By George Pohly
They do yoga instead of weight lifting, and they play outside on blacktop rather than indoors on hardwood.
They run hills instead of baseline to baseline, and their vital equipment includes a thermometer and sanitizer rather than a rack of basketballs.
This is New Haven summer hoops in the era of COVID-19.
Different atmosphere. Unconventional schedule. Unusual priorities.
But there's a spirit that’s true to one of Macomb County’s more successful programs.
“We’re here on a mission,” senior Manny Hunter said. “We’re trying to get better, better every day.
“I love these guys, they’re my teammates. We’ve really become a family here.”
The coronavirus pandemic and construction at New Haven High have dislodged the Rockets for the foreseeable future, so they make due in different locales.
One afternoon they’re at the New Haven Community Park. On another, at a park in New Baltimore or the beach at Lake St. Clair Metropark.
They meet in small groups with coach Tedaro France II, who takes everyone’s temperature before anything else happens.
“If anyone’s temperature is over 100, they have to leave,” France said.
A session at New Haven Community Park featured drills to improve ball handling skills and defensive techniques, but not before the players finished several minutes of yoga.
“It’s important to take care of the body, first and foremost,” France said. “Our priority now is to have fun, take it slow and not try to make up for lost time.
“Kids think they’ve got to get everything back right now, but they’ve been off for so long. That’s why we’ve got the yoga.”
In a normal year, France’s team would have been to multiple team camps and played dozens of games by the time June expired.
But the Rockets, like prep teams throughout the state, went on indefinite couch duty when the coronavirus crisis emerged in mid-March.
In-person classes were finished. So were team gatherings, workouts and any thoughts about camp.
Only in recent weeks did schools get the go-ahead to bring athletes together for outdoor training sessions.
“I’m just happy to see them,” said France, the Rockets’ coach for more than a decade. “It’s been so long since we’ve been able to be a group.
“It's kind of cool to be outside and not in the gym. The kids are happy to be outside and back to something that’s kind of normal. This is a chance for them to get off the couch, the (video) games, Twitter, TikTok, Instagram, whatever they’ve got now.
"The gym, and now here, for a lot of kids is their safe place. They want that escape. It's very important."
France has a bottle of sanitizer at workouts. Equipment is cleaned regularly.
“We take our time,” France said. “We take a lot of breaks.
“We try to keep it as safe as possible.”
It’s not what a basketball team is accustomed to during the long, hot daylight hours of summer, but then, what has been normal in a high school student's life since spring started?
“We make most of our gains from March to June,” said France, who led New Haven to a state championship in 2017. “That’s when we evaluate the kids’ strengths and weaknesses. We missed that key time.”
The way France sees it, if players learn to adjust to circumstances away from the game, perhaps those lessons will serve them in tight situations when competition does resume.
“The kids are seeing that this game can be a guide to what’s next in life,” France said. “There’s a lot of stuff going on in the world right now. We talk in meetings about adversity, struggle and hard work.
“I enjoy this, working the kids out and seeing the gains they make. We’re in no rush. There’s no rush to jumping back into playing games. Safety’s first.”
New Haven has a new football coach. His name is Larry Porter. He has taken over a program that has averaged more than one new head coach a year for more than a decade.
“We’re trying to split (workout) time with the football coach,” France said. “I’m going around his schedule. He missed a lot of time, too.
“We need our football program back and these kids need to play multiple sports for our school to be successful in multiple sports.”
New Haven head coach Tedaro France and assistant Jammie Kincaid take the Rockets through a Summer G.O.A.T Hill workout #WintheDay
Coach Tedaro France and Rockets boys basketball program to hold summer basketball mini camp for all New Haven high school basketball players.
Romeo Weems wishes Coach France, Coach Dilbert and the entire Rocket Staff a Happy Fathers Day #FAMILY
2016 Rocket All Stater, 7-0 feet Center Innocent Nwoko Junior year Highlights from Saginaw Valley University
Rocket alum and DePaul University Romeo Weems and Freshman Keyondre Gomez carry tires up the Hill during a New Haven Basketball summer workout.
Romeo finished his career at New Haven High School becoming the First player in Macomb County history to be named Mr Basketball. Romeo finished as New Haven High Schools all time leading scorer and helping the Rockets to a historic State Championship his sophomore season. Romeo was a 4 year 1st team all state performer and 2 time Macomb County Player of the Year.
All-State Rocket Alum forward Ashton Sherrell Lake State University Sophomore Season Highlights
Congrats to Tyree France and Brent Wiles on making the Times Herald All-Blue Water Area Boys Basketball Team
Former Rocket All-State guard Tavares Oliver Jr will suit up for Morehouse University next basketball season #FAMILY
Romeo Weems becomes just the ninth DePaul player to be named to the Big East All-Freshman Team and the first to do it since Eli Cain in 2016.
Romeo Weems He is the ninth DePaul player to be named to the Big East All-Freshman Team and the first to do it since Eli Cain in 2016.
PG Tyree France, New Haven
Vitals: Senior, 5-foot-11, 150 pounds.
Key Stats: Averaged 11.4 points, 5.5 assists, 3.4 rebounds and 2.7 steals. Had three games with 10 or more assists.
Accolades: All-MAC-White first team and team captain.
Comment from coach Tedaro France: "What makes Tyree France a special player is his high intelligence of the game of basketball combined with his unique ability to control the game from the point guard position. He is a great teammate, an excellent leader, tireless worker and a selfless individual. He is one of best point guards I have been blessed to coach in my 12 years at New Haven. Tyree is one of our best scorers but with our team being young at the guard position this year with four freshmen up on varsity, he really displayed great leadership, patience and a great understanding that we needed the ball in his hands running the offense."
Congrats to 2021 6-4 Forward Brent Wiles on being named Honorable Mention to the Associated Press Division 2 All-State Team #AllState
SF Brent Wiles, New Haven
Vitals: Junior, 6-foot-4, 200 pounds.
Key Stats: Averaged 18.1 points, 10.7 rebounds, 2.1 assists and 1.9 steals.
Accolades: All-MAC-White first team and a team-captain.
Team Finish: The Rockets (12-9, 5-5 MAC-White) placed third in its conference before falling to Lutheran North in the district opener.
Comment from coach Tedaro France: "Brent Wiles is a special talent who had a breakout season for us this year during his junior season. Brent possesses the size, strength and skill that makes him a matchup problem for defenses night in and night out from the small forward position. He has the ability to score inside and out with the ball skills to handle on the wing and attack to create off the dribble. Brent can also step out and shoot the 3-point shot and is a very good passer. What makes Brent even more special is his scoring efficiency shooting over 53.4% from the field and showing his ability to finish. Brent is a tireless worker that demands the best from himself and his teammates every day. An excellent student in the classroom carrying a 3.8 GPA and is a member of the National Honor Society."
New Haven Basketball