As the boys basketball team continues to hit important milestones along its upward trajectory, coaches and players are bullish on their continued improvement this season.
“Last year we overachieved,” said head coach Yassine Talhaoui of the 2018-2019 Bearcats, who won both the Founders League and Tri-State League and reached the semifinals of the Class A NEPSAC tournament. “Winning Tri-State and Founders was something I was hopeful for this year, not last year.”
Talhaoui credit’s the team’s rapid rise to its teamwork and chemistry. “It was the result of kids completely buying in, trusting one another. I hope we can continue that this year,” he said.
One reason for optimism is that the team returns many key pieces from last year’s roster. Only one of the five starters graduated, and the core of the team has been together now for multiple seasons. With the addition of some talented new players, the Bearcats have a roster that is poised to make an impact this season.
Playing together and building trust has helped the team to early success, including wins in their first three games. All three games featured a Hotchkiss comeback and two of the victories were by five points or fewer, a testament to the team’s experience and resolve, said Talhaoui.
Another encouraging sign for the program is that two of the players on this year’s roster (Langston Harris ’21 and Kayo Wiggins ’21) were on the JV team last year. The promotions speak to the continuity within the program and the potential for player improvement, said Talhaoui.
Beyond intrinsic basketball talent, this year’s team has benefitted greatly from its hardworking attitude, said Talhaoui. Several of the players worked with Brodie Quinn, director of athletic performance and fitness, to improve their strength and conditioning in the fall.
The hard work has translated into positive reviews from numerous college coaches who have seen the Bearcats play. “The feedback from college coaches has been overwhelming about how hard they compete,” said Talhaoui, adding that more than 70 college coaches attended the team’s open workouts in the fall.