Countless basketball coaches in the Philadelphia area will spend sleepless nights this winter devising plans to help their teams score. So, when Bartram coach James Brown says, "I'm not worried about our team scoring," a few heads should turn.
That is, if they haven't already.
Tyrone Garland, Bartram's 6-foot-1, 170-pound point guard who committed to Virginia Tech last month, returns for his senior season after leading the city in scoring last year with 28.9 points per game. He was voted second-team all-Southeastern Pennsylvania as a junior by the Inquirer and selected to the All-Star Game in July's Reebok All-American Camp at Philadelphia University.
"I've never geared my offense around Ty," Brown said. "Ty just gets his within my system."
Garland will get his this season as one of three returning starters in Brown's three- to four-guard offense that figures to wreak havoc on Public League defenses.
Last year, Bartram went 10-4 in the Public League and finished fourth among Public League Division A teams behind Olney (13-1), Frankford (12-2), and Southern (11-3). But with Garland, the Braves' only returning starter from 2007, Bartram finished 18-8 overall and advanced to the Class AAAA state quarterfinals before losing to eventual state champion Penn Wood.
"To be honest, I didn't expect to advance as far as we did," Brown said last week.
Now the coach is setting the bar higher for a more experienced group.
"I have probably the most athletic team that I've coached in my 30-plus years," said Brown, who enters his fifth year as the Braves' coach and his 20th season coaching both boys' and girls' Public League hoops.
Bartram's three returning starters are all seniors: Garland, 5-10 guard Quasim Jones, and 6-1 small forward Al Hajj Shabazz. Jones transferred from Roman Catholic before last season and will play some point guard, allowing Garland to play off the ball when the Braves need his scoring more than his ball-handling.
Bartram will open the season without Shabazz, who broke his wrist as the football team's quarterback on Thanksgiving against Del-Val Charter. Brown has younger players auditioning to play in Shabazz's place, alongside 6-1 senior guard/forward Zaahir Allen and a three-man rotation of 6-4 centers that consists of senior Darryl Lane and juniors Montrell Smith and Dijon Wright.
Brown said one reason he is not concerned about offense is he knows the Braves can score; the other reason is he's more concerned about stopping opponents.
"I've always emphasized defense, but for some reason, as a team we just didn't play it well last year," Brown said. "But it's going to be not only emphasized or stressed a lot more this year; it's going to be required. And if you don't play D, then you're not going to play.
"Even during the Public League regular season last year, in the games we won, we averaged maybe close to 60, 70 points a game; sometimes we'd score 80 or 90, but we gave up doggone near 60 a game. And we gave it up to teams that probably hadn't scored 60 any other time during the season. And that's not my system."
Local basketball fans will be glad to hear Bartram's schedule includes many of the area's best teams.
The Braves will play the Class AAA state champion (Archbishop Carroll) and the Del-Val League cochampion (Chester) in the Jameer Nelson/Pete Nelson Classic over the Christmas holiday. Bartram will open against Malvern Prep in the West Chester SPBP Classic on Saturday, travel to Harrisburg on Jan. 17 and face the District 12 AAAA champion (Roman Catholic) at Villanova on Jan. 30.
"I purposely accepted these invitations, because as an experienced team with a guy like Garland who's been asking for these types of games his whole career, why not accept the challenge?" Brown said.
Maybe because all of those teams have offenses that could exploit Bartram's defensive deficiencies, unless Bartram has a plan to improve its defense.