Scott Kemp is a happy man.
The Lone Pine basketball coach was probably described as “happy” at this time last year. He had a troupe of freshmen, all more than 6 feet tall, a couple of juniors with speed and ability and the veteran senior Michael Cappello who went on to claim a Desert Mountain League MVP spot. The Golden Eagles went deep into CIF playoffs, finally falling in the quarterfinals to the eventual division champion, Rio Hondo Hares.
For the 2013-14 season, the senior Cappello is gone, but the balance of Kemp’s Eagles are back, with a few new faces. And, they’ve already scorched their way through a series of summer games. “The only game we lost was to Antelope High,” said Kemp. “Then we came back and beat them. We’re going to be tough this year. We’re fast and we’re big.”
Starting at the top, the returning seniors are Alec Garcia, second team All-League in 2013, and Milton Mendoza. Garcia is lightning fast and could have been charged with grand theft ball last year. Mendoza is big, strong and was critical in the latter part of the Eagles’ 2013 season.
New to this team is senior Ivan Camacho whose claim to fame this year has been kicking a football out of the end zone for a touchback. Kemp describes him as “quick and a good shooter.”
Junior Preston Huerta is up from the JVs, as is Colton Martin. Huerta is fast and gutsy; the 6-foot, 3-inch Martin shows a lot of promise and desire, according to Kemp.
Then there is the quartet of now sophomores. Brad Greene is 6 feet, 9 inches and untouchable when it comes to the backboard. The Eagles lost Greene last year before league play even started. In the first game of the 2013 Bishop Christmas Classic, Greene went down with a broken foot. The sophomore was only able to play a limited part in the Eagles’ final games last year.
Next is Ryan Cappello, second team All-League in 2013. “As a guard, he’s going to be pretty tough,” Kemp said in what could prove to be an epic understatement. Garrett Sulli-van “has been shooting the lights out” in practice and during summer play. The fourth sophomore is Kishan Bhakta who had some amazing runs of 3-pointers as a freshman. All four of Kemp’s sophomores are talented and experienced.
The DML has grown by one for a total of eight schools. The latest addition is Desert High; the Scorpions opted out of Bishop’s High Desert League this year. Of the league, Kemp has his eye on Desert, Silver Valley and Desert Christian, all three strong and somewhat unknown. “You never know with Desert Christian,” he said, referring to the fact private schools aren’t held to the same restrictions on transfers as public schools. Last year, the DC Knights were league champions and the only team that beat the Eagles in both league games. The Knights were significantly strengthened by transfers from Rosamond.
With the enrollment at Desert and Silver Valley primarily determined by staffing at Edwards Air Force Base, it’s difficult to draw many conclusions before the teams actually take the floor.
The other DML powerhouse, Boron, lost a lot of starters and will be rebuilding.
“We have an excellent chance at league championship,” said Kemp, “if we stay healthy.” Speaking of healthy, the Eagles have accepted their invitation to this year’s Bishop Christmas Classic.
The Eagles travel to Kern Valley (still alive in the CIF Central Section football playoffs), Tuesday, Nov. 26. The Tuesday after Thanksgiving, Dec. 3, the Eagles meet the Bishop Broncos at Bishop in the schools’ annual cross-valley match-up, then head to the Hawthorne Tournament Dec. 6-7.