Monday, January 18, 2010

Gleason and Durocher aren't afraid to call the shots

Watervliet High School senior shooting guard Nick Durocher (left) and junior point guard Devonte Gleason (right) pose for a picture during Monday's practice at the school. Head coach Walter Bowden said he couldn't recall "a two-headed backcourt that has been this impressive for a long stretch." (Photos by Mike McMahon - The Record).

It wasn't too long ago when Nick Durocher and Devonte Gleason were big rivals on the court. Coming up through the system in Watervliet together, they often competed to take the big shot and prove that they were better than the other.

Durocher, however, had a change of heart after the Cannoneers' first summer league game at the Watervliet Dome in 2009. Head coach Walter Bowden saw his typical frustrations come out after a rough game and set him aside. Bowden told him he had the talent to be an All-Colonial Council guard, but only if he decided to accept his strengths and weaknesses and learn to play alongside Gleason in the same backcourt.

Voila!

The duo has averaged a combined 25.3 points per game, adding nine rebounds, nine assists and seven steals between them. Watervliet (7-1, 10-2) will host Lansingburgh, with an identical record of (7-1, 10-2) Tuesday night in a crucial Colonial Council game. Tipoff is set for 7:30 p.m.

For more on that story, be sure to check out Tuesday's edition of The Record.

Durocher shows his shooting form during Monday's practice.

Durocher has a great three-point shooting touch, as does Gleason and their teammate C.J. Ashline. He's not afraid to let it rip from long distance and that strength could play a big role in Tuesday's game.

While he admitted being a leader didn't come naturally to him, Bowden's words in the summer inspired him. Durocher also runs cross country in the fall, which has improved his stamina and durability.

"It's a whole different sport and as an individual, you have to push yourself," he said. "You can’t really be a leader on a cross country team, but in basketball, you have to get everyone going in practice and like coach said, it’s all about composure. It's just keeping your composure during the game."

Along with Gleason and senior forward Kevin Pontore, Durocher was voted a team tri-captain by his teammates. Still, it's Durocher's turnaround that has sparked the Cannoneers on their quest to capture a Colonial Council regular season title.

"The three of them have developed into leaders," Bowden said. "That was the one question we had coming into the year. Where is the leadership going to come from? Out of all of them, Nick has stepped up the most from where he was to where he is now. I can’t say enough about him and the senior year he’s having. I’m proud of him."

Devonte Gleason glides up for a layup during a drill in Monday's practice at Watervliet High School.

Gleason is an ultra-competitive player, but that extends off the court and into the locker room. It's a great problem to have as a basketball coach, as Bowden explains:

"This is the deepest team I’ve ever had and they’re also the most competitive with each other, which is an excellent thing for practice," said Bowden, "if we don’t let it get too crazy. They all want to win every time they step on the floor and they all go at each other very hard and that leads to some great practices and competition. My job is to make sure that stays right there and we’re all teammates when we leave practice."

The Cannoneers have lost just twice this season, both times by two points to state-ranked opponents. A second quarter meltdown at Lansingburgh explained the first loss ('Vliet allowed 22 unanswered points in the second quarter before playing great - just too little, too late - in the second half). But it's also the leadership from players like Pontore, Gleason and Durocher that has helped the freshmen and sophomores on the team adjust to life on the varsity level in a short matter of time.

"Being a leader is leading by example," said Gleason. "You have to run hard through sprints and stuff. Everybody on the team is looking, so you can’t cut corners."

"Devonte just wants to take over," said Bowden. "He wants to be the guy. He wants to be the best player on the floor and he wants to take the big shots. We've had a lot of talented guys here over the years that didn’t want that. We have guys this year that want to step up. We’re lucky."

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