State College of Florida frenzied pace leads nation in scoring

adell@bradenton.comNovember 29, 2012 

BRADENTON -- Now you see it. Now you don't.

It's basketball meant to be played at the speed of light.

First year head coach Brock Erickson brought it to the State College of Florida campus this year and word of his whirlwind style of hoops is spreading like wildfire.

The SCF men's team leads the nation's junior colleges in scoring averaging a whopping 106.3 points per game.

Best of all the Manatees have won five of their first six games. They started the season ranked 17th among the 18 junior college teams in the state. Now they are 7th.

Playing time warp basketball makes for a happy team. More players get more minutes on the court and more shots are available.

It's also a recruiter's dream.

"When you tell a kid you are recruiting that you are going to try and average 100 points and are going to play to a 12 second shot clock, and are going to get their stats higher and you are going to try and lead the country in assists, it's a no brainer," the 37-year-old Erickson says.

It's a share the wealth mentality. SCF has five players averaging double digit scoring and the Manatees are fourth in the country averaging 24 assists per game

Guards Michael Sanchez and Anders Hass rank ninth and 15th in assists averaging 7.2 and 6.7 per game respectively in Division I JUCO ball.

Hass is the Manatees leading scorer (18 ppg) with Sanchez third (16.5 ppg) so how is that for maintaining an unselfish attitude.

Hal Chasey Gymnasium hasn't seen so much excitement since the glory years of Harry Kinnan, who brought the program unprecedented success in a 19 year run that ended in 1996.

Those days could be on the way back and it's coming at the fan base quicker than a bolt of lightning.

For the current SCF basketball team time is precious.

It's a reason the Manatees practice with a 12 second shot clock and players are expected to take no more than 15 seconds to get off a shot in every possession of every game.

It results in a multitude of advantages for a squad that is not big.

"It wears teams down. You can hear the opposing players breathing hard the whole game and they don't have enough energy to rebound at the end," says freshman

Brian Cobb, who played for Lakewood Ranch. "The other team's big men are worried about getting back on defense. They can't stay on the court. We might not get a team right away, but at the end of the game they are tired."

Some might think all of this frantic offense is done at the expense of the defense. But nothing could be further from the truth, according to the players.

"Offense wins games, but defense wins championships," says six-foot-seven Marshall transfer Isaiah Williams, the Manatees second leading scorer (17.5 ppg), who Erickson calls his best player. "We get a lot of stops and get a lot of shots up. You keep running and don't think about being tired. But practice is harder than the game. We don't let up."

Those who come to witness the Manatees Warp zone style will be treated to all kinds of fun; there are above the rim dunks, 3 pointers launched from all over the court and a frenetic defense that is constantly full court pressing. The standard joke is you have to be in shape to watch the games because your neck will be constantly turning to keep up with the action.

"Not a lot of people in our league have had to prepare for this and it's a system that is hard to prepare for if you are not ready," Erickson said.

While it is drives opponents batty Erickson says it is not easy to coach and takes a lot of commitment. He never played or coached this style, but is good friends with Iona head coach Tim Cluess, whose Gaels led NCAA Division I in scoring (82.9 pg) and assists (19.3 apg) last year.

"There is a lot of trial and error," Erickson says. "A lot of people feel when you play fast it's easy to coach and easy to play when in fact it is harder to be relentless running and sprinting every single possession. It is very difficult and we are pressing full court the whole game mixing that up with man and zone. I watched a lot of Iona practices and adopted a lot of stuff coach Cluess uses. The kids love it."

The players will vouch for Erickson's assertion that his pre-season conditioning is pretty extensive. But he tries to make it enjoyable by doing a lot of it on the court rather than out on the track.

"I try to keep the conditioning basketball oriented because it's more fun and related to what we are doing," the coach said. "We do a lot shooting drills up and down the court to get them used to getting off quick shots, but good shots. We are unconventional, but if it is coached right and your kids buy into it it's a great way to play and be successful."

You need good players to run this system and Erickson has an almost new roster with only three players back from last year's team in Denzel Myers, Booker High product Stone Hollaway and North Port grad Dauntae Johnson.

The 6-1 Myers (8.2 ppg) is the only returning starter. The guard averaged 14 points per game last year in earning Suncoast Conference first team honors. Johnson (6. 2 ppg) left the team because of academics, but straightened that out. Holloway averaged 20 points his senior year at Booker.

The Manatees other double digit scorers this season are Savad Garner (16 ppg) and 6-7 Obinna Oleka (11.2 ppg). The other key scorers are Larry Keys (7.5 ppg) and their tallest player 6-8 Devon Hodges (8.8 ppg)

The top rebounders are Garner (7.4 rpg), Williams (5.2 rpg), Myers (4.8) and Cobb (4.7), who is averaging 5.3 points per game.

"We play very up-tempo so we needed to get some athletes, but we also needed to get good kids who are going to act right on and off campus and go to class and do all the things that go into being a college athlete," Erickson says.

Through the connections he has made in the profession, including his tenure as an assistant coach at his last position, Monroe College in New York, Erickson says he was able to find the right players. His former school finished third in the national JUCO tournament in 2011 and fifth last year.

Now it's just a matter of getting them to buy into his brand of basketball and that task seemed to be accomplished lighting quick.

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