If winter is basketball season for the masses, then spring is basketball season for the hardcore fanatics. It is springtime in which the AAU basketball weekend tournaments are in full swing. The AAU basketball community flocks to regional gyms like Trekies to a Star Trek convention. On a given weekend, teams will usually play four to six games in a tournament. Most tournaments will attract teams from up to a two or three hour commuting distance and usually always have more than 100 teams participating. This gym rat fraternity may not sport great outdoor tans, but they tend to sport an advanced skill set and knowledge of the game that they love.
The Phoenix Basketball U-12 team is a local AAU team, with a roster containing some of the best 6th and 7th graders from Norwalk, Darien, Westport, New Canaan and Wilton. This weekend they played in a $5 million, three court gym facility in Brewster, N.Y. that was built for the sole purpose of hosting AAU tournaments and travel team leagues. The Phoenix team finished second in the tournament, losing only one game to a Queens, N.Y. team.
The Phoenix is led by three Norwalk players, Ralph Manigat, Ryan Allen and Miles McQuillen. On a squad that prides itself on aggressive and relentless defense, Manigat and Allen are two of the best. Both players have excellent length and athleticism. Accordingly, their teammates are trained to herd the opponents ball handlers into their laps for the close-out treatment.
At the other end of the floor, both contribute in a variety of ways. Allen is the low post muscle, who can also drop in a 15 footer when the defense blinks. Manigat scores from all over the floor, and is rountinelly near the top of the games' scoring lists.
McQuillen is the consummate, lightning quick, point guard. On defense, he leads the team in pick pocketing and high-flying shot blocks. On offense, he runs the show and exploits whatever the defense leaves underattended. Against the New York Rising Stars, they tried to pressure McQuillen with toe to toe aggression. He blew by them, dishing a dozen assists and scoring 10 himself in a 66-39 win.
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