It’s good for players to be coachable, but it behooves coaches to remember that their players aren’t robots. At some point, they need to be players. It takes players to make plays and win games.
Jamison Sorenson, the new Snow Canyon boys basketball coach by way of Southern California, understands this. He has a new system his players seem to like, but anything new comes with learning curves of varying slopes. And when players remain in the thinking phase for too long, the speed of the game renders null their creative abilities.
That’s why Sorenson had a feeling it was time to scrimmage. And scrimmage.
This was toward the end of “open gym” time in the early fall. Sorenson had a basic idea about the abilities of his players. But were they players who could actually make plays? Could someone like Matt Bradshaw, a senior, who Sorenson said looked ordinary, possess something the coach hadn’t yet identified?
“I told the kids to quit blending in … show me something – give me a reason to mention your name when I’m talking with my coaches,” Sorenson says. “Matt really separated himself during open gym. I’ll admit, he was a guy I was so-so on. But he earned himself a lot of respect from myself and my staff. He started attacking the basket, making plays on defense and getting other people involved. He played loose and free, and it helped the entire team.”
In what amounted to a petri dish of creativity, Matt Bradshaw made his breakthrough. “I think it helped a lot of us get out of our comfort zone,” he says. “Every player was improving, we were all getting better and the intensity was increased.”
“I like our offense. It gives us a lot of scoring opportunities.”
A year ago the Warriors advanced to the quarterfinal round of the 3A State Tournament, falling to Bear River. Every notable contributor to the Snow Canyon varsity from a year ago has graduated. It’s a whole new team with a new coach, but the expectations at Snow Canyon are far from novel. The Warriors are expected to stay relevant and advance to the postseason.
“Everything is new,” Bradshaw says. “By everything … I mean everything. I like our offense. It gives us a lot of scoring opportunities. I can play my game in the system and everyone else can play their game in the system.”
Sorenson looks at Bradshaw and sees a wing defender who can disrupt with his long arms, tightening opponents’ passing lanes and preventing teams from getting too many open 3-pointers. And steals? Those he craves. Breakaway opportunities make Bradshaw salivate, particularly as he hopes to avenge one mishap from a year ago.
“Against Manti I had a chance to dunk and I cocked it way back with my left hand and ended up hitting it off the back rim. The ball went into the rafters,” he says, smiling sheepishly.
His consistent hustle makes the case for more of those opportunities this season.
“One of the big things I really like about Matt is he has a motor and he hustles,” Sorenson says. “I see him diving on the floor for loose balls, getting deflections all the time. He is left-handed and very crafty. He’s got a long, lean basketball body. He’s quiet, very coachable – he does whatever you ask him. He’ll still always ask what he needs to do to get better. He’s a pleasure to coach.”
Bradshaw says he has always enjoyed basketball, from when he first played in a league when he was in second grade. His mother Kirsten recalls when a 9-year-old Matt desperately wanted to attend a BYU basketball camp despite being a year too young.
Many kids at that age want certain things one moment and forget about them the next. Not Matt. He begged his mother persistently until she called the organizers and they made an exception on account of Matt being able to room with his older brother.
Since then, Kirsten says, their summers have been filled with basketball camps and Matt’s determination to improve himself has grown, so much so that he is fanatical about his diet. Only on rare occasions will he accept a sweet dessert. At Thanksgiving, Kirsten says, “he might eat a sliver of pumpkin pie.”
“He’s a disciplined eater and just, really, a disciplined kid,” she adds. “He’s very well rounded. He’s a part of seminary council, he’s an Eagle Scout, a Snow Canyon High School ambassador. One of his favorite things is he volunteers his time to work with special needs kids every Thursday. He also builds dental stents, so he makes his own sports mouth guards – and he has done them for a few friends.”
Kirsten says Matt is quick to compliment others and maintains a positive attitude. It’s because of that he is projected to be a team leader. It’s a role Matt is sure he can handle, despite his quiet nature.
“I expect to be a leader and someone (teammates can) trust,” he says. “I try to lead by example and just work my tail off.” • HSSI