John Murtin returns to the Jaguars for his second year as our 6th Grade Coach.
Coach Murtin has an extensive background both as a coach and as an administrator for girls basketball programs in and around the Spring-Ford area. John spent several years as the head of the Spring-Ford Youth Girls Basketball League, coaching several high level travel teams during that time.
John also ran and coached the Royersford Rockets AAU team for a period of time before joining forces with the Jaguars.
John is currently the head coach for Freshman Girls at Spring-Ford High School.
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).
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!"
Ask any coach and they will tell you two things; basketball is a team sport that requires five fingers playing like a fist but it is also very nice to have a "go to" player. Based on that criteria, 5th Grade Black is team destined for a great season, they have great depth and they have the great Isaac White.
When a team has played nothing but an A schedule including having played up on numerous occassions and that team sports a 12-2 record, everything must be going right; the entire roster is contributing, the coaches are getting the job done, the team has stayed healthy and maybe they have gotten a key call or two at a critical time.
Another thing that doesn't hurt is when your leader has scored 303 points in 14 games. That's right, Isaac White is averaging 21.6 points per game - as a 5th Grader. Oh yea, he also has over 200 rebounds. Anything else?
Isaac's coach Paul Klauder wanted to be clear; there is more to Isaac's game than just the numbers. "There is no doubt that Isaac has tremendous basketball skills but his greatest strength is his ability to keep a positive attitude and demeanor when faced with adversity" coach Klauder said.
Asked about how he has acquired his skills at such a young age Isaac said "I work out at the YMCA and I play pick-up games against older players to make me better". Isaac has worked hard to improve his ability to go to the basket but wants to get better at not fading away when he gets in there.
Isaac says he is having a great time with his Jaguars teammates and that the most fun was "beating the Berks Warriors and all the 6th Grade teams". When not playing for the Jaguars he likes to follow his favorite teams the Miami Heat and the Syracuse Orangemen. Isaac's favorite pro player is Lebron James and favorite college player is Seth Curry from Duke.
Isaac attends North Coventry Elementary School and also plays both football and lacrosse. He is an A student who knows how important it is to keep his academics ahead of his sports. He definitely sees himself playing basketball in high school and college and possibly professionally. For now, we are just having fun watching Isaac play. "Isaac is a great asset for our team and a pleasure to coach. I look forward to Isaac being a part of the Jaguars for years to come" Caoch Klauder added. For myself, I think Lebron needs to watch out!