At a Golden Valley basketball practice Tuesday evening, several players wore this season’s practice pinnies. Just a simple black or gold fabric jersey with one word printed in all capital letters:
After a tumultuous 11-16 season that saw talented players exit the team and a fight dismantle its hopes of a CIF playoff spot, teamwork is the center of attention for GV this year.
“If we can’t play as a team, then what are we? Basketball isn’t a single sport, it’s a team sport,” center Micah McLaurin said. “So as long as we get that down, then yeah, we’re good.”
The Grizzlies have three varsity returners this year: Colt Cangemi, Denryc Leonidas and Josh Martin.
Martin is out with what coach Larry Keys called a “scholastic injury,” and will likely be back at the end of December.
Cangemi and Leonidas’ chemistry will be key to wins this year.
“Vision,” Cangemi said of what Martin brings to GV’s game. “As a point guard, he can move the ball really well. He just finds open teammates easily.”
Richard Kawakami had a sensational year for Golden Valley last season, but transferred and will be playing for Valencia in the upcoming season.
“I think initially (Kawakami leaving) was kind of a shocker to us, but we can work through it,” said Cangemi. “We’re still a team. We’re not just one guy, we’re a whole set of 15 guys.”
McLaurin and A’Jahni Levias, who previously played together in AAU, are two new faces that Keys expect to contribute to a team that is expected to be defensive-minded.
“I can live with a bad day offensively,” said Keys. “It’s hard to live with a bad day defensively. But what I’d really like to see is just really embrace that side of the court. Unfortunately, kids today they value scoring and they value everything that happens offensively more.”
Levias estimates that in practice, the team focuses 75 percent on defense and 25 percent on offense.
But no matter which way they split up practice time, the Grizzlies will be 100 percent team.
“We all trust each other with the ball,” said Levias. “Everybody shoots, we just trust each other a lot and that’s what we’re trying to focus on to be more successful.”