What a difference a year, and a new Coach, makes. The 2007-2008 Pleasant Grove High School Basketball Team was a very talented one. Their first graduating class included the likes of Armand Armstead, now playing football with USC, who was a monster on the hard wood. But other talented players were part of that team such as Lanvin Peets, Paul McGinnis and one of the reasons I started writing for Scout in the first place, Herby Lissade II.
Air Armstead – Armond Armstead dunks at ease.
Lanvin Peets Dunks on Brandon Lane at a Cal Tournament.
Paul Mcginnis goes up for two.
Herby Lissade brings up the ball and looks for an outlet.
While these players didn't have the opportunity to experience the playoffs last season, despite the obvious talent on the team, they laid out the framework for the current teams success.
PG's new Head Coach, John DePonte, has hit immediate success with his new team. Coach DePonte, a Hawaiian Native, comes to PG via Valley H.S. It's not uncommon to see coach DePonte, and his Coaching staff, at the games wearing Hawaiian shirts.
As the season has progressed PG has been a Delta River Conference Power House, losing to number 1 regionally ranked Folsom High School by 1 Point. At the Sacramento Hoops classic they beat St. Mary's of Stockton by a comfortable margin, a remarkable difference from last years match up where St. Mary's blew them away.
While they didn't make the playoffs last year by what would equate to be a rounding error in the power ratings, they can not be denied this year. Their destiny is in their hands and not of others. They're being matched up against Del Campo for the first round of the playoffs this week.
Now let's meet the 2008-2009 PG Basketball team.
The team anchor for the Past 4 years, starting when they only had a JV squad, is Xavier " X" Thames. The Washington State D1 recruit who's a gentlemen on and off the court, is simply X-citing to watch. Other teams have hacked him like crazy in attempts to slow or stop him to no avail.
Xavier, #1, puts it up as Darius Nelson, #21, and the other Sheldon H.S. players look on. Check out his GSP profile.
Stephen Mayer #2 a solid performer.
Wade Hampton # 3 – Guard – about to cross over. Was part of the Pleasant Grove Football success story last year as a DB.
Glenn Akerland #4 – Power Forward. Check out his GSP article and profile.
Michael Madkins # 5 basketball and # 3 in football. Carried Pleasant Grove's Varsity Football team to the Finals. Check out his GSP profile and Video.
Bryan Wells # 10, has ball in hand during tournament at Cal.
Ku Anumu, # 12, a consistent player whose ppg will increase as a senior next year.
Ra'Shauwn Brooks # 15 doing what comes naturally. Check out his GSP article and profile.
Rodrick Hyton # 21 will be staple next year as a senior.
Bobby Barnes # 24.. Will continue the PG success as a senior next season. He goes up for Two against Folsom H.S.
Ethan Winslow # 23, a great defender.
Devin Young # 33 delivering the rock.
The town paper sports writers were not giving PG the attention their achievements warranted at the beginning of the season. They ignored the team by not acknowledging their success. In fact they pegged PG to lose to Jesuit by 1 point at a recent game. Needless to say PG put that sports writer and the paper he writes for to shame. PG beat legendary Jesuit by 30 points, helping to affirm their emergence as a dominate force in the local basketball scene.
Now with a few games left in regular season the PG Basketball team is well equipped with the player talent on the Floor and the coaching talent on the side lines to get the job done - a post season appearance in the SJ playoffs. Now local sports writers how about showing the PG boys the love and respect they deserve. A school and athletics program that is second to none and rivaled by all. Mission control - the Eagle has landed.
I interviewed Coach DePonte early on in the season and here's what he had to say about his new team:
How do you like coaching at PG?
"I have enjoyed the change of scenery and the new challenges that face me here at PG. It's a different type of student-athlete and community that I am working with. I look forward to building this program and competing in the toughest basketball league in the section, the Delta River League."
The team is doing extremely well what percentage of that is coaching vs. talent ?
"I believe that it takes talented, hard working, dedicated kids with just the right chemistry amongst players and coaches, sprinkled with a little bit of luck to win championships. My goal as a coach is to maximize my team's and my players' potential and get each individual player to play up to that potential, win or lose. It is my responsibility to put my players and team in a position to win through diligent preparation and game time decisions."
Tell me about your 5 starters and the team in general ..
"I don't have a set group of 5 starters. I am still trying to push the right buttons and find the right combination of players to compete against each opponent. The defining of individual player's roles and our team chemistry are still a work in progress since we played the first month of our season without our four football players. They are still getting acclimated to the plays and to the style of play that I am trying to establish. "
It's easy to throw stones when a team isn't doing well, especially if the talent on the squad is apparent. Coach DePonte has struck all the right cords with his new team. The players, their parents, and the community have embraced him. He's taken the basketball team to a new level of excellence. It's evident that he has a high level of situational awareness and tries to convey that to his players on the floor.
Pleasant Grove is currently ranked 5th in the section, 40th in the state and 594th nationally. Pretty good numbers considering they are a new program.
Good luck to Coach DePonte and the PG basketball team as they prepare to make their first post season appearance. PG you're number 1 in my book.