Gibbons: Heatcheck carries momentum into tournament

 

SUWANEE – Heat Check basketball is not tiptoeing into the national spotlight. They are making a splash and knocking out the competition.

This program is no longer up and coming it has arrived onto the national scene on a mission. The goal is to win an AAU national championship but in order to do so Heat Check must prepare itself to do so.

On Friday at 9:45 pm, Heat Check plays the Wilson Blue Devils in the main gym at Lanier High in the 14U bracket of the Bob Gibbons Tournament of “Future” Champions. The games for this age group will be played at Lanier and Berkmar High before the Final Four on Sunday at Suwanee Sports Academy.

For the Gwinnett-based program participating in a national exposure event is only a continued step in the building process. This is the team’s third tournament of the spring, while playing up in some. The latest was the King James Southern Exposure event in Augusta.

Heat Check played up in the 15U division and was the only 8th grade team the pools. The players and coach Jerome Weaver never flinched at playing up.

“This class is potent,” said Weaver, the 14U coach and the director of the program. “I expected us to win the whole thing because the Class of 2016 is the strongest it has been in 20 years. I knew the Class of 2015 would be no match for that.”

The closest game was a three-point victory over the 15U Birmingham Xpress Ice. After failing to hold onto a 16-point lead, Heat Check held its composure to secure a three-point victory.

“They are tough nose kids,” Birmingham director Ava Herndon said. “They have some real good size. With any young group, we were able to rattle them a little bit. They (Heat Check) showed the ability to keep their composure.”

Being able to get remain stoic during adverse situations comes from playing some of the best travel teams early in the spring.

After winning the KJSE title, Weaver took to the teams Twitter page and ranked the best 14U teams nationally 1. Team Scan, 2. Dunk Dog, 3. DC Assault, 4. Karolina Diamonds, 5. Heat Check. He said either of these teams could win a national title. What gives Weaver the authority to make such a bold statement?

Well, Heat Check has played against or watched the other four teams. They went to Virginia and lost to Team Scan and watched DC Assault dismantle the competition. Heat Check lost to the Karolina Diamonds before beating the Dunk Dog in a tournament in Atlanta.

Prior to beating the Dunk Dog, which have 7-foot center Thon Maker and 6-foot-9 forward Khalea Turner. Weaver needed something to help motivate his team. He searched the Internet and printed some literature associated with the Cassius Clay-Sonny Liston flight. Clay, who later became Muhammad Ali, predicted he was going to beat Liston and “Shock the World.” He did and became heavyweight champion.

This motivation helped Heat Check deliver the upset victory over the Dunk Dog. While it was a win in pool play, the Dog’s won the tournament title but that could not overshadow the Heat Check’s win.

Part of Heat Check’s success is the acquisition of Christian Turner (pictured above), who has been spectacular at the point. He show’s poise as the floor leader beyond his years. Teams have tried to double the 5-foot-10 slick guard but failed. The interior is anchored by 6-foot-7 center Obinna Ofodile(pictured right) a center with significant presence for Heat Check on both ends of the floor. Kevin Tucker, a 6-foot-4, win is explosive and versatile with the ability to get to the basket. Demarcus Simmonds gives Heat Check an athletic 6-foot-3 forward with the heart of a season veteran. His football mentality helps him balance aggression and finesse. Jordan Lyons will knock it down from any where on the floor. Opponents may want to keep an eye on this 5-foot-10 shooter.

If all these pieces keep it together for Heat Check it explains why Weaver makes this comment.

“There are not enough premier teams here,” he said. “I think we will win it all.”

If the last two tournaments are any indication of what Heat Check is capable of, everyone else is playing for second place.

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