With less than two weeks of practice under its belt, the Sedona Red Rock High School boys basketball team has a long road ahead to arrive where first-year head coach Paul Bain wants.
Only 11 players are in the program, with seven expected to get varsity minutes. But it does return a core of seniors with one thing that cannot be coached: Talent.
“We do have potential. The question is, that talent and that potential, are we really going to max it out, utilize it and take advantage of it?” Bain said.
Growing up in Mercer Island, Wash., Bain learned a certain style of basketball. It led him to become a University of Oregon Duck, playing against the likes of Byron Scott at UCLA.
His first and foremost aim is to bring that philosophy to the Scorpions program.
Every day he harps on intensity. He wants his players to practice that way, too.
Before most practices, the team watches film from the previous day’s session. Bain believes that if intensity moves in, sets up shop and settles in for the long haul, then the Scorpions team will be capable of being successful.
“They are not playing hard consistently,” Bain said. “We talk, we’re very frank. I show them on the tapes, I’m not making it up. I’m not picking on anybody.
“My goal is to get them to play hard as a team.”
Leading the team is a core of four seniors: Forward Wyatt Gregson, forward Winston Cox, guard Michael Ortega and guard Hayden Bruce. Leading is the operative word for that group, and Bain’s message is not falling on deaf ears.
“The first couple of practices we all thought we were looking good and then looking over the practice tape we didn’t have that much intensity,” Bruce said. “The past couple practices we’ve been getting better about intensity and that’s the biggest thing for us, keeping up the energy at all times.”
Gregson is a returning First Team All-Central Region player from a year ago while Ortega was Second Team and Cox an Honorable Mention pick. The group is in its fourth year together, and looks to carry the team towards that success.
“I think we’ve had a really good core the last couple years and you can see that as we’ve progressed farther and farther every year,” Bruce said. “I’m just excited for the fact that we all get to play together and we’ve all developed into skilled players. Even though we’re small in numbers we have quality over quantity.”
Joining them are senior Cole Edens and freshmen Micha Johnson and Carlos Landaverde. Landaverde, set to be the starting point guard, injured his knee recently at a soccer tournament. He is expected to be out until at least the middle of December.
He brought intensity and peskiness on the defensive end of the floor, matching up with Gregson at practice, forcibly making each other better. His return, according to Bain, will be key, especially defensively.
That is the other X factor for this year’s team: Health. Bain emphasized that staying healthy and embracing his way of playing will be what leads the team to a region championship and more.
As a team, the main goal is to be a high seed entering February’s Conference 2A tournament, and to be peaking then for a deep run.
Last year the team went 5-3 in Central Region play, tying for first place but taking third based on its head-to-head record with the other two teams: Paradise Honors High School and Glendale Preparatory Academy.
However Bain is not so concerned with opponents in the region or in Conference 2A, because frankly, “nobody is really playing good basketball, any of the teams, really.” In turn, if Red Rock’s does, then it will be one of the best.
The new Scorpions team will debut at 7 p.m., Nov. 28 at home against 3A Chino Valley High School.
[November to middle of December]
Nov. 28, 7 p.m.
Dec. 1 and 2
Dec. 13, 7 p.m.