Sunday, July 13, 2003

Veteran players put aside fun to focus on winning

Playoffs invigorate teams, remind all of ultimate goal

By Dustin Dow
The Cincinnati Enquirer

It's supposed to be a fun league in which players can work on their game and fans can see a little more of their favorite basketball stars during the summer offseason.

But as the Deveroes Summer League playoffs begin today, no one on the Maaco-Blue Ash team is thinking about having fun. The team, one of the oldest in the league in terms of player age, ran through the regular season 8-0 and plans to complete a perfect season by winning the tournament championship.

"We've been showing everybody what veteran players are all about," said Damon Flint, a former University of Cincinnati standout. "We didn't come to just play. We came to win. That's how every player should be. When you step on the court, you're playing to win."

Maaco-Blue Ash earned the No. 1 seed in the playoffs and will go up against No. 8 Slats at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday at Oak Hills High School. It will be a rematch of Saturday's regular-season finale, which Maaco won 102-98.

While Maaco has been the most consistent team of the summer, Slats (2-6) is arguably the league's most exciting team with UC recruits Robert Whaley, James White and Mike Pilgrim.

Maaco, on the other hand, has summer-league veterans Jack Jennings, Kevin Britten, Flint and coach Tony Brown.

"We take this serious, because it's about city bragging rights," said Britten, the team's point guard. "It's the big tournament of the year. We've won it (several) times and been to the championship more than anybody."

Most of the summer-league teams are filled with local college players who come and go through the years, but Britten, Jennings and Brown have kept their team together since it was formed in 1991. Britten, 35, said this is the players' favorite time of year because it's the last big tournament before Jennings heads overseas to play.

"No question about it," Britten said. "It's where all the real players come to play. It's the biggest league in the city, and it heats up even more in the tournament."

The difference between winning the tournament and losing might carry a bit more weight for most of the Maaco players than the average college player who uses the league to prepare for official practice in October. But the blend of league veterans and college players has made the games competitive.

"It's a chance to play against the best in the city and see where you are," said Flint, 29, who also is looking to head overseas to play professionally. "Every year you get to see the new talent. The young guys get to play against us and see where they are."

Today's playoff games place third-seeded Stratus Group vs. No. 6 Harmon Davis at 1 p.m. and No. 4 Cintas vs. No. 5 Mike Albert at 2 p.m.


Saturday's scores

Maaco-Blue Ash 102, Slats 98

Stratus Group 78, Harmon Davis 72

Stan Litz Law Office 76, McCluskey 69

Cintas 92, Mike Albert Leasing 86

Tournament schedule - Today's games

1 p.m. - (3) Stratus Group vs. (6) Harmon Davis & Associates

2 p.m. - (4) Cintas vs. (5) Mike Albert Leasing

Tuesday's games

6:30 p.m. - (1) Maaco-Blue Ash vs. (8) Slats

7:30 p.m. - (2) Stan Litz Law Office vs. (7) John H. Flessa Law Office


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