Boys basketball team brings maturity, chemistry to court |

Boys basketball team brings maturity, chemistry to court

Becky Regan

Becky Regan / Tahoe Daily Tribune Brandon Cramer fires off a pass in practice Monday at South Tahoe High School.

This year, the Vikings threw out the playbook.

Well, not entirely, but head coach Chris Proctor did trim it down to the bare minimum.

And why shouldn’t he?

The boys basketball team is, after all, stacked with 11 seniors. Nine of those guys were part of a football team that delivered South Tahoe’s first winning season in nearly a decade. It was a season that proved the nine are plenty capable of calling plays and adjusting in pressure situations. So, if they have fewer plays to memorize this winter it’s because they’ve earned it.

“This summer we just decided we’re going to trim it down,” Proctor said. “Our big thing is players make plays, plays don’t make players.”

The Vikings have some players this year. It’s the same seniors who led the basketball team on an improbable playoff run two years ago, as sophomores. The same guys who gave up their summer to train at CrossFit. The same guys who have played together since fourth grade.

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“This group has been together forever. We’ve been building up to this moment and we want to get it right this time,” senior Brandon Cramer said.

No one is quite sure why the team didn’t get it right last year. By all rights, the Vikings were shoe-ins for state. They were a year older, and it was the same team that made state as sophomores. But somehow they went 5-5 in league and 10-13 overall.

“I don’t know if it was complacency or we just came up against some really good teams,” Proctor said. “We went from playoffs, state and one overtime game away from being in the finals to not even making the playoffs.”

This year, the seniors are determined to write a better final chapter to their high school basketball careers.

“I think now being a year and a half removed from that and they’re hungry. I’d like to see them achieve their goal and see them have the success that they’ve been working for,” Proctor said. “Probably every coach says that, but it just seems interesting when you’ve had it so easy and then you don’t get it.”

Cramer will be a key piece to getting the Vikings getting back to Vegas.

Last year, as a junior Cramer destroyed it on the court. He was second in points per game and overall points with 241.

“He’s probably our best shooter from last year. He’s also a good leader and a positive, vocal leader,” Proctor said.

This should come as no big surprise, but another big leader for the Vikings this year will be former quarterback John Cefalu.

Cefalu’s 2011 stats are up there too, but the senior brings more than numbers to the floor. He leads by examples and more than demonstrated his athletic intelligence during the football season.

“He’s probably going to be our primary one guard and the general on the floor. He directs the tempo of the game,” Proctor said. “From John, I expect that leadership mentality, controlling what’s going on, on the floor, and giving me feedback on where things are going good and where we can use a change.”

Speaking of change, Kyante Wilson has made some big ones since last season. The senior has stepped up big time.

“I’ve felt like he could do this for two or three years,” Proctor said. “But I’ve definitely seen this year where he’s got the ball, and I think he’s just going to pass it, but he just takes it to the basket and that’s it. That could happen every time.”

Taking it to the basket is exactly the benefit of having a 6-foot-3 player with wide receiver speed on the team.

“Make or miss, I don’t care. It’s the mentality that hey I’m a senior leader, coach has given me the green light and I’m taking it to the hoop,” Proctor said. “I think it was Michael Jordan who said, ‘I missed every shot that I didn’t take.’

Proctor’s point being, Wilson is taking those shots this year. All the guys are. That’s what happens when a team has 11 seniors who got a taste of state once.

“Sometimes in basketball your first five are much better than your second five, but all of the fives we have are really competitive with each other,” Proctor said. “I know some coaches say this and they’re making it up, but from 1 through 13 we don’t have a huge change in talent.”

Seniors Cale Backinger, Kris DiGrande, Hayden Bronken, Cody Higgins, Tyler Sharp, Roger Williams, Justin Espiritu and Jason Rogers round out this season’s promising roster.

“Jason Rogers is another one. He gets the ball in a certain position you can tell he’s feeling confident when he makes his move,” Proctor said.

Juniors Dakoda Baca and Jared Fajman also make good additions to the team. Both juniors are confident, tough and fit seamlessly with the seniors.

Proctor remembers when Fajman was a freshman and the team traveled to a Jesuit tournament to play some big schools.

“He goes down there as a freshman and just takes it to these big seniors, breaks his nose, doesn’t tell anyone, and stays in the game,” Proctor said. “He comes over to me and says ‘I’m fine coach. We’ll take care of it after the game.’ Right then and there I knew that was a tough kid.”

Yes, the Vikings have been through it all together and their childhood chemistry is something that gives them strength.

“We’re like brothers now. Knowing each other’s strengths is definitely going to help,” Wilson said. “We’re more focused on just being the best right now. We’re going to go out, get the ball, play some tough rebounds and everything else will fall into place.”

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