Something to Prove

Bruins Varsity Boys Basketball 2021 Season Preview

Raegan Knobbe, Editor-in-Chief

 

 

 

Everything was going great for the Creek Bruins in the 2019-2020 season. Ranked first in the 5A Centennial Conference and fourth overall in the 5A playoffs, the Bruins were sitting pretty with a first round bye and an overall win percentage of 79%. That was until the fateful afternoon of February, 29 when they lost by four points in the second round of the playoffs to the Regis Jesuit Raiders, who were ranked 25 spots below them. This was obviously not the plan, and the loss had some players holding themselves personally responsible.

“I felt like it was my fault we lost,” senior point guard Julian Hammond III, the University of Colorado basketball commit, said. “So I used that as fuel to not let myself, my teammates, and my school down this year.”

Similarly to Hammond, sophomore forward Blake Purchase wishes he too had done some things differently last season.

“I feel like if I would’ve worked harder last season, I could’ve contributed more to that team and helped us win that game in the playoffs,” Purchase said. “This year I’m looking to come back and be a better player.” 

While disappointing, the loss also proved to be a valuable lesson for the team as they decided to take that heartbreak and turn it into something else: a fierce desire to do better.

“The loss made me work harder, because when you lose to a team you should’ve beat, it lasts,” sophomore point guard Christian Hammond said. “You make sure that doesn’t happen again.”

IMPROVEMENTS FROM LAST SEASON

Four points is not that much, but it was enough to end the Bruin’s 2020 playoff run, so the burning question is: what needs to be different this season?

Here are the three main areas that Head Coach Kent Dertinger says the team needs to improve this season for a better outcome:

  1. We need to get better on the defensive side of the ball with attention to detail on our helpside rotations, keeping the dribble in front of us, and boxing out every body on every shot.
  2. On the offensive side, we continue to work on the importance of ball movement to create great shots without settling for contested or low percentage shots.
  3. Our team chemistry will also play a large role in our success as I feel like we have a team of players that are all committed to playing for one another, rather than with one another.  Playing unselfish basketball and willing to consistently make the right play will be key to our success.

The athletes also weighed in on what they thought the team should do better.

“This season is more about execution and playing above our competition,” senior power forward Arden Walker said. “Last year in the playoffs, we let Regis slow us down offensively and they got the advantage.”

Purchase has some opinions about what needs to happen on the other side of the court.

“As a team, we need to work on playing harder basketball on the defensive side of the ball,” Purchase said. “And always look to make the extra pass and the better play.”

While faster offensive play and more intense defense will definitely help win games, the team has to leave it all on the court if they want to succeed.

“We have to find that drive in us to win the close games,” Christian Hammond said.

OFFSEASON RECAP

During the offseason, the team worked on making these improvements, but the COVID-19 pandemic prevented them from practicing together regularly.

“The team’s main focus this off season was to stay safe and healthy as well as to gain appreciation for our community, our families, and what is important to us both on and off of the court,” Dertinger said. “In terms of basketball, we were not able to work together much, but our players stayed committed to developing speed, strength, and improving on their fundamentals of footwork, quickness, ball handling, and shooting.” 

After six seniors graduated last year, the team also had to build relationships with some new faces. The strength of these relationships is instrumental to the team’s success, because it is a known fact that teams with no trust don’t get very far.

“I think a big focus for us as a team has been playing with team chemistry,” senior guard Chase Penry said. “We have a lot of good players, and when we all play together it’s a lot of fun. And when we do face adversity, this chemistry will allow us to bounce back.”

The players couldn’t physically work together as much, but they each had time to work on developing their own game before the start of the 2021 season.

“I tried to improve my ball handling and second level (mid range) scoring because I know I’m going to play a different role in college, and that’s most important for the next level,” Julian Hammond III said.

Senior point guard Myles Purchase stepped into his new role as a leader for the younger players this offseason.

“I improved a lot on being able to shoot and score on all three levels,” Myles Purchase said. “Also, being a vocal leader for the team.”

Blake Purchase, Myles’ younger brother, played mostly on junior varsity last year, and is likely getting much more time on the court with varsity this season.

“In the off-season I really looked to improve my jump shooting and then also just work on my body and get in better shape than I was in last season,” Blake Purchase said. “I’m just trying to come in and earn minutes, earn playing time, and contribute to the team any way that I can.”

Walker also put emphasis on his shooting ability.

“My shooting range has improved and I feel more comfortable being farther away from the basket to shoot,” Walker said. “I also improved my ball handling since I know it will be a factor this season.”

PLAYERS TO WATCH

It’s a no-brainer that you need to pay attention to Julian Hammond III – the 2019-2020 season 1st team all-state basketball selection and Centennial League Player of the Year – but there is an exciting new addition to the team who Creek Basketball hasn’t seen for two years: senior guard Chase Penry. 

“I haven’t played basketball since my freshman year when I was on the varsity team,” Penry said. “After my freshman year, I decided I wanted to focus all my efforts on football. I have missed basketball a ton during that time, and I can’t wait to get back on the floor.”

So why has Penry decided to come back after two years off the court? Irritation about last season’s ending? A chance to win a state championship in another sport before he graduates? It’s definitely both.

“Seeing the Regis team and student section run onto the floor to celebrate bothered me and it is one of the main reasons I want to play this year. It hurt me watching from the stands,” Penry said. He added that, “A good group of us have won two state championships in football, but now it’s time to get one in basketball.”

With other great players on the team, it will be interesting to see how much time Penry gets on the court as he makes his debut, again.

SEASON GOALS

This year every Creek player and coach is itching to get their hands on the shiny, gold State Championship trophy that they fell short of last season.

“Our primary goal is to stay together, determined, hard working, and to play for something bigger than the individual,” Dertinger said. “If we do that, we should be in the hunt for a second consecutive Centennial League Title and a birth to the state playoffs, where our goal will be to take each game one at a time.”

Like Penry said, the team wants to win a state championship in basketball. The players on the team that won a football state championship on December 5 in 2020 are ready to make this dream a reality, and so is Dertinger.

“We have many players with big game experience, and we plan to take that experience along with what we learned from last season to make a playoff run with the ultimate goal of competing for, and winning, a state championship,” Dertinger said.

Before they get to the State Championship though, they have to win enough games to get to the playoffs.

Walker plans to “Create shots for Myles and Julian and get putbacks and rebounds when needed,” which is absolutely the kind of unselfish basketball attitude that Coach Dertinger mentioned was so important for winning games.

The Bruins are charging at this season with something to prove, and they’ll have to leave it all on the court if they want to win big. 

“Mental toughness is certain to give teams an advantage,” Dertinger said. “We plan to be as mentally tough as anyone this year while we play with a chip on our shoulder after the way last season ended for us.”

It’s all or nothing. Can they win it all? Creek will just have to wait and see.