Ever since this past fall, I’ve held a good connection with the basketball program at Prince George High School (Prince George, VA) and ran into the Royals’ junior-varsity head coach, Kristian Brown, a couple of weeks ago at a Saturday event. During the exchange, I learned that Coach Brown also serves as a coach/program director of Team Flight AAU, based out of Prince George County. I remember first hearing about the organization during my interview of Johnny Soto ’20, a standout guard for both the Royals and Team Flight 17u. Talking with Coach Brown led to understanding how important it’s been to him in trying to help these kids experience the perks of travel basketball. Not only does it involve more opportunities to shine on the court, but also “to see there’s more out there than just Virginia,” as Coach Brown put it. He feels the aspects of traveling and playing against kids from various other states prove important in a likewise matter to anything else associated with AAU. I wound up booking a date to check out the Flight 16u squad this past Tuesday and left the gym later that night feeling they’re on their way to do some excellent things if they keep at it.
Team Flight 16u
Head Coach: Kristian Brown
Youthful Energy and Enthusiasm
Several of Team Flight’s players had a LONG afternoon/evening on Tuesday. I remember Coach Brown telling me that about half of team had come straight from high school workouts to their AAU team practice at 6pm. Of course, being young helps allow for that type of grind to take place. I never would’ve guessed those guys had done two-a-days based on how hard they worked on the floor. From what I saw during my visit, Team Flight composed of all guards and wings; I didn’t see one true post player amongst the group. In one drill, Coach Brown blew the whistle to acknowledge that they “do not contain much size and must find other ways to create advantages.” One of their specialties involves their quickness… the youngsters were flying everywhere in the gym and looked completely capable of beating opposing defenses down the court by pushing the ball. I’m guessing that Coach Brown sees the potential damage they can create with their collective speed also, as he put the seven players (in attendance) through a useful conditioning drill early on that incorporated reaction time and fighting through fatigue. I don’t think many teams can keep up with that type of pace for a game’s full length.
Touching Things Up
Coach Brown will be the first to admit that he stays on his players when coaching; making sure he helps push them in the right direction for success. He spent the first portion of Tuesday’s practice holding the players accountable to moving without the ball and with a purpose. My favorite statement by him had to be, “You’re not a factor if standing still while off the ball.” It’s a reliable notion with a heavy importance that some take for granted. It seemed like Team Flight became more and more aware of properly executing opposite cuts/flashes as the first hour went on, along with realizing how to use ball-screens in different ways. I marked down three areas that could use some improvement within the team: recognizing mismatches quicker, boxing out, and talking more on defense. Obviously, recognition of such advantages with a mismatch will happen at a higher rate as the team sees different types of defenses consistently. Boxing out looked like more of a minor fix but that defensive communication will prove key. Team Flight has a chance to excel on that end of the floor even greater if they learn to take that aspect of the game seriously. They’re young and they’ll get there soon enough.
Where’s the Flight Squad Headed?
Brown and his group will have no trouble staying busy on the weekends this summer, as they’ve put together a schedule of tournament showings mainly in the states of Virginia, South Carolina, and Pennsylvania:
- April 26 – 28: ‘Big Shots Virginia Live’ in Ruther Glen, VA
- **May 4 – 5: ‘Big Shots Richmond Team Loaded’ in Richmond, VA
- May 11 – 12: ‘Zero Gravity Mother’s Day Mania’ in Richmond, VA
- May 17 – 19: ‘Hoop Group Southern Jam Fest’ at the Boo Williams Sportsplex (Hampton, VA)
- May 25 – 26: ‘Big Shots Virginia Memorial Classic’ in Richmond, VA
- June 1 – 2: ‘Big Shots Philly Team Final’ in Philadelphia, PA
- June 8 – 9: ‘Zero Gravity Southern Super Cup’ in Richmond, VA
- July 11 – 12: ‘Big Shots Myrtle Beach Live I’ in Myrtle Beach, SC
- July 13 – 14: ‘Big Shots Myrtle Beach Live II’ in Myrtle Beach, SC
- July 20 – 21: ‘Big Shots Virginia Summer Slam’ in Richmond, VA
Meet the Team
Omari Curly ’21 – Prince George HS: A good athlete with a long frame, Curly has defensive versatility that helps him contain several different positions. I think he has a chance to emerge as Team Flight’s most valuable defender, which plays a large part to his constant activity. The wing/forward cleaned up several broken plays during Tuesday’s competitive segments; going after rebounds and finishing well under the rim. Curly definitely seems to have listened to what Coach Brown has stressed about moving without the ball, looking comfortable in doing so during my visit. I’d classify him as one of the team’s most active players, from what I’ve seen.
Josiah Flowers ’21 – Hopewell HS: Flowers has excellent court vision and a tight handle for a lead guard; he threw quite a few impressive no-look passes on the night. He also shot the ball nicely from three-point range, showing the ability to easily pull-up from range. His facilitating should undoubtedly play one of the biggest roles, as every good team needs a guy who can set things up. Flowers looked like a natural in that aspect. Still, the way he ended up with offensive rebounds impressed me some of the most on Tuesday evening. At his size and position, he definitely grabs boards at a greater rate than the typical point guard.
Seven Jones ’22 – Prince George HS: I see the guard turning into a reliable on-ball defender for Team Flight. Jones best fits the description of what I acknowledged earlier about the team’s good reaction time. He can pickpocket other ball-handlers, while playing them tight, and quickly push the ball out in front for reach layups. Also, his shooting looked pretty sharp, as he caught fire from different spots on the floor late in the evening. Right now, the biggest challenge for Jones is to transition into more of a true point guard. He has solid scoring tools and good defense, but showing a way to make plays for others can separate him as he furthers into his high school/AAU career.
Larry Lane ’21 – Prince George HS: Standing the tallest in the gym, at around 6’3”/6’4,” Lane had a very good day and played with some of the best confidence. He’s working to become both an inside-and-out threat, mainly using his length to stretch out for aggressive drives. I’d say he does best attacking in a straight line and separating off of the pick-and-roll for quick scores. Lane also rebounded strongly and showed some flashes of creating his own shot. The sophomore’s still working to perfect the latter, which will mainly continue to improve as he learns not to waste unnecessary dribbles. High ceiling for the Prince George native.
Shawn Long ’23 – N.B. Clements Junior High: Speaking of high ceilings, Long showed major upside as only a 13 year-old. Coach Brown explained how he’s always seen the team’s two youngest players, Long and Jeffrey Love III, as guys with a feel for the game well above their eight-grade class. The acknowledgement led to bringing them both up to play against older and more beneficial competition. In Long’s case, he has promise as a valuable ‘3&D’ guy capable from deep range. This goes along nicely with his good IQ and solid frame; he will only continue to develop more and more physically with maturation. Defensively, I also like what I saw out of the middle schooler. He plays his opponents tough and showed an anticipation similar to Jones.
Jeffrey Love III ’23 – N.B. Clements Junior High: A classmate of Long, the lefty looked best shooting the ball, which took place at all three levels. I think Love III could develop into a steady ‘pick-and-pop’ threat. Along with taking note of his size, this thought also stems from the fact that defenders will most likely play him closely. So, getting separation for his own looks in the two-man game should largely dictate his offensive production. His release can become a bit quicker and handling the ball better could also take place. Nonetheless, Love III is another one with nice potential, who plays the game with a smooth feel for his age.
Jah’heim White ’21 – Prince George HS: Another lefty, White brings a complete scoring mentality and may take over as a top shot-creator for Team Flight. He can make shots from all over the perimeter and attack the basket by using a quick way to read a defender’s feet. His instincts to cause turnovers looked equally matched with that scoring prowess, however, as I felt White had the quickest hands in the gym. This led to him picking off the most number of seals on Tuesday. Likewise to Flowers, White’s another guard who rebounds very well at the position; more so on the offensive end. Expect for him to drop plenty of buckets as this travel season goes along.
Toyce Hicks ’22 (Thomas Dale HS) and Victor Johnson ’21 (Carmel School) could not attend the practice; excused for their absences. Coach Brown has good praise about them too and I’m curious to see how they end up contributing.
Soon enough, Team Flight will prepare for takeoff!