Guided by returning stars Wolfgang Novogratz ’16 and Ali Iken ’17, along with newcomer Cassius Stanley ’19, the varsity boys’ basketball team has exceeded expectations in David Rebibo’s first season as Head Coach. The squad has an overall record of 12-4 and has started 0-2 in Mission League play.
Despite the loss of Alex Copeland ’15, who is currently playing basketball at Yale University, the Wolverines have a more balanced attack this season, with Novogratz, averaging 15.5 points in league play, along with Stanley, who is averaging 19 points in the Mission League.
Stanley and Iken were named to the All-Tournament team at the Joe Fraiser Calabasas Tournament, where the team finished as runners-up, losing in the finals to Viewpoint, 73-55.
Novogratz was the most valuable player in the El Segundo Tournament. The Wolverines were champions of the event, with pool play victories over El Segundo, Pacific Hills, Mira Costa and a 73-47 win against La Salle in the finals.
Both Stanley and Novogratz were selected to be members of the MaxPreps Holiday Classic All-Tournament Team in the Gatorade Division. Harvard-Westlake went undefeated in pool play, including a 57-55 win over Saguaro (AZ). However, St. John Bosco defeated the Wolverines in the championship, 57-50.
Along with the dominance of Stanley, Iken and Novogratz, returning varsity players, Carter Begel ’17, Aaron Glazer ’17 and Ray Mueller ’17 have all been crucial to the team’s success thus far.
Begel, who started for the team last season, quit football to focus on his basketball career, and it appears that the decision may be paying off for the guard. He is averaging 8.5 points in Mission League play, including a 15-point performance against Crespi on Jan 6.
Glazer and Mueller have shared playing time down low, as the Wolverines’ primary big men. They do not have high point totals, but their presence in the paint and rebounding have contributed greatly to the team’s record so far. For a second consecutive season, the team is facing a significant size disadvantage, with no players listed above six foot five.
“We have to come together and do what we know we are capable of doing,” Glazer said. “We have shown a lot of resilience and down the stretch, we have kind of strayed away from playing as a team and if we change that, I think that we can do some great things.”
After tournament play, the Wolverines played in a one-game New Year’s Ball Showcase at Calabasas High School against the Max Heidegger ’16 led Oaks Christian Lions. The Wolverines won the game 80-67 behind 25 points from Stanley.
Entering Mission League play, the Wolverines’ record sat at 12-2. However, their fate would quickly turn.
In the league opener, Harvard-Westlake hosted Crespi, the 10th best team in the state and the defending Division IV State Champions.
Rebibo was formerly an assistant under Crespi Head Coach Russell White. Also, this would be the first high school matchup between McDonalds All-American Game Nominee De’Anthony Melton ’16 and one of the top freshmen in the nation in Cassius Stanley ’19. In addition, the Celts were without starting center Mitch Mykhaylov ’16 due to illness.
Crespi ended up defeating the Wolverines 77-75 with a Brandon Williams ’18 one-handed flailing 16-footer as time expired in overtime.
In the Wolverines next Mission League matchup, Harvard-Westlake played their first true road game at Notre Dame. Led by Chibueze Jacobs ’16, who scored 33 total points, including 18 in the first quarter, the Knights defeated the Wolverines 65-63 and give Harvard-Westlake their second consecutive league loss.
“We have to value our possessions more and pick up the intensity defensively,” Rebibo said. “On offense we have to find the open man and box out on rebounds. We missed a lot of free throws and a few layups, which would have been crucial down the stretch.”
So far, the team has a point differential of +212, which is second best in the Mission League, only behind Crespi whose is +261.
“We have played two incredibly tight games in league, both coming down to just two points,” Iken said. “I think that we just need to come together as a team and use each other to maximize our talent.”
The Wolverines, who are currently ranked 47th in the state according to MaxPreps, will continue their league slate with a home game against Alemany on Wed at 7 p.m., followed by a road game against St. Francis on Fri at 7 p.m.