Basketball

Balanced Solon boys' basketball team prospering in motion offense

If they’re being honest, most coaches will tell you they’d rather play a team with one dominant scorer than a team with five solid ones.

With the first scenario, it’s simple: focus your defensive energy on the prime-time guy and force the supporting cast to beat you.

The second scenario isn’t as cut-and-dry. Zone in on one player? Any of the other four could light you up. Spread your defense out to all five? Chances are at least a couple will exploit a defensive mismatch.

Solon's A.J. Coons guards head coach Jason Pershing during practice on Monday, Feb. 6, 2017.

Solon’s A.J. Coons guards head coach Jason Pershing during practice on Monday, Feb. 6, 2017.

That’s the riddle opposing teams must solve when they play Solon, one of the most balanced teams in Iowa.

“All those kids can shoot the ball so you can’t really focus on just stopping one kid because their balance is just outstanding,” said Tom Squiers, head coach of Beckman Catholic, which has played Solon twice. “You’ve got to guard all five kids; if you don’t you’re in big trouble.”

Solon head coach Jason Pershing works with his team during practice on Monday, Feb. 6, 2017.

Solon head coach Jason Pershing works with his team during practice on Monday, Feb. 6, 2017.

Solon is the only team in the 16-member WaMaC Conference to have six players averaging 6 or more points: Jake Coons (12.5), Luke Ira (9.5), Sterling McIlravy (9.4), Ben Krutzfeldt (9.1), A.J. Coons (7.9) and Zach Cusick (6.1).

“I think the biggest thing we learned from last year when we had one guy that scored a lot of points is sometimes it becomes easy to defend,” Solon head coach Jason Pershing said. “So this summer, we really worked on every guy having that confidence. We wanted every guy to have that confidence. And so I think that spread out where nobody needed to force anything.”

Added A.J. Coons: “Coach really preaches unselfishness, and I don’t think there’s any selfish player on our team. I think that people are more worried about what our team can do to win rather than getting their own personal stats.”

Here’s how all six can hurt you:

Jake Coons is a high school Kevin Love — as comfortable inside the paint as he is on the perimeter. Ira shoots 44 percent from long range. McIlravy is an undersized but gutty post player. Krutzfeldt leads the team with 5.1 assists and 1.8 steals per game. A.J. Coons is a 6-foot-3 spark plug off the bench. And Cusick leads the team in blocks while also stroking the third-best long range shot.

Through their 11-7 start, the Spartans have had two players in double digits five times, three players in double digits five times and four players in double digits three times. They’ve also had five different leading scorers.

So where does all that balance come from?

Well, other than team chemistry, Solon’s new-look motion offense should take the credit.

A motion offense is a read-and-react, pass-heavy scheme made popular in recent years by the NBA’s San Antonio Spurs and Golden State Warriors. Passing up a good shot for a great shot.

Pershing started to implement little parts of a motion offense at the end of last season. Then he fully submerged his team in it this summer, watching highlights of Spurs and Warriors games before testing the new offense on the court.

Near the end of June, they went to a camp in Oshkosh, Wis., where they never ran a single set play in scrimmages against a bunch of teams from Wisconsin.

Even in late-game situations, Pershing made his team rely on athleticism and instinct to score.

By the end of summer, Pershing said, his team had fully embraced the motion offense, and it’s thriving in it now, averaging 15.6 assists per game. That’s sixth-best in 3A.

“It’s very relaxing,” Jake Coons said of the motion offense. “You don’t get super stressed like, ‘Oh I need to know my job.’ You just sort of play basketball.”

Added A.J.: “You don’t get discouraged if you’re supposed to make a certain cut here or a certain screen there and it doesn’t work because it’s a motion, where you have a lot of free will to do what you want and just make plays.”

Matthew Bain covers preps, recruiting and the Hawkeyes for the Iowa City Press-Citizen, Des Moines Register and HawkCentral. Contact him at mbain@gannett.com and follow him on Twitter @MatthewBain_.

Basketball

Balanced Solon boys' basketball team prospering in motion offense

If they’re being honest, most coaches will tell you they’d rather play a team with one dominant scorer than a team with five solid ones.

With the first scenario, it’s simple: focus your defensive energy on the prime-time guy and force the supporting cast to beat you.

The second scenario isn’t as cut-and-dry. Zone in on one player? Any of the other four could light you up. Spread your defense out to all five? Chances are at least a couple will exploit a defensive mismatch.

Solon's A.J. Coons guards head coach Jason Pershing during practice on Monday, Feb. 6, 2017.

Solon’s A.J. Coons guards head coach Jason Pershing during practice on Monday, Feb. 6, 2017.

That’s the riddle opposing teams must solve when they play Solon, one of the most balanced teams in Iowa.

“All those kids can shoot the ball so you can’t really focus on just stopping one kid because their balance is just outstanding,” said Tom Squiers, head coach of Beckman Catholic, which has played Solon twice. “You’ve got to guard all five kids; if you don’t you’re in big trouble.”

Solon head coach Jason Pershing works with his team during practice on Monday, Feb. 6, 2017.

Solon head coach Jason Pershing works with his team during practice on Monday, Feb. 6, 2017.

Solon is the only team in the 16-member WaMaC Conference to have six players averaging 6 or more points: Jake Coons (12.5), Luke Ira (9.5), Sterling McIlravy (9.4), Ben Krutzfeldt (9.1), A.J. Coons (7.9) and Zach Cusick (6.1).

“I think the biggest thing we learned from last year when we had one guy that scored a lot of points is sometimes it becomes easy to defend,” Solon head coach Jason Pershing said. “So this summer, we really worked on every guy having that confidence. We wanted every guy to have that confidence. And so I think that spread out where nobody needed to force anything.”

Added A.J. Coons: “Coach really preaches unselfishness, and I don’t think there’s any selfish player on our team. I think that people are more worried about what our team can do to win rather than getting their own personal stats.”

Here’s how all six can hurt you:

Jake Coons is a high school Kevin Love — as comfortable inside the paint as he is on the perimeter. Ira shoots 44 percent from long range. McIlravy is an undersized but gutty post player. Krutzfeldt leads the team with 5.1 assists and 1.8 steals per game. A.J. Coons is a 6-foot-3 spark plug off the bench. And Cusick leads the team in blocks while also stroking the third-best long range shot.

Through their 11-7 start, the Spartans have had two players in double digits five times, three players in double digits five times and four players in double digits three times. They’ve also had five different leading scorers.

So where does all that balance come from?

Well, other than team chemistry, Solon’s new-look motion offense should take the credit.

A motion offense is a read-and-react, pass-heavy scheme made popular in recent years by the NBA’s San Antonio Spurs and Golden State Warriors. Passing up a good shot for a great shot.

Pershing started to implement little parts of a motion offense at the end of last season. Then he fully submerged his team in it this summer, watching highlights of Spurs and Warriors games before testing the new offense on the court.

Near the end of June, they went to a camp in Oshkosh, Wis., where they never ran a single set play in scrimmages against a bunch of teams from Wisconsin.

Even in late-game situations, Pershing made his team rely on athleticism and instinct to score.

By the end of summer, Pershing said, his team had fully embraced the motion offense, and it’s thriving in it now, averaging 15.6 assists per game. That’s sixth-best in 3A.

“It’s very relaxing,” Jake Coons said of the motion offense. “You don’t get super stressed like, ‘Oh I need to know my job.’ You just sort of play basketball.”

Added A.J.: “You don’t get discouraged if you’re supposed to make a certain cut here or a certain screen there and it doesn’t work because it’s a motion, where you have a lot of free will to do what you want and just make plays.”

Matthew Bain covers preps, recruiting and the Hawkeyes for the Iowa City Press-Citizen, Des Moines Register and HawkCentral. Contact him at mbain@gannett.com and follow him on Twitter @MatthewBain_.