07/30/2015 12:24 PM
Former All-State consultant and coach at Kashmere High School in Houston, TX, Jeff Whitaker is big on the fundamentals of basketball.
Now the assistant basketball coach at Clements High School, Whitaker uses his high school coaching skills with his fourth grade Houston United team that was put together around last week of April.
Remyi Cole put the team together and called two coaches to help assist coach Whitaker: Marcus Sloan and Derrick Fernandez, who both played Division I basketball.
“We are bringing in a developmental piece,” Whitaker said. “Marcus Sloan does summer camps every year and he runs that. All three of us are really engaged.”
PrimeTime Rookies Houston United on their way to a 6th place finish at Nationals
Coach Whitaker is an educator and teaching how to cope with failure is one of his strong points.
“You will always fail before you succeed,” Whitaker said. “Create or come up with a way to do it better than next time. Figuring out what you are doing wrong is the idea of progressing.”
Houston United finished sixth place out of 32 teams at the PrimeTime Nationals in its first year in existence.
Winning it all next year is definitely the goal for coach Whitaker and his group of kids, but the importance of life lessons is also stressed.
“We are going to learn basketball but while in the process of learning life lessons,” Whitaker said. “I like to teach these kids and have fun in the process.”
Sticking together whether it is winning or losing is the definition of a team.
“We are going to compete no matter who we play and leaving it all out on the floor every game,” Whitaker said. “Whether we win or lose, they are tired and drained. Also we are going to have fun.”
With the group of kids coach Whitaker has, “man to man” is the primary defense and the motion offense is the standard form of attack.
“We run 1-4 like the University of Houston with Kelvin Sampson,” Whitaker said. “The difference of our offense gives the kids the benefit to make the best intellect decision.”
“We love playing against pressure and zones,” Whitaker said. “The kids want to learn and get better. They are only ten years old and going to keep working while playing other sports.”
Houston United recruits talent all over the Houston area.
“Jacolb Cole is a versatile player and able to play perimeter or post,” Whitaker said. “He can handle, pass & shoot better than most. He is a "do it all" lefty with a knack for making the right play due to his high basketball IQ.”
The “monster in the middle” is Tyler Mackey.
“He is a shot blocker supreme and rebounding machine,” Whitaker said. “He runs the floor very well. Tyler just started playing basketball a few months ago but is progressing at an exceptional rate.”
Everyone on Houston United competes at a high level and is very advanced for their age.
“Ryan Hill is a tenacious competitor & ball-hawkish defender who causes opposing guards fits,” Whitaker said. “He exhibits good speed, great body control and the ability to convert in traffic on the break.”
The natural point guard who could not make the trip to PrimeTime Nationals Keanu Dobbs is certainly a kid to watch.
“Dobbs plays multiple positions on the floor due to his high basketball IQ, speed and athleticism,” Whitaker said. “This gem filled in amazingly for 2 HU regulars that could not make the trip to Nationals.”
“Kahnye Benjamin is very active and a tough hard competitor,” Whitaker said. “Kahnye pressures the ball, plays passing lanes and rebounds well on the weak side. He is also aggressive on offense, attacks the defense and constantly gets to the rim on the offensive end.”
What separates HU from other AAU/grassroots teams is their alliances with other teams and various high school programs in the Greater Houston Area.
“We teach a brand of basketball that focuses on the fundamentals of the game and how well we play,” Whitaker said. “For example, Houston United players learn offensive sets that emphasize good spacing and timing. Players are introduced to solid principles of man-to-man defense as well as an understanding of situational play.”
There is also an individual skills piece that Marcus Sloan of Shoot2Score Hoops spear-heads.
“Ultimately, we teach a brand of basketball that leads directly to the high school & collegiate game,” Whitaker said.
The mission of HU is to use basketball as a ‘tool’ to foster positive character development through the fellowship, competition and hard work of each child in our program.
“Long Term we want to develop the student-athletes that go through our program in such a way that when they transition to their perspective high schools they are prepared to lead others and produce on a high level,” Whitaker said.
Remyi Cole provided coach Whitaker with an awesome opportunity to coach an amazing group of kids and parents.
“Thanks to assistant coaches Derrick Fernandez and Marcus Sloan for your help & support,” Whitaker said. “We did this in less than 3 months and united to win.”