Eight returning varsity players eye district title, state playoff run
Graduated players leave some big shoes to fill on the court, in some cases quite literally
It’s Friday, Jan. 11, 2019 and the stakes are high in double overtime in the McCallum varsity boys basketball game. 30 seconds on the clock, their opponent, Lanier, scores a layup to take a one-point lead. Five seconds remain. There are two attempts at a basket one by junior Takai Satberry and another by sophomore Rob Wade. Wade rebounds his own miss and takes a final shot at the basket; the buzzer sounds while Wade’s hopeful shot still hangs in the air. The room goes silent as everyone’s breath is caught in their mouth, their eyes trained to the ball as it bounces on the rim for what feels like forever before it falls through the net and sends the Knights to a glorious one-point win.
Nine months later, the roster is a bit different.
The 2018-2019 team won 20 games, something McCallum hadn’t done in a long time. With only one returning varsity starter, the Knights had a lot of maturing to do in a short time.
Scoring will be more spread out and that will make it difficult for teams to just focus on a single player.
— Head coach Daniel Fuentes
“We had to bring up four sophomores and a freshman,” head coach Daniel Fuentes said. “We knew we had talent. I just didn’t know how quickly we could come together.”
“Going from the freshman or JV to varsity,” junior and varsity starter Rob Wade said, “we had no experience but I think we [underclassmen] showed that we were capable to play at the next level.”
Along with the hard work, there was another key player in the success of the 2018-19 basketball season: Norman Boyd.
“Norman’s are big shoes to fill, but I think we have some good candidates that will do a great job for us this year,” Fuentes said. “I think that scoring will be more spread out and that will make it difficult for teams to just focus on a single player.”
Boyd wasn’t the only starting varsity player who left. Senior Darius Lewis has transferred to Del Valle High School. Lewis was a strong player, with impeccable speed and good ball-handling.
“We also lost Darius because he transferred, but I think our guards are good enough to handle the pressure and I think we’ll be fine,” Wade said.
I’m excited about everything this season. I want to win district so bad this year, and I think we could make a run in the playoffs.
— junior Rob Wade
Wade knows a little something about handling pressure after moving from the freshman team to the varsity last season.
“I had to learn how to play tougher in the paint,” Wade said. “It was just a hard year for me moving up, but it paid off.”
“During class, we will lift weights and work on all parts of the game,” Fuentes said. “We do a lot of running. By the time the season starts, we are pretty much in game shape.”
Maintaining consistency from year to year can be a challenge for a coach, with changes in the roster every season. The coaches at McCallum work extra hard to maintain the consistency in their program, keeping similar offense and defense.
“A lot of repetition usually helps out also,” Fuentes said. “Having the same coaching staff is an important factor for consistency that many people overlook.”
The eight returning varsity players are still hyped up from last season. Many of the players believe they can make it to playoffs again.
“I’m excited about everything this season,” Wade said. “I want to win district so bad this year, and I think we could make a run in the playoffs; we’ve got a good team.”