Girls and boys varsity basketball coaches discuss their Crosstown Showdown preparations

Edgar Sokoli

How are you preparing for the Crosstown Showdown this year?

RHS Boys Varsity Coach John Pleasant: Currently, we are just working on getting better every day.  As we move closer to the game, we will have had a couple opportunities to scout Adams and put a plan in place.

RHS Girls Varsity Coach Adam Sheldon: We take every day in practice as an opportunity to get better. We open our season with a game at Adams so we will have a good chance to build from that game and will have time to make some adjustments based on how things play out that night to help us get ready to hopefully beat Adams for a second time at the Crosstown Showdown.

AHS Boys Varsity Coach John Hall: We really don’t prepare for this game any different from other games in our schedule. We understand that it’s important because we’re playing Rochester but as far as specifics go, we don’t really prepare for that game any different.

AHS Girls Varsity Coach Shay Lewis: We are taking the entire season day by day.  The goal is to get better everyday.


Why/How does this game differ in importance than any other game?

Pleasant: There is always more intensity when you play your crosstown rival.  The fact that the Crosstown Showdown is played at a larger venue with such a big crowd, just adds to that intensity.  It also is a game the kids will remember.  It terms of actual importance, it really isn’t more important than any other game.  It’s just more memorable/special.

Sheldon: Rivalry games are always important. It doesn’t matter what either teams record is. It comes down to who wants to win more and who wants to work hard and win bragging rights until next seasons Crosstown Showdown.

Hall: It’s the biggest game of the year because it’s our rival. That fact that we get to play in front of a sold out crowd on a Division 1 court makes it special. The players and students from both schools get really fired up and that’s what makes it special.

Lewis: It’s bragging rights against your rival and it happens on a HUGE stage with the game being played at the O’Arena.  The atmosphere is spectacular and we’re looking forward to playing hard and having fun.


What players on your team will be instrumental to win this game? Why?

Pleasant: Everyone will be important.  Each player has a role.  The better each player fulfills his role, the better our team will be.

Sheldon: We will need a strong group effort to beat Adams. They have a great PG and a great forward in Amber Jamison who is going to be playing division 1 basketball next season in the Big 10 at Northwestern. We will need to play as a team on defense to slow them down and will need strong play from our guards to lead our offense in transition to help us get quick baskets

Hall: Senior captain point guard Jordan Wiley, he’ll be starting for us this year. He kind of sets the tone with what he does offensively with getting other people involved. Spencer Littleson as well, he’s started every game since a sophomore, he’ll probably be our leading scorer, and he’s a top ranked guard in all of the Metro Detroit area. Joey Ziniti as well, he is a returning varsity player who played last year as a junior, he’ll also be a leading scorer, he’s a kid that can do a lot of different things.

Lewis: Amber Jamison, Raiven Owuso and Dazia Dinkens are 3 players that will be instrumental to win this game.  Amber and Raiven are 4 year varsity players and have the experience of playing on the big stage at OU. They are both energy players and our team feeds off their leadership.  Dazia is our floor general and really sets the pace of how we play.  She’s great at setting up our scorers and getting them the ball where they can make shots.


What players do you need to watch on the other team to win this game? Why?

Pleasant: Adams has a very good team this year.  I just read where they are ranked in the top 25 teams in the state.  I know they have very good backcourt play, and they also have a big kid who transferred in.  We will know more about them once we have an opportunity to see them play, but they will be a very good team.

Sheldon: Amber Jamison – she is big time player and a great rebounder and shot blocker. We need to make her spend energy on defense and really work hard to keep her off the boards especially when she is on offense.

Hall: I haven’t had a chance to look at Rochester’s roster yet or scout them.

Lewis: Shakira Hodges is a player we need watch for.  We need to tighten up our defensive pressure and not allow her to get easy buckets.


How is coaching in this game different from others?

Pleasant: It’s just neat for me to see how much the kids enjoy playing in the game.  We have been on both sides of this game in terms of winning and losing, and while we always would like to win, it’s a special game either way.

Sheldon: It is a great atmosphere and a very fun night for players and coaches. Our emphasis and execution will be no different, but keeping the players nerves under control is probably the biggest challenge. Rivalry games already bring added nerves and playing in a larger venue at Oakland and in front of a big crowd adds to those already heightened nerves.  I really just try to keep the players nerves at bay and make sure we don’t expend all of our energy to early in the game or try and do too much early on.

Hall: We talk a lot about how to handle your emotions and the crowd noise. We play noise through a stereo during practice because we’ll have a hard time communicating. We have hand signals and things like that as well.

Lewis: With Adams being my Alma Mater, I look forward to coaching in this rival game and always want to win! I think its pretty cool to be coaching on the sideline at a Division 1 college facility.  It’s a great experience for the girls but also pretty sweet for the coaches.  The energy in the building will be pretty special.


What do you think of OU as a venue for this game? Explain.

Pleasant: It’s a great venue for this game.  The game is typically near capacity every year.  We are lucky to be in a district that supports us playing in this type of game.

Sheldon: OU is a great place to play. Getting to play in a basketball arena and getting to use the facilities they offer is awesome. It is a special atmosphere and a very special night for everyone involved.

Hall: I love it. I think it’s special that we can get the players on a college floor in that type of environment. The stadium, the scoreboards, everything just adds to the experience. Every year at the game, returning players come to me and talk about playing at the Crosstown Showdown and playing at Oakland. It’s a special deal for everybody.

Lewis: I think the O’Arena is a great venue for the game.  We are fortunate that Oakland University is located in our city and we can take advantage of playing at a Division 1 college facility.  It’s a fun experience for the players, fans and coaches.


What have you learned from past games that will help you be successful this year?

Pleasant: Each team is different, so I’m not sure how much you can take from year to year.  The one thing that is always the same is dealing with the kids nerves.  Typically everyone is fired up to play, and we have to kind of ease their nerves.  However, that all goes away after the first minute or two of the game.

Sheldon: Just being familiar with the routine and how things work is a big benefit. There are a lot of distractions and knowing ahead of time what they are and what we can expect once we get there is very helpful especially since Adams has a new head coach this year that has never been through it before.

Hall: We and Rochester, we just know each other so well. The biggest thing isn’t the fact that we’re playing at Oakland, it’s the fact that we’re playing Rochester. We know how Rochester tries to attack us and we feel like we’ll be prepared to handle what they’re going to try to do.

Lewis: Well…this will be my first time coaching in the Crosstown Showdown, so I’m pretty excited.  I think having played Rochester once this season already, we know what things we need to work on to better compete and be successful.