For all the talent the Camp Verde High School boys basketball team had in 2009-2010, the Cowboys still managed to finish only 16-15 on the year and could never quite put it together.
Teamwork and accountability were constantly called into question last season, but according to Head Coach Darren Gagnon, his 2010-2011 squad seems to have turned the page.
“The best thing I’ve seen so far this year is every kid on this team is committed to what we’re doing. They’ve all bought into the system and they want each other to do well,” Gagnon said in a phone interview Thursday, Nov. 18.
Gagnon went on to say his boys have shown an unselfish attitude so far in the first three weeks of the season, and stated “they all do what we ask them to do.”
Whether this “new attitude” carries over to games this season is yet to be seen, but the Cowboys certainly have the talent to capture a basketball fan’s imagination and turn some heads around in the 2A conference.
Camp Verde will be led by senior guards Shaq Watahomogie and Trey Cooper in 2010-2011. Both should be double-digit statistical players this season in scoring, rebounding and steals.
Watahomogie and Cooper give the Cowboys a one-two punch not many high school teams have at the 2A level.
Junior Jake Spleiss returns in the middle as the enforcer, and is anything but a third-wheel to Watahomogie and Cooper. Spleiss complements the two stars quite well with his stingy defense and inside play along with the ability to guard not only quick players on the perimeter but the big uglies inside.
“These three guys work well together,” Gagnon said.
Two other seniors returning this season are Kyle Neiderer and Daniel Brunner who should give the Cowboys plenty of minutes this year.
As for the junior class, Johnny Hudson returns as a dead-eye shooter from outside while Deshon Tripp could be one of the more athletic players on the court this season for the Cowboys.
Camp Verde has a few newcomers as well who have made Gagnon’s squad in juniors Brian Hudson, Andres Orellana and Josh Benson.
Hudson is a shooter like his brother Johnny and although small, Benson does all the right things according to Gagnon.
“He is small, but I like what I see out of him. He’s definitely going to help us this year,” Gagnon said.
Although the Cowboys would certainly have the talent to win 20-plus games in any other season, this year’s schedule is brutal.
Camp Verde opened its season on the road Monday, Nov. 22, when they traveled to Mayer High School. Results were unavailable at press time.
Mayer might be the easiest game on the schedule this season. North Pointe Preparatory Academy is a tough 1A team playing a 2A schedule while Williams High School might challenge for a state championship this season.
After the Round Valley Invitational Tournament, Camp Verde hosts Mingus Union High School, which finished third in the 4A-II Grand Canyon region.
Camp Verde is on the road against Scottsdale Christian and Wickenburg high schools in early January and then travel to Westwind Preparatory Academy, which has Division IV numbers but petitioned up to Division I in October.
Chino Valley High School is always tough and so is Northwest Christian High School, but we wouldn’t want to forget about Sedona Red Rock High School, the most heated rival for the Cowboys.
If there’s one game Camp Verde fans should go to this season, it’s the Sedona-Camp Verde matchup, which is sure to bring plenty of good basketball and tough competition.
“This schedule is going to make us tough. Whether we win 20, 15 or 10 games this season, it will prepare us for the state tournament,” Gagnon said.
Gagnon also talked about his team hitting the road early this season, stating that it will give his team time to bond.
“We only play one home game before the new year. This will give us time to bond as a team, and we generally play better on the road anyway,” Gagnon said.
Next up, the Cowboys will travel to North Pointe Preparatory Academy on Tuesday, Nov. 30. Tip-off is scheduled for 7:30 p.m.
Camp Verde will host Mingus on Friday, Dec. 17, in its first home game of the year.