By Rob Abruzzese
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
The Boys and Girls Kangaroos won three consecutive Public School Athletic League championships from 2010-2012, so when they finished last season with just an 8-8 record it was easy to overlook it as barely a blip on the radar. However, the 'Roos have continued to struggle this season and are currently 6-7 after a loss to South Shore last Friday.
Despite that, head coach Ruth Lovelace isn't discouraged by her team. Yes, it can be a little frustrating for her at times when she watches them lose games that she is used to seeing them win. She knows her team well, she realizes that it's a young core, and understands that this same team will come back stronger next year even if they don't shock some teams in this season's playoffs.
"I think we're a little young," Lovelace said. "The maturity level this year isn't where it should be, but that's what happens when you have a lot of underclassmen on the team. We also have five new kids on the team that had had to learn their roles, learn our style of defense. So it's a combination of maturity level and inexperience.
"At the same time our top players will all be back next year, we have quality players at JV and I'm looking forward to some other schools losing kids," she continued. "We're struggling a bit right now, but I still think we can surprise teams in the playoffs and the future here is bright."
That future surrounds three players -- juniors Jamie Killings and Darryl Williams as well as sophomore Gianni Ford.
Killings, a 6-foot-4 forward, is the most skilled player right now of the three. He's averaged 18.5 points and 11.1 rebounds per game in 13 PSAL contests this season. He has the ability to dominate games, but, at times, he seems to completely disappear. Lovelace explained how they just found out that Killings has poor eyesight, which she feels has contributed to his lack of consistency and, at times, confidence.
Ford is a 6-foot point guard with exceptional skills for a sophomore. He's averaged 13.7 points, 5.4 assists and 3.7 rebounds per game in 13 games so far this year. Lovelace explained how, even more than Killings, he can be extremely inconsistent as he learns how to play at the varsity level.
"He's a sophomore," Lovelace said of Ford. "We have to live with his mistakes a little bit because he's only going to get better. He has a lot of talent, he has good grades. He's going to help some college program out. They're going to be very happy to have him."
Ford admitted that adjusting to the PSAL Brooklyn AA Division has been extremely tough and he said the biggest challenge is that even though Boys High doesn't have the same talented rosters from 2010-2012, they still have the same target on their backs.
"It's really tough to be honest because people know who I am," Ford said. "Teams like Lincoln and Jefferson are setting traps for me early in games. I'm trying to find ways to adjust to it. I'm putting in more work."
Williams has averaged 7.4 points with 3.2 assists per game this season, but he has a good shot. Lovelace said she plans on him playing a big role on next year's squad, but noted that he's going to have to step up. The biggest problem is his lack of size, which is something that she hopes that he addresses this offseason.
Another obstacle that has hurt Boys High is a positive one in Lovelace's eyes. The Bed-Stuy school has long been an under-performing one so it has begun to enforce tougher restrictions on student-athletes over the past few years than the PSAL does. While this is a good thing for students, it has discouraged some kids from even attending the school and has kept a few others ineligible to play high school sports.
As part of tougher academic restrictions, Boys High has decided to keep its athletic programs from playing in any games during regents week. It might not seem like a big deal, but with playoffs coming other teams are loading up their schedules this time of the year.
"Academics are the most important," Lovelace said. "They need to be studying. It might set us back a little bit, but if even one more kid passes his tests it'll be worth it."
Despite all of those, Lovelace still says that her team could end up surprising a few people during the playoffs next month. She might have a point because despite their poor record, the Kangaroos have beaten South Shore already this season and have lost some extremely close games to other top teams.
"We're definitely going to be a tough out," she said.