Summer league basketball wins don’t count for much for high school basketball teams, at least not officially.
The way head coach Anthony Long and the Dr. Phillips Panthers see it, though, winning is winning no matter the season — a mantra the Panthers rode to a 25-1 record this summer.
“It’s important to us because it’s part of the culture that we try to create,” Long said of his team’s success in June. “We want to create a culture where winning is the standard and losing is just not acceptable.”
The summer months of June and July are unofficially split into two separate periods — June being a time for high school teams to play together in leagues and tournaments and July being a time for players to focus on AAU and travel ball obligations to increase exposure in front of college scouts.
This June was good to Dr. Phillips, which played most of its games in the summer league organized by West Orange coach Eric Jones. In addition to the two games per week that the Panthers played as a part of the league, Long’s team also participated in several weekend showcases and tournaments, most recently wrapping the summer season at a showcase in The Villages.
Dr. Phillips’ sole loss came against Gainesville and, along the way, they picked up a number of notable wins. The Panthers defeated Bartow and Lake Minneola — the 2013 runner-ups in Class 7A and Class 6A, respectively.
Dr. Phillips, which started all underclassmen a season ago, thrived on continuity from its strong 2013-2014 campaign.
“I knew we would have a pretty good summer because we’re returning all five of our starters,” Long said. “We’re a little bit ahead of most people — most people in the summer are just incorporating new starters into their lineup because of graduating seniors.
“We didn’t have to do that.”
The summer season also provided a chance for the Panthers’ young core to grow.
Dr. Phillips will again be led by rising-senior forward Jonathan Laurent, a dynamic player who has fielded interest from Division I programs including UCF, Florida and Miami, but the growth of younger players will be key to whether the Panthers make a run at the state title.
“We started two freshman last year (Chaundee Brown and Elijah Jordan) and they’re just getting better and better,” Long said. “The sky is the limit with how far they can go.”
The next time Dr. Phillips takes the floor will be in the preseason, which they will open against Bartow at home on November 11. And if Long has his way, the winning ways of the summer will serve to carry over into the upcoming season.
“We don’t like to lose in the summer, the fall, the winter — any time,” Long said.