Jayhawks on a Tear
With the July live period now at its midpoint, a number of New England teams have made headlines this month in events ranging from Indiana to South Carolina.
One team that tends to fly a little under the radar but takes a backseat to no one when it comes to their win-loss record is the Granite State Jayhawks.
The Jayhawks won’t jump out at you at first glance. There aren’t any seven-footers, high flying dunkers, or high-major prospects on their roster. Instead what they have is a team comprised of ten fundamentally sound, highly skilled, and knowledgeable basketball players.
“We can’t win just throwing the ball out,” said Jayhawks head coach Mark Dunham. “We have to practice three or four times per week and really play to our system of sharing the basketball and defending the basketball.”
That system has proven successful in the last two months as the Jayhawks haven’t dropped a game since May 30th. The loss came in the Elite 8 of the Gym Rat Challenge with the Jayhawks playing their fifth game of the day.
In the seven weeks that have passed since, the Jayhawks have taken the championship at the Boston Shootout, won the American Division title at the Hall of Fame National Invitational, and gone 2-0 at the Super 16 Showcase, scoring an upset over the New York Panthers in the process.
“My biggest thing is that I hope some of the college coaches start to look at what these kids have done in terms of who they have beaten,” said Jayhawks head coach Mark Dunham. “These kids are basketball players. They know how to play the game and they’re flat out winners.”
Sean McClung, a six-foot-four swingman from Bishop Guertin High School, has been the team’s leading scorer throughout the season at 22 points per game and “absolutely phenomenal for us” according to Dunham.
Pelham High School’s six-foot-four swingman Steve Spirou is the player that Dunham constantly refers to as “the glue” for the team, always able and willing to do whatever is necessary to get a win for his team.
In addition to being the cornerstones of the team throughout the season, both McClung and Spirou are standouts in the classroom and being recruited by some of the top academic institutions in the country. Both Amherst and Williams have made McClung a priority while Spirou is generating interest from M.I.T., Tufts, Trinity, Dartmouth, and Columbia.
Connor Green is another player who has been of vital importance to this squad. While he was limited in Springfield due to an injury, he typically finds himself battling bigger guys inside the lane and nevertheless seems to come away with 15 points and 10 rebounds every night regardless. The Bishop Guertin forward’s efforts aren’t going unnoticed as he is also hearing from a number of high academic schools including Columbia, Dartmouth, and virtually every NESCAC.
John Wickey may be the most undervalued player on the Jayhawks roster in our opinion. At 6’7” he appears to be the prototypical NE-10 five-man with the way he can run the floor, mix it up inside, and stretch opposing defenses to the three-point line, but with the majority of his recruitment coming from NESCAC schools it appears as if someone is close to getting a steal.
“With us losing a couple of guys, Mike Mitchell stepped in and assumed a leadership position,” Dunham said. “He and O’Loughlin have stepped in and been great. Both have risen to the occasion and really stepped up for the team.”
Dunham points to a recent win over Connecticut Select at the Hall of Fame National Invitational as the best example of O’Loughlin’s recent surge. Matched up with highly touted Josh Turner, O’Loughlin scored 26 points while holding Turner to just 14 and leading the Jayhawks to the victory.
Relative newcomers Alex Levine and James Ek have also provided the Jayhawks with a boost and “sparked a new life into the kids” according to Dunham. The National Invitational was Levine and Ek’s first tournament with the Jayhawks and “to go 5-0 the first time James and Alex played for us was really pretty special.”
With their winning streak now approaching its eighth week the Jayhawks will conclude their season with their upcoming trip to Orlando for the AAU Super Showcase and Seventeen-and-Under National Championship. They will enter the tournaments as a bit of unknown but promise to make yet another run before heading back to New Hampshire.