The early part of Magna Vista’s basketball season has been difficult in recent years because of the uncertainty of when and which football players will be on the team. This season, first-year head coach Patrick Mills had one of the biggest groups of players before the end of football season that he can remember.
Included in that group are returning starters Vatrell Fountain and Kali and Kalil Wells.
“Those three are kind of the main returners and then we’re looking at a lot of young guys,” Mills said. “We’ve got a lot of sophomores that probably half will play up and half will play down and then four or five juniors in the mix as well.”
The Warriors had a total of 16 players in practices prior to the end of football season, making practice extremely competitive.
“With us having 16, we’re going together. I can’t remember the last time that we’ve had this many guys before football was done,” Mills said. “With that 10th grade group being pretty solid some of them it’s just going to be position or need whether they play up or down. Skill level is similar, so it hasn’t affected practice.”
Mills is in his first year as the head coach, but has spent time as an assistant coach and JV head coach. The players know him, he knows how things have been run in the past and that combination has led to a smooth transition. That doesn’t mean that there hasn’t been some changes to what’s been run in the past.
“It’s not a complete overhaul. We’re going to do some things that we did that I felt worked well and then we’re going to tweak some things and see what happens,” Mills said.
Neither of the Wells twins nor Fountain are really vocal leaders, but they are strong leaders for this young group of Warriors and Mills has been really appreciative of their willingness to buy in to that role.
“They’ve done a good job of understanding that they want to win at the end of the day. It’s not about them achieving personal accolades or anything like that,” Mills said. “They want the team to succeed and I think they realize it’s going to take the younger guys contributing… They’re being leaders by example, but they’re also realizing that we need these guys to believe in themselves, to compete for us to succeed.”
It was just a four-win campaign a season ago. There was no blaming going around for that, but the team has come into this season with a different level of determination that hasn’t been seen recently.
“The guys have bought in,” Mills said. “The kids realize the amount of work we have in front of us and there’s no nights off. The district is tough from top to bottom. The kids I think have just bought into hard work every day. If you don’t work hard, it doesn’t matter what we run it’s not going to work. So, if you put in the effort and the energy then we’ll see results.”
It will take time for all of the Xs and Os to come together, according to Mills, but what will help the Warriors overcome that early on will be the team’s length and athleticism.
“We’re going to be long and athletic and we’re going to like to play fast,” he said. “That’s something I think is going to benefit us because inexperience, instead of all the thinking I think you let some ability take over at times.”
Obviously Mills and the team want to win games, but it starts simply with competing on a nightly basis. If they do that, Mills will be happy.
“If we play hard and play together, I feel good about things,” he said.