As the gym cleared out Sunday night at Christian Brother’s Academy, another weekend series came to a close. Fans filed out, Players from both teams walked silently to the locker room and the lights dimmed on the Albany Legends home court. But as the weekend capped a series sweep by the Legends over the visiting Oregon Waves it also highlighted something else. A progression.
Emanuel Mayben started off his 2011 campaign with the Albany Legends in a state of flux. As the team struggled in it’s first few games to find it’s identity, no one player seemed to be in flux more than Mayben. An obviously gifted player with a bevy of skills that can instantly improve any roster in the IBL. But a player that seemed more concerned with proving his offensive dominance than letting the game come to him.
The Legends opened the season with a weekend series against the Kankakee Soldiers. Although the Legends won the weekend series 2-1 the one glaring absence was not only a 3rd win in that series, but the diminished playing time of Mayben.
Was this a message by Coach Ben Smith? Was this an attempt to right the ship with Mayben?
The answers to those questions are locked behind the doors in the Legends locker room and perhaps only Coach Ben Smith and Mayben know the answer. But now matter the reasoning, “the benching” had an effect.
While most players today would have sulked and become disgruntled, Mayben emerged with new focus. He emerged with a determination to make the changes himself.
There was never a question about Mayben’s scoring ability. But in the first few games of the season one could easily question his shot selection. As the Gary Splash came into town last weekend for a 3 game set Mayben started his progression. A mere two weeks after his benching Mayben showed a clear effort in moving the ball. He let his natural court vision take over. His shot selection improved, his control of the offense became more calm and Mayben started to shake off the early season frustrations.
Although the Legends weekend series record did not change (They went 2-1 against the Splash) there certainly was a bounty of change that was evident in that series. Mayben’s assists were up, shooting percentage improved and most of all he seemed to be becoming more comfortable with the offense and his role in it.
It was never a doubt in Coach Ben Smith’s mind that Mayben had the tools to be special. “Immediately from the get go he had the best vision with the ball in his hands. Tiki can do everything as a point guard. He’s going to be the one to give up the ball more often than not as opposed to trying to score”
With the faith of his Head Coach and plenty of Legends fans as well, Tiki built on a promising showing against the Gary Splash when the Oregon Waves came into town.
Mayben’s jersey says #8 on the back but there was a different #8 in uniform against the Waves. A player that we saw breaking through in the Splash series. A player no longer finding his way on the court but letting his natural ability take over without forcing or rushing it.
A few weeks ago we would have seen a frustrated Mayben forcing up shots and trying too hard to create something on the court. Not anymore.
In each game of the series Mayben let the offense flow, his shots come to him and involved other Legends unselfishly. In a league where players dream of the “next level” and many of which play in a manner that can at times be “me first”, Mayben showed professionalism, maturity and above all clear “Next Level” Talent.
“It seems like every game my teammates ask more of me and want me to bring more to the table” Mayben said. “They see how I can facilitate and set the offense up for everyone else. It felt good to let it go a little bit”.
Moving forward Mayben plans to continue to evolve and give the Legends what they need from him to win. He also understands the journey he has taken this season. “In the beginning I was coming off the bench to provide scoring. When Coach switched the lineup and gave me the starts so I could be the facilitator. I always feel like I can get mine when I wanted it, so scoring for me is not an issue.”
As far as the rest of the season goes Mayben admits he still has work to do. “I want to cut down on the turnovers. I’m not taking as many chances as I used to but I realize that sometimes I see things before my teammates do. So instead of trying to thread the needle so much I have to become more efficient”.
As the Legends continue their journey in the 2011 season it’s assured that there will be many trials and tribulations. Frustrations and growth. But as the journey continues we can count on one constant from here on out. Tiki Mayben may not flood the highlight reels on a nightly basis and he may not take over the League Leaders in scoring. But Tiki Mayben will be evolving into a true Floor General every game.
In a league of talented scorers and stat fillers, Mayben shows us that unique talent such as his is the true definition of “Elite Play” and as the old saying goes “the stuff Legends are made of”.
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