DeKALB – For three years under coach Al Biancalana, defense has been a calling card for the DeKalb boys basketball team.
If the summer is any indication, it’s going to take some work to get back up to speed for Year 4.
Biancalana said the team’s defense during summer play – in which his team has played almost 60 games – has been an uncharacteristic weakness for the Barbs.
“We have a lot of reluctant defenders,” Biancalana said. “By reluctant, I mean they’ve yet to truly understand concepts and principles and how they relate to the game. So we find ourselves out of position a lot. We’ve been slow to rotate. And that’s been a problem because we put three or four of those guys on the floor at the same time, so it’s been a bit of a mess this summer.”
He said the main issue comes from the youth of the team. For the past two seasons, although the Barbs have lost seniors, they’ve had a large class come in to replace them. This year, there are only five seniors – Marcus Bobo, who was a starter last year; Michael Vilet, who occasionally started and was in the rotation; and three players who saw extremely limited time: Dan Baggett, Michael Albert and Matthew Montavon.
Vilet agreed with his coach, saying the defense isn’t playing up to the levels of the past.
“In the past three years our program has been built on defense,” Vilet said. “Over the summer, our team’s defense wasn’t as good as it usually has been.”
That leaves a lot of times for younger players with no varsity experience, including the rare chance – in Biancalana’s tenure, anyway – for a sophomore to see significant time. In Biancalana’s first year, 2014-15, Cole Tucker was the Barbs’ sixth man, while the following season Vilet was expected to see some time in the rotation before getting hurt.
“We’ve been able to groom our sophomores and juniors so they could step right in,” Biancalana said. “This year we have a couple kids like that ... But our younger guys are extremely talented, and it’s going to be hard to keep them off the floor because of their talent. And therein lies the rub. We have to get those guys up to the speed we do at the varsity level, but we’re going to have to be patient enough to help them through some of those things.”
While Albert is the favorite to take over at the point, Biancalana said sophomore Isaiah Youngquist might take some of that time. Youngquist was on the sophomore team as a freshman last year.
With the young group, Biancalana said he wanted not only a large quantity of games but some quality as well.
“I wanted us to play against some really good talent,” Biancalana said. “We played against Simeon, Belleville West and West Aurora, a lot of the top teams in the area and outside of the area as well. So we tried to expose our guys to as much as we possible could in order to get a gauge of where we’re at and what we need to improve.”
The Barbs concluded the scrimmage portion of their summer last week at a tournament in Morris, bringing an end to what Vilet said was a see-saw month.
“We played pretty well throughout the summer,” Vilet said. “We had some ups and downs, but we showed we can be really good. But there were also times we didn’t play pretty well.”