Gritty defense sets the table for QEA

Gritty defense sets the table for QEA
December 17
00:00 2015
Photo by Craig T. Greenlee
Coach Isaac Pitts believes the Pharaohs are at their best when they dedicate themselves to playing lock-down defense.



The first half of the basketball season is almost history and Quality Education Academy has made some headway. The Pharaohs are 10-2 after the first weeks and coach Isaac Pitts is happy with the progress he’s seen, but not fully satisfied.

Perhaps the best moments for QEA came during mid-November with a stellar performance in picking up two wins at the Phenom National Showcase, which played at Forsyth Country Day. The Pharaohs beat Virginia Episcopal handily and won a close game over a talented Hill Academy team from Canada.

Pitts spoke recently with SportsWeek about the status of QEA basketball.

SW: QEA is off for two-and-half weeks for Christmas break. What’s the coach’s report after 12 games?

Pitts: With nine new players, we’re still a work in progress.

SW: The Pharaohs split two games in the Marshall County Hoopfest in Kentucky earlier this month. What did you learn about your team?

Pitts: We play top-level competition when we’re on the road, and we took a loss in Kentucky. But it was to the fourth-ranked team in the country (Huntington Prep of W.Va.) by six points. With that said, I like our fight. We were down in that game, but we were right there in it. At this point in the season, our guys are learning how to play with each other and learning their roles. That’s so important.

SW: What are you most pleased with at this juncture?

Pitts: The guys have stuck through the (learning curve) process together. They’re still playing hard, still responding to coaching, and that’s always a good sign.

SW: Playing intense defense has always been a key part of QEA’s style of play. How’s that coming along so far?

Pitts: We’re a good defensive team. When we get away from our defensive principles, that’s when we tend to lose. The guys start thinking they can win games with offense. But for us to be at our very best, we have to go back to what our staple is at QEA.  And that’s playing hard-nosed defense. We play hard and we play aggressive. It’s defense first and that translates to offense for us.

SW: Is there one aspect of QEA’s game that you want to get fixed as soon as possible?

Pitts: Rebounding. We’re not very big, so we must rebound by committee. Our guards have to rebound in their areas (on the floor) and we ask our bigs to rebound outside their area. If the guards would just rebound their area, for loose rebounds and long rebounds and then our bigs rebound they way they should, we’ll be just fine.

SW: It’s no secret that Desean Corprew is the player that QEA looks to for scoring. Still, it’s critical that a team has other players who can contribute offensively. Who can fill that role as the Pharaohs get deeper into their season schedule?

Pitts: Jaylan McGill is our second-leading scorer. Desean is averaging 26 points a game and Jaylan is averaging right at 17. Our point guard Ranathan Ona Embo is averaging 13 points and 11 assists. We’re a guard-heavy team. On some nights, we’re getting scoring support from (power forward) Pape Ndiaye.

SW: What’s the season been like for Ndiaye up to now?

Pitts: He’s finally getting back into a rhythm. With a torn ACL and being out of basketball for an entire year – with no work in the summer at all – I think he’s doing pretty good. We have a good nucleus of five or six players. (Post player) Marsellis Purvis is great and then there’s the young kid – Andre’ Toure – he’s really special.

SW: Any other thoughts about this season?

Pitts: We believe that we’re right where we want to be. We’re going to Detroit (for the Detroit Classic) on the 29th of this month and we’ll play a Prolific Prep team with the No. 1 player in the country for 2016 (Josh Jackson). The schedule doesn’t get any easier for us. This is who we play night in and night out when we’re on the road.


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Craig Greenlee

Craig Greenlee

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