Brookfield East boys basketball coach Andy Farley recently has been seen walking around school with a briefcase. Farley has to be careful with the briefcase, because if he drops in, he might break the mirrors and release the smoke inside.
You see, it's easy to get excited when you look at the Greater Metro Conference boys basketball standings so far this season.
I cover Brookfield and Wauwatosa, as most of you know, and there are Wauwatosa East and Brookfield Central sitting on top of the standings with 4-0 records. I know there is no sign of Santa Claus yet, so it's still early, but I always enjoy when my teams do well.
Granted, the Lancers are state-ranked and were picked to win the GMC and Wauwatosa East is undefeated despite the loss of their big man to a prep school on the West coast.
But if you want to know what really has my eyebrows raised and a big smile on my face, you have to look just a little bit more down the standings.
Sitting there in third place, one game out with a 3-1 record and a 5-2 overall record, is Brookfield East.
That's why Farley has to be careful with that briefcase - somehow he is doing it with smoke and mirrors because the Spartans are definitely an early-season surprise.
Every team loses talent to graduation, but Farley lost a power pack when C.J. Gregg and Darius Barnes graduated, both extremely talented, big men.
That basically left the cupboards almost bare, although not completely.
Farley has turned to junior returning letter winners Ryan McBride, Brian Smith and Nick Kanavas - and they have responded big time.
Smith got the Spartans out to a fast start with 15 points in a 64-61 win at Franklin to start the season, and then followed up with a team-leading 11 points in a 55-40 rout of Greendale at home.
Then came the big shocker as the Spartans blew away JP Tokoto and the Indians, 73-52, at Menomonee Falls, and Smith scored 21 points in the process.
After two low-scoring games (six, four points) in losses to Tosa East (50-36) and New Berlin Eisenhower (55-49), the 6-foot-4 wing has scored 12 and 13 points in GMC wins at Sussex Hamilton (48-47) and against West Allis Hale (51-44) at home.
Kanavas, a 6-1 guard, got some key minutes last season, and he has been solid for the Spartans, averaging 7.1 points per game. He stepped up big time in the win over Falls with 15 points and had 11 against unbeaten Eisenhower.
McBride a linchpin
But perhaps the glue to this Spartans team is 6-1 point guard McBride, who seems to do whatever is needed every game.
McBride is averaging 9.1 points, being steady with eight, nine, seven, 11, seven, nine and 13. He topped the team in scoring in the loss to Tosa East (11) and shared the team lead with Smith in the win over Hale (13).
His finest moment this year came in the one-point win at Sussex Hamilton, when he drove the lane and took the ball right to the basket for the game-winning bucket with two seconds left to play.
McBride's job is to run the show - be an extension of Farley - on the court. He does that and more, especially in the clutch, hitting 76 percent from the free-throw line.
Team finds its stride
But the Spartans have had help from several faces this year: Mike Novak, Billy Dietz, Mike Eberle, Jonathan McGinley, Jake Wiesmueller and Steven Tongas have all played a part in the early-season success.
Novak, a 6-foot-5 junior forward, is actually second to Smith in scoring (10.3). Dietz, a 6-2 senior guard, averages 6.0 points. Juniors Eberle, Wiesmueller and Tongas have all had their moments.
Yes it's early, but Farley should get credit for putting this team on the winning side of the W-L column. Nothing breeds success for an inexperienced team like winning.
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