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SoCalHoops High School News

NorCal HS Team Preview:
Archbishop Mitty--(Nov. 4, 1999)

"We've got one of the best players in the State; We've been gradually and steadily improving and are getting better every year I've been here. This is a school with a long tradition. I love it here."--Mike Willard, Archbishop Mitty Head Coach

Archbishop Mitty High School is located in San Jose, California. The school has an active enrollment of 1450 students and is a 4 year coed institution.  The school is a part of the Central Coast Section of the CIF, and is part of the West Catholic Athletic League (WCAL), and unlike the leagues in SoCal, which seem to get realigned every  5 or 10 years, the WCAL has been intact for more than 35 years. Teams that are part of the West Catholic Athletic League, along with Mitty are San Francisco Archbishop Riordan, San Jose Bellarmine Prep, Sacred Heart Cathedral, St. Francis, San Francisco St. Ignatius, and Serra.    Geographically, the teams stretch from one end of the Bay Area to the other.   It's a league which has long-standing rivalries, and is deep in tradition, and because of it's wide geographical diversity, it draws widespread attention among its many followers in the Bay Area.

Last year, St. Ignatius pulled off a rather remarkable feat of not only beating the powerful Compton Dominguez Dons in one of the most amazing games we got the chance to see at the Reebok Holiday Prep Classic in Las Vegas, but they also went 12-0 in WCAL League play, something which rarely happens, and which has not happened very often since the mid 70-'s and early 80's when Riordan established a stranglehold on the league.  But since that time, it's been mostly a situation of parity in the league, which has made the old rivalries even more fierce.  It's not unusual for a team with a 9-3 or 8-4 record to wind up taking the league, so it's all the more remarkable that St. Ignatius compiled the record they did.

But while Don Lippi and his team up the coast in San Francisco were piling up the wins and improving not only their own national reputation but also the national reputation of their star player Luke Whitehead (who has since transferred to national power Oak Hill Academy for his senior season), Archbishop Mitty was quietly and steadily doing what they do best: Improving, getting better and better, and challenging for the D-III Central Coast Section title.

One of the keys to Mitty's success has been the diligence and patience, and the plain old good coaching by Mike Willard, the 5th year head coach at Mitty.  Last year, Mike coached Mitty to their best record in a long time, a 17-10 overall record, and a third place finish in league which was good enough to get them to the Central Coast Section's D-III playoffs where they ultimately made it to the semifinals before losing. "We've really gotten better and better each year. My first year, we won 7 games, then 12 the next, then 13, and last year 17," Willard told us. " Finishing third in the league and making the playoffs for us was a kind of breakthrough year, and we think we're even better, so you never know. . . . "

Of course, there is a SoCal connection somewhere in all of this (you didn't think we'd be writing about a NorCal team just for drill, did you?).   The first and most obvious is that Mitty will be playing next month in the Best in the West Tournament hosted by Artesia at Long Beach State (where they'll face Tampa Catholic in the first round).  But there's more: Mike Willard is a SoCal native, a UCLA grad, who also spent three years coaching at St. Monica's during what he calls the "glory days."

"Back in those days, when I was still attending UCLA,   I was coaching the JV's and acting as an assistant on the varsity.  We had some really great players. Lots of D-I guys, including Brian Williams, Earl Duncan, Jason Matthews, Cleveland Jackson, and on and on,"  Williard told us. "St. Monica's was a great place, but then I got the opportunity to coach up in Oregon, and so I left for a place they call the "Jewel of the Eastern Northwest" which is a nice name for the desert area where there's not much else except Eastern Oregon University.   It's a great college town but there's not a lot to do there.  I then got hired on at the University of Portland as an assistant, but when our head coach got fired, we all had to leave.  I left Oregon and came down to San Jose, largely on the recommendation of Pat Schneider, the coach at San Jose Bellarmine," Willard recalled. "Pat and I had both coached at St. Monica's together, and he suggested Bellarmine, and I stayed there until 1995-96 when I got the Mitty job." Mike is now in the administration at Mitty, in addition to his coaching responsibilities, and really enjoys what he's doing. "You know I could get back into a college job, especially since I'm not married and it's easy for me to move.  But it's so uncertain; if you're doing well, you don't really have complete control of where you'll live and work, and likewise, if you're doing badly, you really have no control," Mike said. "I really like where I'm at now, although it's very expensive to live up in the Bay Area, especially San Jose. But I'm having a great time.  This job at Mitty was a career decision for me and I'm happy I accepted." 

More SoCal connections:  Not only did he attend college in SoCal, Willard is also a product of the Ventura County area, and he attended Camarillo High School, playing under former coach John Harbor. "I love coming down to LA; I've got so many friends in the area. I especially like reading about all the stuff on SoCalHoops because I know so many of the teams down there.  I'm really looking forward to bringing our team down to the Best in the West Tournament this year and seeing how we stack up," Mike told us.  And we're looking forward to seeing Mitty as well.

We can't tell you much about the differences between this year's team and last year's edition, but we can tell you something about what they'll look like when they make it down to the Best in the West.  Here's the 1999-2000 roster:

Brandon Worth 6'-2" So. PG/SG
Jeremey Denzel 6'-8" Sr. C/F
Christopher Sandman 6'-7" Jr. SF
Darryll Scott 6'-0" Sr. PG
Chris Hayes 6'-3" Jr. SG/SF
Steve Christensen 6'-2" Jr. SG
Juaune Armon 6'-3" Sr. SF
Machaune Armon 6'-5" Jr. PF
John Miller 6'-3" Sr. PF/SF
Danny Arias 6'-1" Sr. SG/SF
Steve Cotton 6'-2" So. SG
Zach Smith 6'-0" Sr. SG/SF
Greg Smith 6'-0" Sr. PG
David Toomey 6'-2" Sr. PF/C

The big news on this team is the sophomore, Brandon Worthy.   "While most of the recruiting sites and magazines list him as a point guard, for us he's a two, a shooter," Willard said.  "And he's a very good shooter too.  In his freshman season, he was named Second Team All-Central Coast, Freshman of the Year, WCAL 1st team, and held almost every scoring record last season.  He led the league in scoring, was one of the top scorers in NorCal, and also broke the school record in steals.  Brandon is a national caliber recruit, and an excellent scorer," Willard said. 

"Worthy is a tremendously talented athletic player, who is really a very sophisticated player offensively.  It's not that he's such an exceptional athlete, but he's got incredible footwork and positioning for a young player and it allows him to be an exceptional scorer and offensive force," Willard said. At the other guard spot, at least starting initially will be Darryll Scott, a returning varsity player, who is very quick, an excellent defender, who can pentrate and dish. "He's not a big time scorer, but then we're not looking for him to do that. He's really a defensive minded player and we count on him to bring the ball up and find the open man, and he is very good at that," Willard said. Scott will probably have a lock on the starting job at least until football is over and then Greg Smith, a football player who is very athletic and leads the league in receiving  will compete with Darryll for the starting spot.

Others who will see time in the backcourt in varying degrees this year are Steve Christensen, a defensive-minded player who is very heady, quick, with good hands, who, according to Willard, "does all the right things and plays without ego; he doesn't make many mistakes, and is very strong physically on defense. He's a great young man." Danny Arias, on the other hand will be counted on for both defensive ability and offense.  He's a good shoter, a smart defender with decent quickness, but is one of the hardest working players around, and he's also a senior leader on the team according to Williard. Zach Smith is another of Mitty's good shooters, another really smart player, perhaps not an exceptional athlete, but he more than makes up for that by playing smart on both ends of the floor. Chris Hayes is another very strong shooting guard/wing type player, who played all last season as a jv starter, and was the team leader in scoring and 1st in several other categories as well. "He's a good shooter, has excellent range, and will be a spot up player rather than a guy who creates shots off the dribble. He's an excellent three point shooter. Finally, at the two primarily there's Steve Cotton, who is, an explosive pure shooter. "Right now he's really just a shooter, but like Brandon Worthy, he's got tremendous potential, and he and Brandon have even played together on several teams (San Jose Wildcats recently in Fresno). He's a very dangerous guy, a potentially explosive scorer who is young and just learning our system," Willard said. 

Out on the wing, look for Christopher Sandman to start. He's a two year varsity player who started last year as a sophomore, and he's a solid perimeter pplayer who can pass well, shoot the ball outside or inside, and will go to the hole as well. He's a bit on the thin side, but runs the floor and is a very good defender.   Juaune Armon and John Miller will also see some time at the three/four positions. Juaune is an excellent rebounder, a pure jumper and leaper, very fast and while he's not really an offensive-minded player, he will score on the break," Willard told us.   "He's currently being recruited for a track scholarship by UCLA and Georgia Tech, where he visited this past weekend. I think he'll definitely help us." John Miller is a decent enough shooter, but that won't be his designated role:  "He can defend anyone.  Anyone.  He's one of the most athletic guys we have, and he's great out on the perimter, good inside, and is a tremendous rebounder. He's one of the most concientious defenders we've got.  He's also a football player, so we won't have him until December, but when he gets back, he'll provide a big boost," said Willard.

Up front, look for Jeremy Denzel, a senior to start. "He's a good athlete, who has been maturing nicely, a big kid who has taken a while to grow up and into his body, and while he's still a bit on the thin side, he's been making dramatic gains and having good success on the floor. He runs really well, has decent hands, and is gaining strength.  He didn't get to play a lot last year--Terrell Worthy, Brandon's brother who graduated, played ahead of him last year-- but we're looking for him to have a big year," said Willard. 

Two others will help out up front. Machaune Armon a power forward and interior player is a good scorer, and probably more of a pure basketball player than his brother. "He'll probably play backup at the post for us, and will get some minutes.  He played jv last year, so this will be a learning year for him. Finally, David Toomey, a 6'-2' bull of a guy, at 235 lbs, is a very big, strong football player, who is a potential D-I defensive lineman, who will also join the team late in December.  "He's a hard player, a real space-eater, who is also very quick; he runs a 4.9 in the 40.  He's also got good hands, but needs to work on finishing.   We'll count on him for rebounding though and to get inside and block up the middle," Willard told us.

Mitty will start off their season with the WCAL Jamboree, which will take place at Riordan on Thursday, 11/18 at 6:00 p.m.   On 11/20, Mitty will participate in a scrimmage with Miramonte at Miramonte, and then they'll have their own "Alumni Basketball Tournament" which will be held on Wednesday evening November 24th.  There will be two games: The "Early Alumns" (1968-1993) will play the Junior Varsity team at 5:30 p.m, and the "Later Alumns" (1994-1999) will take on the varsity at 7:30 p.m..

Mitty will have several preseason games between 11/27 and 12/14, including games against James Lick (11/27), Santa Teresa (12/6), and Woodside (12/14) all at Mitty.  After that Mitty will participate in two tournaments, the Fremont Holiday Classic (which is San Jose Fremont, not Oakland, featuring 16 mostly local teams), and then the Best in the West.

Here's the complete schedule

Date Day Opponent Site Time
11/18 Thur WCAL Jamboree Riordan 6:00 p.m.
11/20 Sat Miramonte (scrimmage) Miramonte 1:00 p.m.
11/24 Wed Alumni Games Mitty 8:30 p.m.
11/27 Sat James Lick Mitty 2:00 p.m.
12/6 Mon Santa Teresa Mitty 7:30 p.m.
12/14 Tue Woodside Mitty 7:30 pm.
12/16 Thur Fremont Holiday Classic Fremont TBA
12/18-21 Sat-Tue Fremont Holiday Classic Fremont TBA
12/27-30 Mon-Thur Best in the West Tournament LB State TBA
1/5 Wed Junipero Serra Serra 7:30 pm.
1/7 Fri Archbishop Riordan Mitty 7:30 pm.
1/12 Wed St. Ignatius St. Ignatius 7:30 pm.
1/14 Fri Bellarmine Mitty 7:30 pm.
1/17 Mon MLK Classic (hosted by DeLaSalle) St. Mary's College TBA
1/19 Wed. St. Francis Mitty 7:30 pm.
1/21 Fri Sacred Heart Cathedral Sacred Heart 7:30 pm.
1/26 Wed Junipero Serra Mitty 7:30 pm.
1/28 Fri Archbishop Riordan Riordan 7:30 pm.
2/2 Wed Bellarmine Bellarmine 7:30 pm.
2/4 Fri St. Ignatius Mitty 7:30 pm.
2/9 Wed St. Francis St. Francis 7:30 pm.
2/11 Fri Sacred Heart Cathedral Mitty 7:30 pm.
2/16 Wed WCAL Playoffs Begin TBA TBA
2/21 Mon CCS Playoffs Begin TBA TBA
3/7 Mon NorCal State Regionals Begin TBA TBA
3/18 Sat CIF State Championships Arco Arena TBA

For all you NorCal fans, this should make it easier to follow Mitty; and for all of us in SoCal, now we have a small taste of what we can look forward to seeing when Mitty comes down for the Best in the West on December 27.  See you there.

 The Swish Award
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