own winter homes in the area based on talent that could help them. In fact Pocono Mountain West has a 6 ft 11 kid who can run, jump, and catch and when he gets a bit tougher could be the steal of the East Coast!
Well thats it for now. I hope people will get a chance to see what I saw initially, but lost site of last season, and recognize the Pocono area as a place for sports achievement!