By GERARDO RECINOS
In the second week of November, the boys all sat around and in a team meeting established what their goals were for this season of basketball.
Of the 12 players, seven of them are seniors who were staring straight into the teeth of their fourth coach in their fourth year of high school.
Chris Petiti took over the job after coaching at Overfelt High School in San Jose, mostly because of the sense of community that Martinez is well known for. That was a trait reflected in the class of seniors, and something that was touched on in the first meeting of the season.
“The result ended up being pretty good,” Petiti said. The players were asked what they wanted to accomplish for the season, and other than the obvious answer of winning league, the team seemed joined with a similar goal.
“But they also said we want to set a foundation for the future. They said, ‘We want Alhambra basketball to be something special for the future.”’ Petiti said. “Coming from your seniors, thats exactly what you want out of them. They’re not thinking about themselves, but the teams to come.”
Appropriately, the sophomores and juniors paid back that thought by establishing their goal: winning league for the seniors to send them off on a high note.
“They want to leave the seniors with a memorable senior year,” Petiti said. “That’s exactly what you hope for as a coach. That is the kind of culture we want for our guys: play for each other.”
That mindset could translate to leading some seniors to uncharted territory. Because of the seven seniors, only Jordyn Eglite has played in a North Coast Section playoff game.
Despite an 0-5 start that the new coach chalked up to growing pains of yet another new system and new coach, once they started getting used to what would be expected of them, the team settled and was able to turn around their preseason so that before the tough Atascadero Tournament, the team is sitting at 4-6.
That turnaround comes down to the seniors leading the way and taking matters into their own hands. Petiti highlighted Thomas McDonald as one of the guys who helped keep the season from getting away from the team. But that wouldn’t be without the help of the big man, Eglite, who works in the post. Luke Brown facilitates a lot of what the offense does for the team, but can score when called upon.
“I’ve been excited about what my seniors have shown me,” Petiti said.
That’s not to say some of the underclassmen haven’t made some waves. Sophomore Wyatt Hammer has seen an increase in his minutes thanks to his length and scoring ability. The same could be said of junior Kinrick Todd, who has also seen time in the starting lineup with Hammer.
Defensively, Brody Eglite has shown a lot of intensity and heart and, despite his size, Petiti referred to him as one of the best rebounders on the team.
Those guys will also benefit from the big league changes. Gone are the days of a week with Dublin and Miramonte in a single week.
“Those that played varsity last year are going to be battle tested,” Petiti said. “We’re going to have a battle every night in our league. Clayton Valley is probably the favorite.”
Concord will also figure to be in the mix despite losing a whopping 11 seniors. Berean Christian has the opposite situation. They’ll be bringing back a team full of guys who have played together before and at the varsity level.
And to add a little spice, the Eagles’ coach is Petiti’s brother-in-law.
That’s not the only game that should have a little edge to it. When Mt. Diablo comes into Martinez on the final day of January, Petiti will get to see some of his students play up close from a whole different perspective. The Alhambra coach teaches at the Concord school, and says that he has had a bit of playful banter with his students, but knows that they want to beat him.
“The kids have it marked on their calendar,” the coach said.