Windermere High’s boys basketball team is one of more than a dozen local teams that practice and play in the Police Athletic League’s summer basketball league.
For some high-school students, summer is prime time for sleeping in and catching up on Netflix.
Not for the members of 20 JV and varsity boys basketball teams in the Orange County area and beyond.
Most of their summer weekdays revolve around hitting the gym, putting in work in the weight room and playing against other high-school teams through the Police Athletic League to keep their skill sets sharp. On the weekends they’ll attend team camps — at least through June, which typically is the summer season for high-school teams.
This summer league, molded and hosted by PAL, gives the boys an opportunity to hone their skills and play the game they love most. It also gives their high-school coaches a chance to evaluate them, Windermere High boys basketball coach Mark Griseck said.
“It’s just an opportunity for the teams in the area to get some games in,” Griseck said. “Everybody lost players to graduation so you’ve got your new team for next year, pretty much. It’s an opportunity to continue to get better. There’s not a whole lot of emphasis on winning. It’s just about the competition and it gives you a chance to evaluate your players, and some guys who maybe are JV players moving up to varsity this year. That’s really what it’s good for.”
Griseck said PAL’s Eric Jones started the summer basketball league, which garnered 12 varsity teams and eight JV teams this year. The league needed another gym to play at, so Griseck and staff volunteered Windermere’s gym.
“We’ve been doing it pretty much every summer; there’s always a summer league,” he said. “We also go to camps on the weekends, we’ll go to team camps, and most high-school teams are getting probably 20 games in the summer. Like I said, it’s an opportunity to evaluate and it’s an opportunity for the kids to get better.”
PAL summer league play began the first week after school let out, and it culminates with the end of the month. Most of the boys play AU in July, Griseck said, so June is the high-school season and July is for playing with travel teams.
Junior Trey Moss, a point guard for the Wolverines, said the team has been putting in work with one thing on its mind: the FHSAA Class 8A boys basketball state championships.
“Getting back to Lakeland, keeping the same effort and energy and getting back to where we were at (is the focus),” Moss said.
Teammate Darrell Armstrong, a senior guard, added that the team is focused on improving its skill work and striving to be a great defensive and offensive team.
“It’s the same teams we play during the year, but it’s just to get a feel out and see how their players are,” Armstrong said. “For me (as a senior) it’s cherishing every moment we have with each other before it’s over.”
“It’s just an opportunity for the teams in the area to get some games in.”
— Mark Griseck
Although the high-school summer season is fairly short, there are plenty of standout moments and game highlights for the players. Armstrong and Moss recalled a recent game against Tampa Catholic at USF, which stood out to them as a prime example of the team jelling.
“It was a hard-fought battle — we had to give full effort all game, play hard, rebound and play together,” Moss said. “If we’re going to win, we’ve got to play as a team full time. (It’s) effort and mindset — if we think we’re going to get back to Lakeland, we’re going to have to. We’re going to have to play hard and do everything we’ve got to do to get there.”
“It was just like, ‘Man, let’s all come together and bring all of our skills as one and fight through,’” Armstrong added.
Griseck said that although league play is more about building upon skills than about concrete practices, the main goal he has for his players is to get them involved and working both on and off the court.
“We’ll try some different things in the summer, maybe some different offensive stuff or defensive stuff, but for the most part we’re not putting a lot of emphasis on practices,” he said. “Now, we work out every day, but we don’t practice, per sé. The league’s great — like I said, it’s an opportunity for us to play. It’s an opportunity to get our kids involved and get games. It’s awesome.”