By Robbie Loeb
A year removed from a CIF championship, the varsity boys’ basketball team, led by All-CIF players Zena Edosomwan ’12 and Josh Hearlihy ’12, will need to use its size and speed to repeat as champions.
This is the team’s first season following the departure of Damiene Cain ’11, the Wolverines’ second all-time leading rebounder.
Head Coach Greg Hilliard said although Cain’s rebounding prowess is irreplaceable, the return of Edosmowan and Hearlihy could lead the team to a second consecutive title, provided the team avoids the injury bug.
“Because we graduated 10 guys last year, our depth is not what it has been in past years,” Hilliard said. “We can ill-afford the kind of injury-plagued season we had last year, where four of our guys never played a minute because of serious injuries. But if everything goes well with the talent that we do have, we should set our sights on CIF and anything beyond.”
Hearlihy, Edosomwan and Michael Sheng ’14 are the only returning players who started last season. Sheng is the most experienced point guard on the roster, despite being a sophomore.
Edosomwan and Hearlihy have established themselves as elite players on the national stage.
Edosomwan has already taken all five of his official college recruiting visits, but he has not yet committed. ESPN ranks the 6-foot-8 big man as the eighth best recruit in California.
“Zena is unstoppable in the post and has added the perimeter to his game, which makes him even more difficult to defend,” Hilliard said. “If a big center figures out how to guard him close to the hoop, he can take him away and beat him off the dribble.”
“[Hearlihy] is one of the most versatile players in high school basketball,” Hilliard said. “He can offensively play any of the five positions, from point guard to posting up.”
Derick Newton ’14 sat out last year with a shoulder injury and will be the third offensive option on this team.
“He has a knack of getting to the basket and scoring, or if not, getting fouled,” Hilliard said. “Any team that has three offensive weapons to choose from, and the players around them buy in to taking advantage of their talents, puts us in good shape.”
Although Francis Hyde ’13 will likely start at shooting guard early on, Clinton Hooks ’13 will contend for the starting two-guard spot when he returns after the football season.
“We’re definitely going to have to be up-tempo because the Mission League is incredibly strong this year,” Hilliard said. “One of the great things about our big guys is they run the floor as well as any little man, so we figured if you want to run, then we’re going to run and be long and near the rim when we get down to that end.”
The rival Loyola Cubs are lead by sophomore point guard Parker Jackson-Cartwright, who could develop into the state’s best lead guard of the past decade, according to ESPN.
Stopping Cartwright might be the toughest task this Wolverine squad will face in the Mission League.
“If I had the secret [to stopping Cartwright], and I could sell it, there would be a lot of teams around Southern California that would buy it,” Hilliard said. “While we may not be able to contend with Parker every time up and down the court, they have to find a way to stop big Zena because they don’t have a matchup for him, either.”
Last year, both matchups between Harvard-Westlake and Loyola were packed with fans beyond maximum capacity. To resolve this, the rivals will play each other at larger sites this year.
“We’ve always relied on the fans, both home and away, to help us through those games,” Hilliard said. “Now that they’re in big, neutral, sites, hopefully the fans will come out and support us there.”