The boys basketball team is building something here, and it's much more than a winning season.
New head coach Phil Bryant, along with son and JV coach Matt Bryant, have a vision for a stronger Whittell basketball program. Matt Bryant started laying the foundation as head coach last year. This year, the father-son duo will begin building the walls.
"We're trying to instill a real basketball culture and community at Whittell. Not just a stop 'em up kind of thing and get through the season," Phil Bryant said. "It's not an instantaneous turnaround. You have to build and create a foundation."
When it comes to building a basketball legacy, Phil Bryant knows what he's talking about. The coach of 44 years led Westwood High School, a school of about 100 students near Lake Almanor, through three undefeated seasons during the past six years. Last year, his team went 27-2 overall and 8-0 in league.
"You can't just go out and think you're instantly going to win," Phil Bryant said. "That has to be the product of what you do and how you prepare."
Basketball cultures aren't built overnight. In the grand scheme of things, wins and losses are not what Phil Bryant focuses on.
"You have to look at, are we competing?" Phil Bryant said. "We want to win like everyone else, but if you just target that and say 'OK, we want to win 20 games,' and you win 12, then you haven't been successful. If you go out and compete, then you can be successful and build."
This year's Whittell foundation starts with a point guard named Garrett Bronken. Bronken probably won't be the leading scorer, but the senior quietly leads by example on and off the court. His work ethic speaks loud enough.
"Garrett Bronken is key. He comes in the morning on a regular basis, and he's really improved," Phil Bryant said.
Senior Austin Neil is up next. He will likely be the leading scorer for the Warriors this season and a more vocal leader on the court, his coach said, adding that the senior's accurate shot will play a crucial role in the Warriors' offense.
Rodney Aguirre-Rodrigez and Mark Waite will help pick up the defensive pressure.
"Rodney Aguirre-Rodrigez and Mark Waite are critical role players and great on our defense," Phil Bryant said. "They're not big scorers, but their value to the team is critical. You can't have everyone out there who wants to just score and then nobody who wants to share the ball."
The Warriors' underclassmen will also be strong contributors this season, their coach said. Palmer Chaplin and Bryce Bronken have logged substantial training time. Their self-motivated efforts resulted in noticeable improvement on the court, Phil Bryant said.
Derek Heldt-Werle, Anders Chaplin, Josh Welch and Cody Wyatt round out the Warriors' roster.
"I've named a lot of guys, but we're trying to build that real team concept and nobody does it alone," Phil Bryant said. "What I like about this group is they're all accepting their roles."
Last year, the Warriors were 6-17 overall and 2-9 in league, but from Phil Bryant's point of view, past records don't matter. Going forward, every guy will have a role in building a stronger basketball future.
"We don't want the kids looking back to what it was last year," Phil Bryant said. "Understanding the history of Whittell basketball is important, but it's understanding that they're the foundation of what goes on from this point."