The West Ranch boys basketball team wants to make a deep postseason run, and the Wildcats see that as a good possibility if everyone stays healthy.
West Ranch (2-2) finished 15-13 last season and 4-6 in Foothill League play. But star junior Austin Galuppo missed time after a shoulder injury, which stunted the team’s momentum during league play.
“We have four seniors and I’ve known them since my freshman year,” Galuppo said. “So I just want to have them reach their goals.”
Galuppo is the No. 34-ranked recruit in California for the class of 2018, according to ESPN.
While he’s early in the recruiting process, schools are interested. He’s already stopped by San Jose State for an informal visit of its campus. Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, other Big West schools and West Coast Conference schools are said to be looking at Galuppo.
West Ranch coach Shant Bicakci said Galuppo, deadly from behind the arc, has the opportunity this year to keep proving he’s not just a spot-up shooter
“This next year will be important for him,” Bicakci said. “This year, he’s made big strides for us both offensively and defensively. He’s got so much to his game that can help us.”
In addition to Galuppo’s commanding presence, Bicakci said Chris Kodama, a three-year varsity player and senior, is also a skilled guard who will be a big part of West Ranch’s offense.
“Some of his best games last year were against top talent,” Bicakci said. “Really if you look at him, you don’t think much, but he’s played against some of the top talent and he hasn’t been fazed by it.”
Freshman Clyde Seo will also be an impact player as a freshman, Bicakci said. He’s a young, fearless player who Bicakci said could do big things and maybe play in college one day.
Seo said he was excited for the opportunity and thinks he could be a good presence off the bench, helping to bolster a strong returning core.
“If you returned seven or eight guys, but none of them really played, how much experience is that?” Bicakci said. “The kids we have coming back got in some pretty important games for us, so we figure that experience can only help us.”
Last season, West Ranch sat at 11-7 before Foothill League play started. The Wildcats won their first Foothill League game against Valencia, 72-46. West Ranch then beat Saugus, 72-68, in overtime Jan. 15 to start Foothill League play 2-0.
The Wildcats, though, then had to forfeit the Saugus game because they used a player who was academically ineligible.
School officials said it was due to a clerical error.
The Wildcats tried to move forward, but Bicakci said the team was slowed by the incident. Galuppo also missed several games during league play with a shoulder injury.
“We had big wins in our preseason,” Bicakci said. “We went 3-1 in a big tournament. We had momentum. Then that happened and instead of going 2-0 and being right there to win league, we were actually 1-1.”
This season West Ranch is determined to forget that episode. So far the Wildcats are 2-2 through four games. West Ranch opened the season with a 70-66 loss to Loyola High School on Nov. 29 and lost 67-66 to Crowley High School in overtime Dec. 3. The Wildcats also have wins over Eagle Rock and Diamond Ranch this year.
Galuppo said he feels OK about how the team has played early on.
“The way we lost, it’s things we can control,” Galuppo said. “It’s missed layups, missed free throws. We can always work on that and get better. It’s not like we’re not playing hard enough or don’t want to be here.”