Look at most preseason 4A boys basketball polls and you’ll most likely see the Mount Si boys basketball team as the No. 1 team. With the Wildcats returning senior guards Jabe Mullins and Tyler Patterson from a team that finished second at the state tournament last year, outside expectations are high.
Mount Si head coach Jason Griffith said the season will come down to the people inside their locker room understanding what they’re capable of.
“I just think that in the preseason, when you’re ranked as high as we are, you kind of just take it in stride and you use it as motivation to try and defend your ranking,” Griffith said. “But at the same time, you understand that there are very few teams that are ranked preseason No. 1 that actually win a state championship.”
Griffith said he is making sure his players focus on what they do tomorrow, and not think too much about what they did last season.
“It’s easy to get caught up in what we’ve done in the past,” Griffith said. “Those are great memories and it’s something that has helped build our program, but at the same time, you’re only as good as the present. You have to prepare for tomorrow, they’ve been hearing that since March.”
The Wildcats will rely on leadership from Patterson and Mullins, two of the top players in the state.
Mullins, a 6-foot-6 guard and a Saint Mary’s commit, was named the 4A KingCo most valuable player last season.
“He leads by example and he works extremely hard,” Griffith said. “The amount of work he puts in outside of practice and the stuff we do in the offseason is second to none.”
Patterson, a 6-7 guard, was last year’s 4A KingCo defensive player of the year. Back in September, Patterson committed to play basketball at Montana State University. Griffith said Patterson is a more silent leader for the Wildcats.
“He’s the best defender in the state,” Griffith said. “(Patterson) leads by the amount of energy and effort that he brings on a day-to-day basis. He’s super consistent, especially on the defensive end.”
Griffith said he expects sophomore guard Bennett O’Connor to be more consistent in his second season with the team. In his freshman year, O’Connor was an all-league honorable mention.
“He’s much more comfortable in our system and he’s much more comfortable calling out stuff,” Griffith said. “As a freshman, it was a pretty long learning process for those three and a half months and he had a lot of ups and downs, which is normal for a 14-year-old.”
Two players that could take a big step forward for the Wildcats are senior Hayden Curtiss, a 6-9 forward, and junior Jack Williams, a 6-7 forward.
“Those are two kids who really didn’t play and were in our rotation last year that can make a big difference for us this year,” Griffith said.
The Wildcats will be challenging themselves in their non-league games this season, facing some of the top teams from the area, including games against Union and King’s.
“We’re pushing ourselves outside of the league, because I feel like that prepares us better for March,” Griffith said.
The Wildcats will also travel to Rancho Mirage, California for the Rancho Mirage Holiday Invitational tournament from Dec. 26-30. Griffith said they will be able to play against some teams that have plenty of size and athleticism. The Wildcats went 3-1 at the tournament last season, something that Griffith said was a big confidence boost for his team.
“For us last year, it kind of catapulted us from a confidence perspective,” Griffith said. “We knew we could play with anybody.”
The Wildcats will play their first home game of the season on Dec. 14, against the Union Titans, another top 4A team in the state. During halftime, Mount Si will be honoring its football team that made it to the state semifinals this fall.
With a handful of key players returning from injuries, the Mount Si girls basketball team is entering the new season with high expectations as they shoot for the postseason.
The Wildcats are returning six seniors from a team that made it to the district tournament last season. Head coach Jason Marr said he has hopes for his team this season thanks to a talented group of seniors and some new young players.
“Our expectations are to be right in the mix of the playoffs right at the end of the season,” Marr said. “The six seniors we have this year have been with me since the beginning, so I expect to be very competitive and to make a push at the end of the season.”
Two of the key players for the Wildcats this season will be their senior guards, Izzy Smith and Nitika Kumar, both coming off ACL injuries from last year. Smith said the expectations amongst the team are higher than they have been in the past.
“I think this year, we have a lot higher expectations for ourselves and we have bigger goals than we did last year,” Smith said. “I think we’re really putting it upon ourselves to carry those out. So we’ve been practicing harder and playing harder against each other to try to accomplish those goals.”
Senior Joelle Buck said the team is ready to embrace an underdog role this season and to surprise its opponents.
“I definitely think we’re the underdogs in the league,” Buck said. “Just compared to other teams, we’ve always been the underdogs. People don’t see us coming, so I think we’re one of those teams that other teams should look out for.”
Kumar said the team is more determined than ever to make it to the state tournament.
After missing her junior year with an ACL injury, Kumar had to work hard to get healthy for this season.
“When I first got hurt, I was devastated because I had worked a bunch during my sophomore summer going into my junior year,” Kumar said. “I just turned that devastation into motivation and I got back before the season started.”
Another player looking to return from injury for the Wildcats is center Sela Heide, a 6-8 senior who is recovering from an off-season surgery and is expected back around January. Heide said she is eager to get back onto the court soon to play in her senior season.
“Being able to play with the other senior captains and the other two seniors that I’ve been with for so long is really exciting and I’m just so excited to get back,” Heide said.
Even though the Wildcats have an experienced roster this season, Marr expects his two freshmen, Grace Turley and Makhayla Adams, to contribute this year. Marr also expects sophomore Lauren Glazier to have a big season for the Wildcats. Marr said the 6-4 forward will have an expanded role this season.
With five players over 6-feet tall, the Wildcats will look to use their size to their advantage.