With four returning starters, including 6-foot-7 all league center Kade Cross, the Yosemite High Basketball team has lofty ambitions for the upcoming season. The team and second year head coach Aaron Eames look to make big improvements on their 6-19 (2-8 North Sequoia League) record last season.
Eames took over the Badger basketball program last December as interim coach due to the mid-season resignation of former head coach Stephen Lopez. YHS won two of its last four games, and Eames was named head coach at the end of the season.
Indications show the Badgers are ready for a breakout season.
YHS played their first exhibition game Nov. 21 at Sierra Pacific, winning 50-10. Sierra Pacific was without the services of some of its players who were still playing in the football playoffs. Last year Sierra Pacific won two D-IV playoff games before losing to eventual champs Immanuel.
Cross to break records and join 1,000 point club
The anchor of the Badgers is Cross, a three year starter who led the team last year in scoring with nearly 20 points per game, rebounds (nine pga), and blocked shots (three pga). Cross was named to the NSL first-team all-league team last year.
At the end of last season, Cross was ranked No. 2 in blocked shots, No. 9 in scoring, and No. 11 in rebounds in the Central Section. He scored 30 or more points three times last season, in what was one of the best performances by a center in YHS boys’ 40-year basketball history.
From a career standpoint, Cross is closing in on the YHS all-time record in rebounds and should join the 1,000-point club by the end of the season.
“We are ready for a great season,” Cross said. “As a team, we are way ahead of where we were last year. We worked really hard as a team to get stronger. We really know each other’s strength and weaknesses. For me, I worked on my post moves, shooting, and the weights. I concentrated on improving my vertical jump which will help me on the boards. We are so much deeper as a team this season, and physically and mentally tougher.”
“Kade continues to improve his game,” Eames said. “Kade has improved his shooting range, is a solid free-throw shooter, and has improved as a passer. Kade picked up some new skills at the Stanford Big Man camp this past summer. He will be more physical, and mentally tougher this year. He’s not getting pushed around. He may not get the scoring numbers like last year, because the team is much deeper offensively. I see his rebounding numbers even higher.”
Sophomore Ben Negley (6-foot-2 inches tall) will start at small forward. Negley got lots of varsity minutes last season. “Ben is very athletic,” Eames said. “He can run and defend inside and outside. He has all the tools.”
Junior Peter McLean (6-foot-4) will start his second season at power forward. McLean has a balanced game - He scored 144 points and had 148 rebounds (second on team) last season. Eames envisions McLean with a bigger scoring role this year.
“Peter has an excellent shooting touch,” Eames said. He is getting more polished offensively. His defensive play is outstanding. I would like to see him with a double-double each game. With Kade, Peter, and Ben we feel we have the best front line in the NSL.”
Then there’s the coach’s two sons. Junior Tristan Eames (6-foot) returns at point guard. Eames led YHS with 2.5 assists and was second in points at 7.4 per game last season.
“Tristan is our floor leader and a team co-captain with Kade,” said Coach Eames. “He has two years experience guiding the team. He will be much stronger defensively and has improved his outside shooting.”
Cannon Eames (5-foot-9) starts at shooting guard and will back up Tristan at point. YHS’s most accomplished long range shooter, Cannon connected on a team-leading 24 three-pointers last season, and averaged seven points per game. He was second in steals and shot 70% from the free-throw line. He did all this as a freshman varsity starter.
“Cannon will be more aggressive and won’t be timid,” Eames said. “He got stronger this past year which will improve his shooting range.”
“We have a lot of depth this year,” Eames said. “We have a strong group of backups who will get a lot of playing time. Junior guard Harry Thearle (6-foot) will provide solid backup at shooting guard, especially when Cannon is running point. Junior Alex Williams (6-foot-1) can back up at center or power forward. He got bigger and is in great shape after running running cross country. Alex is a physical player, and a poster child for our team to grow physically. We are looking for big things from Alex.”
Junior forward Trevor Peters (5-foot-10) can play small or power forward.
“Trevor can leap,” Eames said. “He has the highest vertical jump on the team. Trevor isn’t very tall, but he’s an explosive jumper.”
Sophomore guard Ty Peterson (6-foot-1) can bring the ball up, shoot, and play shut down defense.
“Ty brings a lot of energy for the entire team ... he brings toughness defensively and makes good decisions,” Eames said.
Minarets senior transfer DeAngelo Coffey (6-foot-1) could be a difference maker for the Badgers.
“DeAngelo will have to sit out for the first half of the season, due to transfer rules,” Eames said. “But when he hits the floor we expect him to be a factor. He is a high energy defender and rebounder and will really add solid depth to our front line.”
Turnaround began in summer
For Eames, the foundation for a Badger turnaround started this past summer.
“Success this year goes back to our hard work this summer,” Eames said. “We made big strides. The players have made a huge commitment to the program. We worked hard, we traveled and we competed against tough competition. We got stronger physically and mentally.
The Badgers played 36 games this summer.
“Our highlight was competing at the Best of the West Tournament in Cerritos,” Eames said. “Some of the best teams from Southern California were there. We beat Artesia by 12 points.” Eames said. “It was a huge confidence builder.”
“We also played at the Fresno City Summer Tournament, twice a week,” Eames said. “Essentially a D-I summer league, and we faced some of the best teams in the Central Section. After this summer, we definitely won’t be intimidated by anyone.”
The most successful head football coach in YHS history (two CIF titles), Eames also knows hoops. He was an all-star shooting guard at Santa Maria High before his college football career where he played quarterback at Azusa Pacific, and has a third CIF title to his credit - the 1976-77 YHS girls basketball team.
Besides the athleticism, the Badgers bring a lot of intelligence to the floor.
“This is a very smart team academically,” Eames said. “We expect seven or eight players to make the NSL academic team. Virtually all players take advanced courses and college prep. I am so proud to lead a great group of young men.”
Medley will coach JV team
Former Badger basketball standout Charley Medley will coach the JV team. One of the greatest boys players in YHS history, Medley is third all-time in points per season (525) and 3-pointers in a season (54). Medley’s teams were the most dominant in Yosemite boys’ basketball averaging 21 wins in Medley’s junior and senior seasons. Alex Garcia will intern as a student coach with Medley.