Monday, July 28, 2014

No Limit Soldiers, We Thought We Told Ya - 2014 6th Grade National AAU Champions





The Oakland Soldiers; a very tight knit group came together earlier this year with a singular goal in mind – to win a national championship.  A lofty goal one might think; but when you have the commitment and involvement of what many consider to be some of the top players in the country – which includes the consensus top ranked player in the nation; such goals become attainable.
Yet in the youth world of basketball the best laid plans even face challenges.  The Soldiers competed in the NYBL going undefeated; but came up a game short of the championship.  Oakland traveled to New Orleans and again battled many of the top teams there too; but found themselves once again on the outside looking in.

Perseverance, dedication, and the understanding of what it takes to become a champion was the result of the obstacles that we’re placed in front of this special group of Coaches and young men.  Of course there were tough times throughout the season; but then again there was one goal at the beginning.  The reality is that no other championship would have mattered as much as winning the national title.
The Soldiers moved through pool play with ease and dominated the first few rounds of bracket.  Jumping a high hurdle against the NY Gauchos 66-54 – Morrow’s 29-points led and propelled the team into a Final 4 match up against the Cinderella and a most dangerous St. Louis Wildcats squad.  Behind 32-points and 17-rebounds from Shemar Morrow Oakland advanced to the National Championship game against the We All Can Go All-Stars.

Shemar Morrow
Just as in the two prior games; down the stretch the score remained close and WAGC started the 4th quarter using a stall holding the ball for close to 4 minutes.  The lead went between 4 to 5 points, until Morrow hit 30-foot 3-pointer to cut the lead to two with 46 seconds remaining.  After a layup tied the game WACG had the ball for what many assumed would be the last shot.  A good look had the WACG players jumping for joy on the bench as it left the hands of the shooter; the ball careened off the rim into the hands of Shemar Morrow as he snatched the rebound he turned and took 3 dribbles from the paint – reaching his side of the half court circle; he rose and released a high arching shot.  The gym for a moment, after being filled with cheers and screams for days, became silent….the ball bounced off the glass and into the basket, 58-55 Oakland, game, set, match.

The Soldiers were victors, champions, legends – no west coast bias, no coming up short, no wondering why or what happened.  Not this time; this time at the apex when it counted most they made the plays, the winning play to win the most important game; the 2014 6th grade AAU National Championship.  It was done in dreamlike fashion; a shot heard around the country (scroll down for video of final shot); a moment that will never be forgotten.

That won shining moment finally belong to the Soldiers of Oakland, congratulations to the following for conquering the journey.

Soldier salute with Championship Trophy


Shemar Morrow: Consensus #1 player in the country; an unselfish game changer who cannot be stopped in transition or in the half court.  The best player in the country did it all giving the Soldiers whatever was needed to secure victory.

Kyree Walker: Walker played his best ball of the season when it counted most.  Showing a versatile skill set throughout the tournament, it’s easy to see that Walkers ceiling is Twin Towers high – dangerous from all over he thrived pressing the paint as an offensive weapon and passer. 

Dillon Dipena: Not a coincidence teams from the west coast with Dipena in the line-up both made it to the championship at the nationals.  A breath of fresh air to the game the inside/out multidimensional star handled, posted, rebounded, passed, and scored at an elite level;  doing whatever it took for his team to win.  If it meant getting water or taping an ankle he would have done that too, a special player and kid.

Kendall Munson:  Great size and length ran the floor and filled the lanes – his defense was game changing as he blocked and altered shots throughout and was a factor in crucial times during the most important games.  Finished extremely well and shot a great percentage.

Fred Burton:  Excelled in transition and played great perimeter defense; the versatile wing made the most of his opportunities and was a consistent contributor.  Could be a star and scoring artist for another team but sacrifices his personal accolades for team success.

Devin Askew: Zone buster with the shot and the ball the team General; Askew only knows one way to play the game and that’s hard.  He attacks forcing the defense to honor him no matter their set, creating opportunities for himself and others.   

Devin Hightower:  May have been the difference maker; played steady ball and made sure all the hungry mouths were feed.  The physical presence he provided on the defensive end was equally as important as his high percentage shooting both from distance and the mid-range.  He kept the defense honest and made the most of his opportunities.  3 of 4 from the behind the stripe in the championship exemplified his entire week.

Mason Mastrov:  Can’t be left alone, the importance of a championship team having this type of player can never be underestimated.  Every time he stepped on the floor his skill set had to be honored and respected.  When he stepped in and handled and pressed the defense it wasn’t possible to stop the other weapons.  They do not advance and play at the level they do without Mastov being on the floor.

Jamir Thomas: On any given night Thomas could fulfill various roles; always counted on throughout he didn’t waiver in his contributions.  He scored when needed, handled the pressure, ran the team, knocked down big shots - he was a quality lead guard while being a scoring threat; another coach on the floor.


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