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Why is Upper Peninsula high school basketball play so bad this year?

February 13, 2012
By CRAIG REMSBURG - Journal Sports Staff ( , The Mining Journal

Upper Peninsula high school basketball has always been cyclical in terms of the quality of play.

Some years, players and teams show so much skill that you just sit back and appreciate what's out there.

Other years, the basketball talent in the U.P. is woeful, leading one to think how it had become so bad.

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This season, alas, seems to be the latter.

There are some players and teams that are good, of course. But they seem to be few and far between.

Since the season started, I've covered 19 boys and girls prep basketball games to date. I've seen a handful of good games, but a majority have been clunkers.

I've witnessed one girls contest where the halftime score was 12-10 - in 16 minutes of play!

I've seen games where there were nearly as many turnovers as points, as well as ones so lopsided they were tough to keep my interest.

Recent scores in girls' U.P. games were 61-20, 63-25, 66-33 and 64-26 In boys' play: 60-27, 52-24, 67-29 and 74-37.

A veteran U.P. sportswriter told me he'll have a difficult time picking a quality girls "Dream Team" at the end of the season. He doesn't think there are that many truly superb players out there.

It's not just the girls, either. A couple of former Superiorland head boys coaches - now retired - who watch games as spectators cringe at the play shown this season by many of the boys.

Fundamentals like passing, shooting - especially layups - free throw shooting and defensive footwork just aren't there.

One man said he wasn't sure how long he'd continue to watch games since the quality of play was so bad.

Among the 12 boys teams in Superiorland, their combined record was 69-99 heading into Friday. Only five had winning records and one of those was 7-6.

On the girls' side, the overall record for 11 Superiorland squads was 86-85 prior to Thursday, with six of the teams below .500.

Referees are noticing the lack of hoops talent this season, as well. A couple of "striped shirts" I've talked with say the problem just isn't in Superiorland, either, but throughout the peninsula.

Many of the games they officiate outside the area aren't any better. The quality of play just isn't there, they said.

Maybe the local prep basketball scene is just in a downturn and will rebound over time.

But prep players just don't seem to spend as much time playing the game in the offseason as they used to. There are too many other things to do now.

The NBA has no doubt affected play, as well. Too many players today pull up and launch a low-percentage 3-point shot instead of working to get the ball down low for a closer attempt.

They just don't want to put in the effort.

Perhaps the coaching in the younger grades isn't as good as in the past, too. It's a tough job teaching the fundamentals of the game to youths who think they already know how to play.

I used to look forward to state tournament play, when everyone seemed to pick up their play and intensity a notch.

This season, I'm not sure the overall quality of play will improve over what has been shown thus far this season.

I can only hope, though.

Craig Remsburg can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 251.



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