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Published on March 1st, 2017 | by Katie Osaki

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Boys basketball coach reaches 400th win in successful 2016-2017 season

The boys basketball team has long been a standing hallmark of the Samo sports department. Last year, the team fought through all of their regular season until they climbed to the very top and came out champions of CIF. This year, the team went through their season undefeated in league and closed their season at CIF quarterfinals.

Despite their loss, the team’s prior accomplishments stand strong. In his twenty-third year of coaching at Samo, James Hecht achieved 400 wins. In addition, the team has also received a sponsorship from the basketball apparel company Jordan, which is widely known as one of the best basketball shoe manufacturer in the business.

While on the surface, the Jordan sponsorship may seem to outshine the accomplishment of winning 400 games, the players feel that it is equally important.

“The 400 win mark is so huge for not only our team and our program but to Coach Hecht as well,” Rip Economou (’18) said. “He’s been coaching at Santa Monica for 23 years and if the two CIF rings don’t speak for themselves, then the 400 wins just further cements his legacy. It just gives me and the rest of the team motivation to continue to work hard so we can be great and remembered just like him.”

While the sponsorship inspired many, Hecht was concerned about the affect it would have on the mindset of the team. However, Marcus Gee (’17), along with the rest of his teammates were determined to stay vigilant and not let the victories get to their head in order to make their coach and school proud.

“I think that we are deserving of being sponsored because I believe that we are one of the best teams in So-Cal,” Gee said. “When we play the right way, I think that we can play with anyone. But even though they’ve given us these things we still have to be humble about it and stay hungry to win. That’s the only way we’re gonna keep moving up.”

Although their season was cut short against Cantwell-Sacred Heart Saint Mary High School, the team has high hopes for the future.

“We went undefeated in league, we went to third round of Division 1AA playoffs, which is a very hard division to play in,” Hecht said. “And I think we got better if we step back and look at our body of work from the start of the season to the end of the season, we improved, we improved in a lot of areas.”

Over the course of the season, the team has grown and improved their play, but will be losing eight seniors.

“We will miss the seniors dearly,” Hecht said. “Not only are they great basketball players, but will miss them and their families. You know it’s something that goes on every year. But we’re really excited for our lower level players and we’re confident they’ll move up and contribute.”

In the coming months, the team will condition and train, working towards a strong team for next season. According to Hecht, the boys need to work on individual skill sets which will help the team collectively.

“One of my main things from the beginning of the season was sharing the ball, so I’m going to keep emphasizing that,” Hecht said. “But the guys have shown tremendous work ethics, they are rearing  to go and get started on doing the weight room this week, they play they train they work hard and I’m proud of that.”

Although the team’s season has come to a close there are many young players that will be key for next year’s season.

“Not to sound cliche-ish but I hope we come in with a great attitude, great work ethic and the mindset that if we can just grow a little bit everyday that will result in great things,” Hecht said.
Teammate Cleon Gallien-Murphy (’17) shares his sentiment, and just like the rest of the team, was taken completely off-guard by the Jordan sponsorship, but was ecstatic about it.

“To be a part of and be witness to something as monumental as 400 wins is pretty cool. It’s not a feeling you have all the time,” Gallien-Murphy said. ”We worked hard for this, we worked together and hustled together. It’s satisfying getting recognized, but still I am so happy we got that. Throughout my years being here, I never thought we would be sponsored by Jordan, the Jordan. It’s just kind of crazy.”

A big concern of coach James Hecht was the affect these would have on the mindset the team would have on and off the court, he doesn’t want them to get over confident and then mess up when it counted. But member Marcus Gee (’17), along with every one of his teammates are determined to stay vigilant, not let the victories get to their head and making their coach and school proud.

“We first knew we were gonna be sponsored by Jordan back in November when we were invited to an event in Downtown LA where they unveiled all the teams in So-Cal that they were sponsoring,” Gee said. “We’ve gotten things from shoes, to warm-ups and shirts, which is cool, but we try not to let it affect our mentality towards the game.

“I think that we are deserving of being sponsored because I believe that we are one of the best teams in So-Cal,” Gee said. “When we play the right way I think that we can play with anyone. But even though they’ve given us these things we still have to be humble about it and stay hungry to win. That’s the only way we’re gonna keep moving up.”

The boys basketball team will continue playing throughout this season with hopes of achieving another CIF trophy.

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