Chandler Wolves hoops team growing during summer play - SanTan Sun News SanTan Sun News

Chandler Wolves hoops team growing during summer play

July 10th, 2018 SanTan Sun News
Chandler Wolves hoops team growing during summer play
Sports and Recreation

By Eric Newman


This was a high school chemistry experiment that did not end with a disastrous explosion.

Chandler High School’s mixing of basketball players to find effective combinations and rotations during summer-league games was a success. That it won a major tournament in the process is good, too.

As rewarding as the Wolves’ recent championship was in the Arizona Summer 64 tournament, including a title-game defensive clamp-down on Brophy, a 6A semifinalist last season, Chandler coach Jonathan Rother said summer basketball is an opportunity to tinker with lineups and develop player rotations.

“It’s nice to win, obviously, but summer’s about getting some chemistry,” said Rother, set to enter his first full season after serving as interim coach. “We’ve been working out and getting shots up every day. And the summer is about finding which kids gel together, and bringing new kids up from JV and seeing how they mesh with the returning varsity players.”

In summer league, Rother gives some players more minutes than he might give them during the regular season. It’s their chance to showcase their skills, the payoff for the work they have put in throughout the offseason.

As summer leagues and tournaments grind on, Rother can place players in pressure situations to see how they respond, in hopes of developing his roster’s mental game as much as its physical conditioning.

He said there is still work to do but the team continues to improve with each game. A long tournament with little rest between tough contests, especially when the talent is as deep as the Arizona Summer 64 tournament, is a test. Chandler won six games in three days.

In the June 16 title game at Cesar Chavez, Chandler, after leading by 11 points at halftime, saw Brophy cut the lead to two with 26 seconds left. Chandler then missed a pair of free throws with 15 seconds to go and had to make one last defensive stop to secure the 42-40 victory over a team that beat the Wolves twice last season, both in overtime. Much like the Wolves’ style during 2017-18 that ended in a less-than-ideal 13-16 record, it was a defensive battle.

“The last 10 minutes of the game, you could see that we were fading a little bit mentally and physically, but that’s a teachable moment because there’s going to be a lot of times in the season where we’re tired or we’ve played a bunch of games in a row. So it’s just getting through that adversity,” he said.

Loaded with talented seniors for 2018-19, Chandler will have a full summer’s experience with Rother.

Senior Carl Wilson said beating Brophy for the tournament championship hopefully will supply some motivation and energy.

“It’s a major confidence boost. Last year we had a decent season, but we knew we could do better. It’s really our defense, and we rely on our defense every single game,” Wilson said. “This is some revenge for us.”

Chandler sophomore Carson Kelly said confidence in the bench players makes it easier to give full effort on the defensive end, even if it means a few less minutes a game because of fatigue.

“We don’t really worry about ourselves getting tired on defense. We put it all out there, and just let coach know if we’re tired. We know the bench and the other teammates really have our back, so it’s pretty easy to just play as hard as you can,” Kelly said.

Rother expects that his players, who will split into various club teams later in the summer, will continue to bond and understand the importance of team chemistry and communication on and off the court.

“It’s only been a couple weeks and I’m already really seeing the guys come together to fight not just for themselves, but each other,” Rother said.

“It makes me excited for the regular season because I can keep giving them more and more and they’re soaking it in like sponges.”