HAMPTON — Much as Boo Williams enjoyed coaching his elite summer basketball teams in recent years, he grew weary of relying on jump shots and pace and opposing big men feasting inside.
The result is a team that's bigger, longer and far more capable around the basket, which makes life easier for everyone, the head coach included.
"We defend the rim, get second shots, rebound," Boo said Friday night after his 17-and-under team's first Nike Elite Youth Basketball League game of the weekend at the Boo Williams Sportsplex.
"The perimeter doesn't have to do as much," Boo said. "The past three years, the perimeter had to do a lot more. That's probably the biggest difference between now and the past. And the kids play hard."
Boo has front-line options that many college coaches would love, with 6-foot-8 Dwayne Foreman, 6-9 Rokas Gustys, 6-10 Trey Porter and the most intriguing prospect of all: 7-foot Thon Maker, a freshman from Australia who prepped last season at the Carlisle School in Martinsville.
Boo's team was balanced in a 58-45 win against the Canada-based
Foreman, a smooth and versatile left-hander from
Maker had a difficult shooting night (2 for 10), but moves fluidly and showed several spin moves and a nice jump hook. He challenges shots and doesn't shy away from contact. He will improve with age and strength, and one college assistant coach referred to him as a pro.
"Teams on the (EYBL) circuit are going to have plenty of quality 'bigs,' " guard Marcus Evans said. "We like to get out and run, but having those bigs inside to rebound and throw it down to them and let them work out, it makes it a lot easier for us guards to score.
"It opens up the whole floor, when we can throw it down to them and we have 'bigs' that can score on their own. We don't have to do anything for them."
Boo's recent teams were led by his nephew Troy Williams, Anthony "Cat" Barber, Rodney Bullock, Charlotte import Al Freeman and current U.Va. freshman Justin Anderson. All were highly rated perimeter players.
Foreman is the only player on this particular team presently rated — No. 135 on Rivals.com's top 150 juniors.
"On any night, anyone can be the leader, so it's balanced," Foreman said. "Whoever has the hot hand or whoever has the mismatch will usually get the ball. We're not selfish. We don't really have a star player. Our coaches tell us, go to the person with the mismatch."
"They're coming in with no expectations," Boo said. "They're not big-name kids, high-ranking kids, McDonald's All-Americans. There's no expectations, so they're going to play hard. The only problem with that is, big-name players can make big-name plays, so we have to do it as a group."
Evans, a 6-1 junior from Chesapeake, was an all-state player last season for Great Bridge who comes off the bench for Boo's team.
"We've got a bunch of guys that are willing to work hard," Evans said. "We've got a bunch of talent on this team, there's a lot of talent on the circuit, but I think more than anything, this team is willing to dive on the floor for loose balls and really get after it in every game. I think that's going to help us in the long run."
Boo has depth on the front line and perimeter, and can mix and match lineups and combinations. His biggest challenge might be getting minutes for everyone. He preaches patience to the players, telling them that their time might come in any game.
After losing its EYBL opener last week in Los Angeles, Boo's team has won its past four games in part of Nike's summer-long circuit. The team plays four more games this weekend — two Saturday (12:30 and 6:30 p.m.) and two Sunday (9:30 a.m. and 2 p.m.).