Returning pg 7 10-15-20

Elijah Blackmon and Quaran McPherson have known each other and played basketball either together or against one another since third grade in Brooklyn, N.Y.
Why break up a good thing? The two guards, along with fellow guard Eshete Calvo from Spain, have all returned to The Woodstock Academy prep basketball team for a second year.
“(Quaran) and I are roommates now (at Woodstock Academy) so we’re bonding even more. (Eshete) is one of my close friends, too, because we played together on the same team so it’s great to come back together,” Blackmon said.
McPherson played on the Centaurs Gold team last season while Blackmon and Calvo were on the Blue squad.
Head coach Jacque Rivera said he would not hesitate to play McPherson just about anywhere on the floor or, for that matter, for just about any program.
“He competes,” Rivera said. “He has a college body. His maturity is a lot different now. He’s grown and that is what a year (of prep basketball) does for you.”
Last year, he was a key component of the Gold team’s run to the National Championship tournament.
He comes back to a program that bears little resemblance to the year before.
“Last year, we were much bigger all-around in every position. But this year, we have better players. We should be better this year than last,” McPherson said.
The Centaurs Gold team finished 29-8 last season.
It will take some work to get to that mark again this season and a key to that will be the play of McPherson.
He’s positioned himself well for a strong 2020-21 season when it begins.
“Quaran has grown to 6-feet, 4.5 inches (about an inch above last year). He’s down to single-digit body fat, 7 percent, so he’s back; he’s trusting his body. Last year, he was coming from a place where he had to share a little bit. He came here and he had to share a lot. It was an adjustment for him and I thought he did that,” Rivera said.
Blackmon, who stands 6-5, said when he went back home in March, he wasn’t satisfied with his level of play and decided another year of prep basketball might be important for him.
“Year two,” Rivera said. “Elijah has his body in better shape. I think he’s playing with more confidence. This is a tough thing to do and give him all the credit. I think he stayed in his driveway all summer and worked on his game. He has grown up and matured, holistically, and his focus is more on basketball.”
It never hurts to be more comfortable in your surroundings.
“I know what’s going on now and what I need to do to become a better player. We have a great group of guys this year,” Blackmon said.
McPherson said he had a chance to develop a fondness for the school last year and also how Rivera coached, how Rivera fought to get the best out of him and his desire to push McPherson to the next level.
Unlike some, McPherson did not sit around much during the long offseason created by the pandemic. He left Brooklyn and went to South Carolina to visit with family for the entire summer and had the chance to play with an AAU program.
“Living in New York City, it’s so populated that you can’t really stretch out. He had a chance to get out of the city, it was a lot slower, and he had unlimited access to a gym. I think to have family down there, to play some AAU ball, to have that option, really helped him,” Rivera said.
Now, it’s up to McPherson, Blackmon and Calvo, who also stands 6-5, to help the Centaurs.
“Eshete looks good. Last year, he was lighter. He’s stronger and playing above the rim this year. He’s improving every day,” Rivera said.
Although Rivera believes that it’s not necessarily true that the three have to be leaders for the program.
Rivera feels that prep basketball is a stop in the way along the path of development and that the next stop is where leadership qualities may be much more important.
“You try not to create an environment where there are leaders and followers here. When they get to college, they have to lead themselves whether it is in the classroom, on the playing surface, in the weight room. I think what they can do for us this year is offer a ton of guidance and suggestions, because they have been through it. They have to lead with their play, motivate, and help guys see the long-term positive that will come out of this year,” Rivera said.
McPherson said he feels more comfortable not only with the program but with what his role is within it.
“Coach Jacque wants me to do a little of everything, but mostly score and get everyone involved and help us win games,” McPherson said.
And it’s not only his role that is being more clearly defined.
It’s team-wide.
“Everyone is starting to know what their role is and knows what they have to do for their position on the (Gold or Blue) team,” McPherson said.
Blackmon, like his friend McPherson, sees a team that will be different from a year ago.
“I think this team has a lot more guard play. We can play more up-tempo. Last year, we had longer wings which was good for the press. I think this year will be even better because we’re locked in mentally,” Blackmon said.
Marc Allard
Director of Sports Information
The Woodstock Academy


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