By Nicholas Williams
Two years removed from a state championship and one year after a tumultuous season that ended in the state semifinals, the basketball team is looking to continue their winning tradition of recent years.
Players have already begun working towards this when resumed play in fall leagues.
The varsity squad currently plays in two summer leagues.
One holds games Wednesday nights on campus in Reckling Gymnasium, while the other one convenes Saturday mornings at Reagan High School.
Jonathan Kwok, a varsity assistant and head freshman coach from last year, is now the head coach of the Eagle basketball team.
Kwok was promoted to head coach following the resignation of former coach Danny Evans.
“Coach Evans did a great job, he was able to sustain a program that continued in the success and the tradition of the school,” Kwok said. “I want to continue the success of the basketball program and make sure the players have a great basketball experience.”
The team has been working together since the summer with off-season workouts, but this is the first time Kwok has been able to see them perform in game situations.
“Whenever there’s a new coach, a new system has to be implemented,” Kwok said. “The fall league is all about preparation for the season. It creates situations that accelerate the process of us getting better by playing games before the season starts.”
While these games are just pre-season matches, they provide an opportunity for players to improve and showcase their talents before the season begins.
The varsity team only returns three lettermen in total — senior P.J. Pane and juniors Jamie Keating, and Joshua Reece.
Pane and Keating are the only two returning starters.
The lack of experience does not seem to concern Kwok, however.
“The seniors have been great leaders, especially P.J. Pane,” Kwok said. “Clement Anozie has really worked hard this offseason and I expect him to surprise a lot of people.”
The team lacks the height that has been present in recent years, with the tallest player, senior Chandler Nelson, being around 6’3″.
This team’s size pales in comparison to recent years, when recent graduate, Jeremy King, roamed the paint.
The 6’9″ King has since taken his talents to Loyola University-Chicago.
Former star shooting guard Christian Sanders, now playing at Stanford, is taller than any of the Eagles — standing 6’4″.
Kwok does not seem to be concerned about size right now though.
“We obviously do not have the same height that we had last year, but I know that you can make up for height with hustle and hard work, which our players can do,” Kwok said. “We have to be the team that out-hustles, out-works, and out-smarts other teams.”
Developing interior physicality has been difficult, and the team may be forced to wait for football season to end to find their answer, when senior Pearson Garnett will be available.
“Pearson will be a huge contributor once he gets back from football,” Kwok said. “One of the things we need to improve upon right now is post defense and rebounding. Pearson has always done well with all of these areas, and has always been successful because he’s a natural athlete.”
While the team is still trying to sort everything out, they have great potential.
They are coming along very nicely and could have a season just as successful as last year.