Any time a season that begins with lofty expectations ends in a loss, there's a grieving period for the coaches and players involved.
It's tough to look at the big picture sometimes. Just ask Charlotte (NC) Olympic High head coach Ty Baumgardner saw his team fall in the North Carolina Class 4A Regional Semi-Finals for the second straight year.
It stings, but there's still so much of which to be proud, said Baumgardner, who described the season as "unbelievable" – and it's not mere hyperbole to say so. The Trojans finished with a sparkling 28-2 record overall for the second season in a row, won their fourth straight conference championship, a pair of Christmas tournaments and extended their conference winning streak to 52 games before it was finally snapped.
"It's a lot to be proud of," he explained. "Even though the season didn't end the way we wanted to and it ended in the same game as last year. We didn't play the way we're capable of playing, so it's frustrating."
With the season complete, the team had its final wrap-up meeting after school Thursday, as their attention turned - temporarily, at least - to other goals. For many of Baumgardner's players, those goals include college recruitment.
One of the most heavily recruited Trojan prospects is junior guard Allerik Freeman. Ranked as a five-star prospect and No. 13 overall in the Class of 2013, the 6-foot-4, 180-pound combo guard put his recruitment on hold during the season, but Thursday his own personal recruiting process took a leap forward.
"We didn't talk much about it during the season," Baumgardner said. "I asked him if you've got some schools that you are feeling more strongly about than others, then maybe you ought to consider cutting your list again, because with the spring and summer AAU stuff coming up here it's going to get crazy in terms of recruiting."
Where the Jayhawks are concerned, Baumgardner said, the program sells itself. Freeman visited the Lawrence, Kan. campus unofficially in mid-October for 'Late Night in the Phog,' and the visit made a big-time impression on him, as he got a chance to see the passion surrounding Kansas basketball first-hand.
Of course, there were a number of other factors that helped the Jayhawks make the cut as well.
"He's got a really good relationship with Coach (Joe) Dooley, who has been the lead recruiter on Al, and he's very comfortable with Coach (Bill) Self," Baumgardner said. "I think another big factor is he's seen how players develop and just get better in their time under Coach Self at Kansas. I know that because Al has mentioned that to me a number of times."
Regarding Freeman as a player, Baumgardner said he's still got a lot of room to grow with his game - his ball-handling, his jumper, his ability to read defenses and his own defense in general.
However, because he's so physically gifted, his potential is off the charts.
"He looks like a player because he's so well-built and physically very strong," he explained. "He's got the ability to play multiple guard positions. He started the season for us running the point, and then we had some personnel changes and moved him back to the two."
"The tools are there because of his physical attributes," Baumgardner added. "And I think the sky is the limit for him."