New Canyon High boys basketball coach Alex Dunwoody knows his team will face adversity this season, but he’s confident the Cowboys will overcome it.
Because of the coaching change, the Cowboys missed spring and summer basketball camps, meaning they have ground to make up, Dunwoody says, on other teams in the Foothill League.
Dunwoody also says his team will play a small lineup this year so it will need to rely on speed and fitness more than bigger teams.
“We’re so far behind as far as when we started,” Dunwoody said. “A lot of those teams have been playing together as a team for at least a summer if not longer and we’ve only been together several weeks.
“We’re trying to grow as a team and learn new defensive principles.”
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Canyon finished tied for second in the Foothill League with a record of 5-5 last season, posting an overall record of 16-14 in their last of four seasons under former coach Sean DeLong. In the CIF-Southern Section Division 2AA playoffs, the Cowboys beat Eastside High of Lancaster 55-47 in the first round before losing to Ayala High of Chino Hills 64-53 in round two.
This season the Cowboys will be an older team. After only losing three seniors to graduation last year (headlined by all-league first-teamer Selom Mawugbe), the Cowboys will have six seniors this season. Seven juniors and three sophomores will also be on the Cowboys’ roster.
When asked whether last season’s second-round playoff appearance was good enough, Yvan Yomba stared quietly into a nearby gym from a hallway where he talked to a reporter.
“It wasn’t good enough for us,” Yomba said. “I felt last year we had a team to really do something in CIF. We were hurt when we lost that game.”
Yomba, a 6-foot-6 senior, transferred into Canyon High from Granada Hills before last season. He says this year he wants his team to push the ball more.
”We want to make (other teams) work hard,” Yomba said.
While Yomba is tall, he’s also slender and says he will try to use his speed to fit into the fast-paced game Dunwoody wants to run.
Given that the team is still learning how to win and is still jelling, Dunwoody says basketball basics will be a big key for his team this year.
“We have to make sure we make sound decisions, rebound and play defense,” Dunwoody said. “If we can’t do those things, it could be tough.”
Dunwoody came to Canyon after coaching junior varsity and freshman teams at Valencia High School for the past four seasons.
When he was hired this summer, Canyon Athletic Director Scott Arnold said Dunwoody impressed him during the interview.
“He was very poised, mature. We really think he’s going to continue all the good things we have going and bring some of his own positives to the role,” Arnold said when Dundwoody was hired in July.
DeLong guided the Cowboys to the CIF Southern Section playoffs in three of his four years as coach. His best season came in 2013-2014 when the Cowboys finished the regular season 24-7 overall and advanced to the Division 2AA semifinals.
Canyon’s best regular season in the past 10 years came in 2011-2012 when former Canyon boys basketball coach Chad Phillips, now at Valencia, led the team to a 24-4 record and a Foothill League championship.
Dunwoody is a charismatic young coach. Though his players have played for him for just a few weeks, senior Josue Valencia says his team loves playing for Dunwoody.
“He’s a good coach,” Valencia said. “He came in with a lot of passion. He just makes us all want to play. He just made it more exciting than we thought he would.
We all mess around and joke around, but at the same time we all respect him.”