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Basketball working to earn 1st state championship

Photo by Bryce Owen ’17 | Coach Hooten explains rebounding techniques to the team during a drill at practice.
Photo by Bryce Owen ’17 | Coach Hooten explains rebounding techniques to the team during a drill at practice.

By Jack Davis ’19

Expectations for Brophy basketball soared when Gregg Rosenberg of Rivals forecasted the Broncos as the No. 1 ranked team in the state over the summer.

“It was a huge compliment obviously to our program and the work that our players have put in,” said head coach Mr. Matt Hooten. “We realized that it’s going to take a lot more than somebody putting us on a list to make that happen. We need to make sure that we go out and put the pieces together once the season starts.”

Despite high expectations, forward Matthew Kempton ’17 remains confident in the team’s abilities.

“We’re all pretty confident in what we can do,” Kempton said. “We’re expecting to have a great season and ultimately the goal is the state championship. Everyone on the team and the coaching staff truly believes that’s a possibility.”

“There’s no outside pressure from outside sources but just the goal that we put on ourselves and what we expect of ourselves as a team,” Kempton added.

Shooting guard Ryan Meza ’17 said he is eager to live up to the team’s hype.

“With all of the attention and hype built around us in the preseason, our toughest test will be to hold to those standards people had for us,” Meza said. “We were ranked No. 1 over the summer. We have to perform to that ability.”

One difficult challenge that faces the team is overcoming physical shortcomings.

“We needed to change physically, the way that we were able to play the game,” Mr. Hooten said. “I asked the players this at one point, but I think we were probably stronger than our opponent in two, maybe three games out of the 28 that we played. We needed to make sure that we were putting ourselves in a position to compete physically, not just from a skill and a mental standpoint.”

The Broncos have been working earnestly to gain muscle.

“The team started working out basically as soon as the season was over last year … We spent all spring lifting four times a week in June. We continue to lift four times a week,” Mr. Hooten said.

With the strength of the roster, minutes may be harder to come by for the players.

“We have a deep team, we have a lot of guys who could potentially earn playing time,” Mr. Hooten added. “I think the challenge will be putting the right group of players on the floor and the guys who aren’t playing as much as they maybe have previously have to be invested in something bigger than themselves and helping themselves improve, helping their teammates improve.

Kempton agreed on the importance of playing as a team.

“We’ve been working a lot on just working better as a team,” he said. “We were a pretty young team last year, so just getting our chemistry down better and working on the team collectively to become better has been our main focus.”

“If we just play hard and we all buy in to what we’re trying to do here I think we definitely have the capability, skill and talent to [win a state championship],” Kempton added. “If everyone just does what they can to help improve the team no matter what that may be as their role I think we can definitely come home with it.”

The upperclassmen understand the need to be leaders and set an example for the younger players.

“One of our main focus as seniors is to bring leadership and set an example for the younger kids,” Meza said. “We have a good class of underclassmen coming up. Having a loss in the first round of the playoffs last year really hit us hard. We’re ready, we’re going to bounce back, and we’re ready for the season.”

Meza said he wants to capitalize on his last season of playing high school basketball.

“I want to make the most of it,” Meza said. “Most of my pressure comes from myself … I just want to be that one class to be able to compete for a state championship.”

“I think we have a great team this year,” Meza added. “This is the year that everyone has been waiting for. Everyone knew that these two classes together would be really good. Coach [Mr. Austin] Pidgeon told us that we’re probably a top-three or at least top-five best team to come through Brophy and that really excites me. The pressure is just performing to the best of our abilities and trying to make the most of our senior year, making it a year to remember.”

In order to achieve the goal of winning a state championship, smaller goals need to be accomplished along the way.

“We’d like to win the tournaments we’re in (The Fr. Barry Classic at Jesuit Sacramento and McClintock),” Mr. Hooten said. “We’d like to win our home games, we’d like to finish with a top-four seed, we’d like to win our region. If we can do those things along the way, I think a state championship becomes more of a possibility for us.”

One team that will present an obstacle for Brophy is Corona del Sol. With Alex Barcello committing to Arizona and Saben Lee committing to Vanderbilt, the Aztecs are primed for a strong season behind their Division 1 backcourt.

“Arizona is really competitive now with basketball in the state,” Kempton said. “If you go out there every day you’re going to have a hard game to play and you’re going to compete no matter who you’re playing against.”

Mr. Hooten agreed about the difficult competition.

“I think it’s going to be really competitive, I think it’s going to be wide open,” he said. “There are certainly some favorites but I think there is going to be a lot of really challenging games throughout the schedule and we just have to make sure that we’re ready to compete.”

Meza said he looks forward to the late season game against St. Mary’s.

“St. Mary’s is always a fun game,” Meza said. “We play them the last game of the season this year … it’s at St. Mary’s. There’s going to be a lot of trash talking and the crowd will get into it.”

Kempton has a state championship or bust attitude.

Brophy played in the state title game in 1986, 2001 and 2011 but has never won.

“Brophy basketball has never won one so we’re trying to be the first team to do that,” Kempton said.

Meza echoed the sentiment on the state championship.

“Our coaches are always talking about getting a banner on the north wall,” Meza said. “That’s our goal.”

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