In Mark's Own Words:
18 years of being a youth sports volunteer and coach, with a family history deep in this same spirit of volunteering for the improvement of our youth.
I grew up in an athletic family of seven, five sisters. Two of who were all Delco award winners in high school basketball. The youngest played college ball at Temple. You could say she was my first student. (She hates it when I say I taught her the game. She will tell you – “those with talent play, those without – teach.”)
Nine years AAU Coaching experience, seven with Jaguars – two with Chester County Wizards.
- Coached four years with my daughter as a player at the AAU level
- These past five years without my daughter in the program
Two time AAU DI National Qualifier Team
National Silver Medal Winner DII - 2010 - 11 year old division
Presently driven to recruit PAC 10- players to build the Jaguar program to become one of the more competitive programs in the tri state area.
2012 – Jaguars 10 Year old’s Head Coach
2011 – Jaguars 10 year old’s Head Coach – Coached both the blue and white teams
2010 – Jaguars 11 year old’s Head Coach
- National Silver Medal Winner - DII 2010 - 11 year old division
- 3rd place Mid-Atlantic Regional Qualifier – DI
- 2nd place Super Regional Qualifier - DI
2009 – Jaguars 10 year old’s Head Coach
- National Qualifier - 3rd place Mid-Atlantic Regional DI – (10 year olds)
2008 – Jaguars 10 year old’s Head Coach
2007 – Jaguars 15 year old’s Assistant Coach
2006 – Jaguars 14 year old’s Assistant Coach
2005 – Chester County Wizards 13 year old’s Assistant Coach
2004 – Chester County Wizards 12 year old’s Assistant Coach
2003 – Springford Travel 12 year old’s Head Coach
Coaches Comments – My goal with the Jaguars is teach your daughters the fundamental skills of basketball. We will create a positive environment for your daughter to hone her skills. Our goal is to foster a love for the sport and good sportsmanship. If we teach her the skills and give her the drills, and she has fun and loves the game – she will go home and play. It is there she will become a good basketball player.
“Good basketball players are developed in your driveway – not at the gym”
Jane Baron, mother of JP (JAGS 6th Grade Black) and Jaylen (JAGS 7th Grade Blue) lost her courageous battle with pancreatic cancer on Sunday morning, May 1st. John Baron, coach of our 6th Grade Black and 7th Grade Blue teams, has been Jane's caretaker for over 13 months as she has battled this illness and the way John and the family cared for, tended to and paid tribute to a beautiful woman, Jane, was a blessing to see each day. Jane we will miss you so much and your legacy will live in all of us forever!
John's 6th Grade Black team traveled to Spooky Nook for the 2nd Annual Warriors Court Championship hosted by Spooky Nook Sports this weekend. There were 9 teams in 6th Grade A boys bracket and the JAGS got things started early on Saturday morning with a 50-39 win against House of Sports. In the afternoon they bested the Central PA Elite team 49-30 which had resulted in the JAGS being ranked 3rd out of 9 in pool play. Saturday evening they demolished the 6th seed Luzerne County Lightning 57-12 getting them into the semi-finals for Sunday AM. John Baron coached the team in all three games that day knowing Jane's condition was worsening as the day went on.
He and JP did not return on Sunday and Assistant Coach Klauder got the team together prior to the 8:50 AM tip off and dedicated the rest of the day to Mrs. Baron. For the rest of the day, every time out, every break from the huddle we all in unison chanted, "Mrs. Baron". The boys were laser focused and played the semifinal game with such effort and positive attitude and we beat a very good House of Sports team, 59-39. Late in the game I learned that Jane had passed while we played and we gathered all the players and parents together and had a very emotional and tearful talk with everyone.
We had to wait around 3+ hours for the championship and we all worked to keep the boys positive while respecting the passing of Jane. We faced the #1 seed Rochester Select Basketball Academy (RSBA) and it was a great basketball game. Once again the "Mrs. Baron" chant was heard repeatedly by a jam packed crowd watching this game. Back and forth for most of the game, with big bucket after big bucket by both teams, the JAGS pulled through in the end and won the championship 51-45. The boys conducted themselves with such class and poise and they were constantly thinking of Mrs. Baron, Coach John, their teammate JP and his sister Jaylen.
Personally, I have been around a lot of things with sports over the years and today was one of the finest moments I have ever had in spite of the terrible news. I give these young men so much credit and today we witnessed why sports are so powerful and uplifting. I have cried a lot today but I smile at what they accomplished. More importantly, is how they accomplished it.
We stand with the Baron family and our prayers and support are with them. The viewing will most likely be Thursday night and the funeral mass Friday morning at St. Eleanor Church (Collegeville).
6th Grade Black ended their successful 2013 Season with a tournament championship at In the Zone's "Braggin' Rightz Brawl". The Jags went undefeated in pool play, scoring 30 point plus victories over In The Zone and Allentown. In the semi-finals the boys faced a tough and determind Perkasie Knights Team and emerged victorious by a score of 41-34 to reach the final. Facing the Luzerne County Lightning, the Jags turned on the defense and came through with a 37-24 win. Justin Adedinsewo led the team through the weekend averaging 15.5 points and 13 rebounds per game. James Begg contributed 29 points in the 4 games to go with his 40 rebounds. Ryan Hagan was big with 22 points and Julian Torres also added 20.
5th Grade Black also completed their season going 3-1. The boys beat the South Jersey Soldiers 37-25, the Lower Bucks Lightning 54-43 and the South Jersey Jazz 47-38 to advance to the tournament championship game. Despite a valiant effort in a game described by Coach Klauder as "great" the boys fell to the Berks Warriors 55-52. The team trailed 36-17 at half time and got as close as 2 points before running out of time in their comeback effort. Isaac White continued his dominating performance by scoring 73 points and hauling in 55 rebounds in the 4 games. Zevion Brown added 51 points and Brett Eberly had 23 to go along with his 22 assists. In their inaguaral season, the 5th Grade Black Boy team went an amazing 15-3 and scored 860 point is their 18 games. The Jaguars could not be more proud of the effort of everyone involved with the team.
6th Grade White had interesting weekend, going 2-2 and all four games were blowouts. Coach Schmidt was very proud of how the girls handled themselves in both types of situations, stating that they showed great sportsmanship. He went on to say that the team is having a great time and that they can't wait for Wildwood!
7th Grade Black enjoyed a 3-2 weekend at the Parkland Tournament. The boys dropped their fist game to the Berks Red Storm by a score of 54-51.. Dan Cirino and Andrew Light each had 12 in the loss and Joey Catalano had 8 of the bench to spark a comeback. The boys responded in their second game with a 58-44 win over the Wolves. Kevin Bernabe, Owen Evans and Cirino led all scorers with 11. Ricky Bearden added 10. Game 3 saw another victory, this time by 63-45 over the Dawgs. Owens again led the way with 15 points, Brendan Schimpf added 11. Drew Martin was all over the place and will be remembered for the "alley-oops". Game 4 was a decisive 60-31 victory over another Berks Red Storm team. Bernabe again was leading scorer with 11, Ryan Kendra added 8 and Steven Klauder had some big shots incuding a deeeep 3. Despite losing their final game by a score of 80-76, Coach Brittingham said it was "hands down the best game the boys played all year". Down 22 points in the second half the team showed no quit. Bernabe, Schimpf, Bearden and Cirino all scored double digits, a total team effort right down to the bookkeeper, Carson Parke.
Ocean City, Maryland is buzzing with the Baltimore Ravens and Jaguars in town (see picture below). 9th Grade Blue got off to a slow start in game 1 but clicked into a higher gear as the game progressed. Hard work at practice has translated into better offensive setup and execution and the 1-3-1 D proved a handful for the Axiom team from VA. Emily Walker and Taylor Evans led all scorers with 10 each, Marissa Sandone controlled the floor and added 6 with McKenna Kohler cotrolling the paint and tipping in 7. In the a comfortable 49-19 Jags victory. Game 2 saw some stiffer competition against a bigger Maryland team, the Lady Coyotes. The Jags got off to a better start however and built a 12 point lead by mid way through the first half. The Coyotes knocked down 3 3's just before half time to make it a 3 pt game at the half. After half time, again the 1-3-1 shut down the Coyotes scoring and the Jags were able to build a good lead with some quick transition baskets. With 6 minutes to go the lead approached 20 points and the girls were able to keep control of the game until the end. Emily Walker and Marissa Sandone lead all scorers with 9 Taylor Evans, McKenna Kohler and Rachael Hamilton all contributed 8 points and dominated the boards against some much bigger girls. Mack Smith had a break out game on D creating a number of steals with her active hands. Tori Walter got her 3 point shot going(don't talk about her layups!!!). Gab Pisano played some great D and worked her tail off the whole game. Great team effort Jags winning 42-21. On Sunday the girls advanced to their tournament champsionship game but came up short against a team of 10th and 11th Graders. Taylor Evans has 12 points, all 3 pointers.
Mark Thomas has been coaching for the Jaguars for a long time. In fact, if we were to keep track of how many games people have coached for our organization there is no doubt that Mark would be the leader by a lot of games.
Mark has had many good teams over the years and has forged many positive relationships with the girls he has mentored, perhaps none as strong as the ones he formed when he coached our current 9th Grade Team in years past. Because of that relationship, when Mark was looking for some experienced players to help coach our 2013 5th Grade Blue team both Taylor Evans and McKenna Kohler (more pictures below) stepped up to the plate.
As a coach myself I always thought it was a good idea for current players to see the game from the other side of the bench, so to speak. Taylor and McKenna are getting that experience now, just as their high school careers are blossoming. This will pay dividends, not only for the girls they are coaching but also for the programs at Owen J. Roberts and Perkiomen Valley.
Taylor and McKenna are both enjoying working with the younger players. "The thing I have enjoyed most is the connection that I have developed with the girls and coaches. I feel like they have taught me a lot even though they are 4 years younger than me and I want to be a good role model for them" Evans explained. Kohler added that she has enjoyed "just seeing the game from a different point of view. I understand how coaches get frustrated now because they can't go in the game and play. When I'm sitting on the bench I wish I was in there with the girls most of the time.".
Taylor went on to say that she is suprised at how vocal she has been with the girls, she thought she would let McKenna "do all the yelling".
While this experience will benefit both players, they are still first and foremost players; and accomplished ones at that. Both players saw significant playing time as freshman at their respective high school this past season. In order to improve their own games Evans takes private ball handling and shooting lessons with the Jaguar's own Greg Alessandroni and has worked with Ed Sharr in the past. McKenna works out with her brother and is constantly working on her free throws and post moves. Taylor recognizes that she needs to make the transition from being the post player she was when she was younger to more of a face the basket threat and that is what Coach Alessandroni at A3 Hoops is working on with her. McKenna continues to work her inside game, woking on maximizing what she is able to accomplish with her size and strength down low.
Both Taylor and McKenna hope to continue playing basketball past high school. McKenna says that she "can't imagine stopping basketball because I don't know what I would do without it". In addition both girls have interests outside of basketball, McKenna plays the viola in the orchestra and Taylor enjoys reading and supporting her school through extra-currlicular activities and attendance at other sporting events, "I ALWAYS try and make all the lacrosse games" she said.
So, what advice does Taylor and McKenna have offer the youngsters under their guidance?
Taylor: "They definitely have to work hard because in the end it pays off and you get where you want to be. Also, they should have fun while doing all of it because it's not going to be enjoyable if you are not doing something you love. Always give everything you have because you never know if that game will be your last".
McKenna: "I would tell the girls that basketball is a big commitment and it will take a lot of hard work, sacrifice, commitment and time. But if you truly love playing and you have fun playing, in the end all of the hard work and late night practices will pay off!"