Scott Kemp, Lone Pine’s boys basketball coach, has only one returning starter, three guys up from last year’s JV and four freshmen. So why is he smiling?
First, the senior is Michael Cappello, last year’s go-to guy and top-scorer. Alec Garcia is coming up from JV and bringing his running back speed. Greg Greene, at 6-foot, 2-inches, and Kelby Hykes join him on the 2012 varsity squad.
Then there are the freshmen. Brad Greene is six-foot, 8-inches; Ryan Cappello, 6-foot, 3-inches; Garrett Sullivan, 6-foot and Kishan Bhakta. All four have played together since sixth-grade. With the exception of Greene who’s been saving himself for basketball, the balance of the freshmen class are football hardened and ready to go.
“We’re going to be pretty tough,” said Kemp in a phone interview late last week.
Last year’s basketball team was often brilliant, always dramatic and fun to watch. The 2011-12 Eagles ended up fourth in league at 6-6.
Kemp took his current squad to two tournaments during the summer and has high expectations for 2012-13. “All eight players, especially the freshmen, look strong,” he said.
On the other hand, Sonny Lindsey, the Lady Golden Eagles head coach, is a cup-half-empty kind of guy. At the start of the 2010 season, he guessed the girls would be in a winning mode by the time the snow thawed in February. That team stormed through league play with a 12-2 record and went deep into CIF playoffs. Then, they graduated.
Last year, Lindsey was working with a young team with no starters from the previous year; he was even grumpier. That grumpy changed to surprise and delight when the Lady Eagles went 5-5 and nosed their way into the playoffs.
This year, Lindsey’s hovering on the morose and mystified side of the scale. “The skill level is better,” he said. “The girls are tough and all eight have the potential to be good basketball players.”
So, why isn’t he smiling? It’s the elusive mental toughness component of basketball. “They have to learn to win,” he said.
The Eagles’ next home game will be against Immanuel Christian, Tuesday, Dec. 4 with the Lady Eagles starting at 5 p.m. and the boys team at 6:30 p.m.
Results from the Lone Pine-Kern Valley game will appear in Saturday’s sports page.