It's tough enough being a high school freshman basketball player. And for the 24 players named this week to the roster of the 2014-15 Triton Frosh, they will find themselves with the toughest of acts to follow.
Last year's edition of the team was the most successful Triton Frosh squad in the school's 50-year history. It posted a 24-1 overall record, went undefeated in league en route to the championship and avenged its only loss. In fact, the last three Triton Frosh teams have less than 10 losses among them.
No one really expects this year's Tritons to duplicate the feats of their immediate predecessors. But as the Triton class of 2018 embarks on its first journey onto a high school basketball court, only one thing is certain – nothing is certain.
That's the way it is with freshman basketball. In fact, as this year's team moves from gym to gym and game to game, one of the most-uttered phrases it will hear surely will be, “That's freshman basketball.”
Whether it's referring to anything from miscues as a result of over exuberance to inexplicable calls from junior officiating crews, freshman basketball can sometimes be an adventure.
Will a starter miss time because of snowboarding trip? Will one starter not show up until halftime after getting lost on way to a game for the league championship? And will another walk out of the gym during the same game?
Don't laugh. All of this has occurred in recent Triton freshman basketball history.
So first-year coach Brian Justice, moving over after several years as a Triton Varsity assistant, will be looking for signs along the way as to what kind of team he has on his hands. One of those came during summer play when the freshmen finished strong by winning the El Toro Tournament.
In addition, a number of the freshmen helped provide depth for the Triton Junior Varsity as it won the prestigious UCSD Tournament.
In contrast to last year's team, Coach Justice will have more to work with in the front court. The 2013-14 squad had only a handful of post players, while the 2014-15 team has nearly half the roster listed as forwards or centers. In fact, he has more six-footers than either the sophomore or junior varsity teams.
Among these players, a large number have club and travel team backgrounds with organizations such as 5onFive, Open Gym and Club Nikos, as well as the locally based teams led by Duwayne Horn, an assistant coach with the Triton varsity. Also notable about this freshman class is that several come with Triton basketball legacies, having had siblings play for past Triton teams. Additionally, a number of players come from families with Division 1 athletic backgrounds.
Coach Justice will definitely have a challenge on his hands in keeping the new players names straight. He has two Calvins and a Calin, a Brendan and a Branden, two Walkers and two Wilsons, who just happen to be brothers.
The team will play seven home games, and its most distant road trip will be to Woodbridge on December 9. Its tournaments are at Dana Hills, Laguna Hills and El Toro. San Clemente's freshmen are defending champions at Laguna Hills and El Toro. In fact, they won the last two Laguna Hills tournaments.
Besides the league schedule, among the highlights will be the special game against La Jolla at 4 p.m. December 13 in the Auxiliary Gym. This game will occur while four games in the varsity-level OC/SDChallenge are being played in Triton Gym.
Traditional rivalry games against San Juan Hills on Jan. 9 and Tesoro on January 30 should be competitive.
Sporting probably the only roster east of Oahu with two players named Kai, the Triton Basketball Boys' Sophomore Team will be looking to continue the winning ways they got used to as freshmen. Or should that have been WINNING ways?
The 2013-14 Triton freshman team definitely won in upper case, posting the best frosh record in school history at 24-1. And it avenged its only loss.
Though nine of those players have been promoted to the Triton Junior Varsity, there is no shortage of talent on the 2014-15 sophomore squad, especially at the guard position. In fact, 11 of the 15 players on the roster, including the two players named Kai, list guard as their primary position.
That means the listed bigs, center Zach Cochrun, forward/center Eric Ord and forwards Daniel Mircheff and Michael Moran will literally have to play big. And guard/forwards Tyler Hickey and Hunter Knights will probably see a good portion of their playing time in the front court.
Those guards will include the two Kais, Hadsall and Nguyen, with Nguyen being the only player on the team who was not part of the 2013-14 frosh squad.
They'll be paced by Chris DeGrazia, who was a sometimes starter and big-minute rotation player on that freshman team.
Alphabetically, the other guards are Trevor Ankrom, Jake Bang, Kurt Crapo, Bren Eissman, Matt Kerr and Jimmy Varos.
These players showed their potential over the summer, closing it out by going undefeated in the Tesoro Tournament to win the championship.
The team now has more than two months of preparation to see how well it can continue that class of 2017's winning ways.
It will open play December 1 in the Capo Valley Tournament.
Eight returning players, including the entire projected starting lineup, four of whom have earned past-all league honors, highlight the Triton Varsity's 2014-15 roster, which was released this week.
Three other 2013-14 lettermen earned team awards, and of the six players moving up from lower division teams, four are past award winners. Ten of the 14 varsity players are seniors, with the remainder being juniors.
Sorting the roster alphabetically by last name, the first four players all are past all-league award winners. In fact, the first two, seniors Nick Crankshaw and Sam Darnold, are past first-team selections. Both will be in their third varsity seasons. Crankshaw, a guard, was the team's MVP and a first team all-Sea View League selection in 2013-14. Darnold, a forward, is the star quarterback of the Triton football team and recently committed to his college ball for USC. He missed all but eight basketball games during an injury-plagued junior campaign, and was the Sea View League's MVP as a sophomore.
Junior forward Cole Fotheringham is in his third varsity season, having been named to the all-league second team last year. Another forward, senior Cade Griffin, was an all-league honorable mention in 2013-14. He had the program's highest-scoring game last year with 33 against Laguna Hills.
Returning senior guards Joe Mann and Scott Herrod each earned team awards last season. Mann was the team's most-improved player, and Herrod earned the prestigious Triton Basketball Award.
Junior guard Gage Shelmidine is another returning varsity award winner. He was the team's defensive player of the year.
Sernior forward Vince Smetona, remembered for scoring 11 points in his first nine varsity minutes last year, also returns.
Award winners moving up from the lower divisions include senior guard/forward Tyler Voigt, offensive player of the year for last year's league champion Triton Junior Varsity. He'll be joined by his starting point guard, senior Jake Russell, who earned the team's coaches award. Russell will be fresh off his service as a defensive captain for the varsity football team.
Another member of last year's JV squad, junior guard James Paterson, was MVP of the 2012-13 Triton Frosh and off to a great start on the JV before his season was shortened by injury.
Junior forward/center Dillon Waikle, who shot up to 6-8 since earning offensive player of the year honors for last year's Triton Soph team, joins the varsity roster.
Rounding out the 2014-15 selection are two more stalwarts from last year's JV champs, seniors Dean Licht, a guard and Shaughn Ritchie, a forward/center. Both are also high-performing starters on the varsity football team, Licht as a wide receiver and Ritchie as left tackle.
2014-15 JUNIOR VARSITY ROSTER RELEASED: New Coach, Montecinos, Has One Word to Describe Team, 'Deep'
With three MVPs, nine players from the most-successful frosh team in school history and a bevy of other decorated players on his roster, first-year coach Oscar Montecinos has one word to describe the 2014-15 Triton Junior Varsity roster, "Deep."
Coach Montecinos is moving up to the junior varsity from the Triton Frosh, which he guided to the best frosh record in school history last year, 24-1, and an undefeated 8-0 championship run in league. He'll be trying to lead the Junior Varsity to its fourth consecutive league crown.
The Tritons somewhat proved their coach's point about their depth during the summer season, going undefeated in summer league and winning two tournaments, including the prestigious UCSD event. This was despite losing their starting point guard, Blake Birmingham, to injury midway through the summer.
Birmingham is one of those aforemen-tioned MVPs. He and guard Joey Spurgeon were co-MVPs of last year's frosh squad. The other past MVP on this year's JV roster is junior guard Dylan Hauser, who earned that honor on last year's sophomore squad. He also was defensive player of the year for the 2012-13 frosh, making him one of only a handful of Triton players to earn team awards for two years running.
The 2013-14 frosh defensive player of the year, guard Roberto Medrano, also is on the roster. So is the offensive player of the year from last year's frosh team, guard/forward Isaac Rex.
Junior guard Brad Ross, winner of the 2013-14 Triton Soph Coaches' Award, is the other past award winner on the roster.
Added to this mix is junior guard Jake Cameron, the third-leading scorer from last year's J.V. team, who decided to return to the team in lieu of pursuing a varsity spot.
Forward Aidan Butler, the leading rebounder from last year's soph squad, and guard/forward Chadwell Walker round out the juniors on the team.
Interestingly, much of the junior varsity's front-court depth will come from sophomores, forward James VanGinkel and Ricardo Ashe and forward/centers Evan Banks and Luke Melby
More than half of the players who suit up for Triton Basketball teams this season were not on the roster last year. Out of the 67 total players who survived cuts in all divisions, 34 are new to the program.
The teams also will be decidedly young, with over two-thirds of the players (45) being sophomores or younger, There will be only four seniors.
"We've anticipated for several years that the current freshman, sophomore and junior classes would be among the most talented we've seen at San Clemente," says Varsity Head Coach Marc Popovich. "A large number of these boys played competitive basketball from a young age. We're hoping to see the dividends." Regarding the number of new faces, Assistant Varsity Coach Duwayne Horn, who worked with most of the current Tritons when they were youth players says, "People do want to be part of success," pointing to the championships in three divisions (varsity, JV and sophomore) last season.
Coach Horn also mentioned the fact that this year the Tritons had to cut more players than he could remember happening in the past. "There are players who were cut this year who probably would have made a roster in prior years. And there are players who will play at lower divisions who probably would have been moved up in prior years. Hopefully for the program, it's a good competitive situation."
Obviously, a large number of the newcomers, 24 to be exact, are on the freshman squads (A and B teams). But each level has at least two.
Notable among the new faces is sophomore point guard Gage Shelmidine, who transferred from Saddleback Valley Christian and is expected to challenge for the starting point guard position on the varsity.
The varsity also will get 6-6, 215 center Eric Anderson, who returns to his hometown after spending the first two years of high school in Temecula. He attended middleschool at Shorecliffs with a number of his new teammates.
The junior varsity will get a familiar face with its five newcomers. Tucker Scott, a 6-4, 240 pound, forward/center, grew up locally and played club ball with many of the Tritons. He transferred in from St. Margaret's.
The J.V. also gets two 5-10 junior guards, Ryan Martinez and Rafael Caro. And it adds the stars of this summer's frosh team, 5-8, 150 guard Brandon Reaves and 6-4, 185 forward/center Marcus Wilson.
On the sophomore team, the rookies will be guard Ian Vikan and manager Luke Kaufman.