A return to glory for Pinelands
One of the most prominent clubs in local basketball, Orange 3 Pinelands have enjoyed a renaissance of sorts over the last two seasons, having ended a 12-year drought last year by winning both the top flight league and knockout titles.
And the team has already started this season with the successful defence of the knockout cup.
In this week’s Community Corner, SUNSPORT’S Justin Marville talks to head coach Renaldo Maughan and assistant Gregory “Coppa” Paul about the team’s return to prominence and what impact that has made on the Pinelands area.
MARVILLE: You went a long time between titles, missed the playoffs some of those years and even got demoted, what led to this big turnaround in the Pine?
PAUL: After getting demoted in 2007 the guys took a different perspective about the game and refocused because to be successful calls for commitment, hard work and application as talent is only a preface unless it’s applied in the right manner. We had the best line-ups from starting five to bench from 1995 to 2000 but we lost two finals, two semi-finals and missed the playoffs altogether.
So we swept the lower division, came back up and rebuilt then lost in the finals due to some bad luck as Kirk [Patrick] and [Ryan] Sam [Maynard] got injured in 2009 while Gary Miller got banned. It meant we had to rely too heavily on young players Charles Vanderpool and Ramon Simmons at the time, but that’s basketball.
Now those same games are more mature and battle-tested and work really hard so that hard work is paying off. Right now it doesn’t matter who’s out, it’s always the next man up.
MARVILLE: A lot has been made about the club bringing in star players like Jeremy Gill, Junior Moore and Halley Franklyn during this recent upsurge. How do you feel about the negative comments and what attracted those guys to come to the team?
PAUL: The guys who came over in the past two years played with the core of our team in the Warriors out-of-season tournament and they decided since their games complemented each other that they will come and join us. We didn’t actively recruit any of them but we are still grateful they came nevertheless.
And we don’t see Halley as an outsider though as he was born and bred in the Pine and lived most of his life here.
MARVILLE: Coming out of an era where Pinelands basketball was so triumphant and exciting, how hard was it to endure those tough years?
MAUGHAN: It was really hard because I played I an era where we had five national players on the team and I still managed to start. Those were definitely the best days in the Pine and I tell my players that you had to bring a different level of play every night.
I remember playing with Cosmo Edwards, he was so smart and had a wealth of talent, and when he came over to us from schoolboys his level of basketball forced us to change and go up with him. But the thing about him was his understanding of the game. You can play this game with two per cent skill and 98 per cent smarts.
But I also felt during those times we lacked toughness. We lacked the killer instinct and I kept telling my players we just weren’t tough enough. So I have spent all this time drilling that in them about not being afraid to play physical and tough because that’s what it’s going to take.
MARVILLE: Your community has received a lot of bad press over the years over some unfortunate incidents of violence not related to the team. Would you say the team’s recent successes have helped to lift the Pine’s image and unite the community?
MAUGHAN: Maybe in some way. If this was 12 to 15 years ago then it would be a lot different because back in the day it was all community-based teams and basketball was viewed as a way of getting out as people didn’t have cellphones and all this other stuff.
But still everywhere we go we get praise and acknowledgement from people in the community and you can see that they truly appreciate what we are trying to do for the area. Back then though there would’ve been big parties all over the Pine but the community isn’t the same as before.
They’re still happy though and they realise we are doing something positive for the community, especially as we have so many young players around the club. Every night I am on the court with these young guys and it’s not just me but the players as well. If you can spend some time with these kids and show them that basketball is a way out of trouble then they will see that you truly care for them.