When Ray Van Heukelem took over as head boys basketball coach at Littleton High School last season, his first priority was to instill a new attitude …
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When Ray Van Heukelem took over as head boys basketball coach at
Littleton High School last season, his first priority was to
instill a new attitude into the program.
After two miserable seasons during which Littleton combined to
win six games and struggled with confidence and chemistry, Van
Heukelem brought a new approach that was team-centric and, simply
put, began to change the culture of Lions basketball.
Progress was certainly made as Littleton went 9-15 a year ago
and qualified for the 5A state tournament.
“This team used to have an attitude that if they got behind they
couldn’t come back, and they’d give up. Our kids needed to know we
could be in every game and we could get close to these teams and
come out on top. When we got into that state tournament it showed
this year’s team we can do it, and now that’s a goal,” Van Heukelem
“Our whole program is better right now. They believe in what
we’re doing, but also the chemistry is so much improved. They are
all single-minded when they come to practice: they all want to get
Now it’s time for the Lions to take another step forward, and,
according to the players, this is the year they expect to do
“I think we can be a good team and be a top four or five team in
the Continental Conference this year,” senior Mark Mamunes said.
“Other teams don’t think we can be that good, but I thought we
could be good last year and this year we have 10 guys returning and
a chance to be great. If we get our stuff together, we’re going to
be a good team.”
Mamunes is expected to play a key role toward that end as he is
the Lions’ top returning scorer, having averaged 12.3 points per
game last season. A crafty shooting guard, Mamunes hit 23 of 75
3-pointers and shot 44 percent from the floor. He also led the
defense with 2.7 steals per game and earned Second Team
Also expected to be a threat is senior swingman Brian Holland.
At 6 feet, 2 inches, Holland is built like a forward but possesses
great hands and the athletic ability to play guard and will see
time at either position this season. As a junior last season
Holland averaged 10 points and led the team with 4 rebounds per
“We’re already past where we were three quarters of the way
through last year, so we should be pretty good coming into this
season,” Holland said. “Now having a year under Coach Van, we’re
familiar with his offense and everyone’s already clicking a little
bit. We’re hoping to shock a few schools. I don’t think teams are
going to expect us to come out the way that we can.”
Rounding out the backcourt players will be senior Wilson Smart,
juniors Noah Gaumer and Kyle McCaslin, and sophomore Tevin Tyson.
Smart and McCaslin are returnees who saw action in almost every
game last season while Gaumer appeared in three. Gaumer is
currently nursing a football injury, but when he returns to action
is expected to play point guard for the Lions.
Van Heukelem is high on Tyson, a newcomer to varsity.
“He hadn’t played a lot of basketball other than on the
playground, but we saw potential in him with his great burst of
speed and he can jump,” the coach said. “He’s learning how to shoot
well and he is the future of this program because he has the
potential to be All-State and beyond. Once he gets his confidence
and we can get him to take over a game, he’ll be a Division I
In the frontcourt, Littleton features a pair of 6-5 big men in
senior Kevin Clarry and junior Lee Hosey. Hosey is a true center
expected to improve Littleton’s rebounding capability with his 6-10
wingspan, while Clarry was a full-time varsity player a year ago,
leading the team with 1.4 blocks per game but only scoring 5 points
and grabbing 3 rebounds per game — numbers Van Heukelem expects
will improve this winter.
“Kevin is real versatile. He can play with his back to the
basket but he’s probably tougher when he’s outside,” the coach
said. “He has a nice 3-point shot, but if you come and guard him he
can drive it to the hoop, and he’s very strong when he goes to the
Marcus Perry and Elvis Civic are a pair of junior forwards who
round out the varsity roster. Perry will see plenty of minutes and
may even start. The coach touted him for being fundamentally sound
and developing a drive and jump shot to go along with his 3-point
touch. Civic is a newcomer to varsity.
Littleton will open the season Dec. 2 at Palmer High School in
one of three out-of-town tournaments the Lions will compete in
throughout the month. Because of this new two-year commitment that
encompasses 10 games to open the season, the Lions will play only
six of their 23 games at home and will not play their first home
game this season until Jan. 9, 2009 against John F. Kennedy.
“There won’t be any easy games, but I told the kids we need to
develop that mental toughness and that’s part of why we’re doing
this,” Van Heukelem said. “The Continental Conference is a tough
one to play in and we need to be prepared mentally and
Conference play begins Jan. 16, 2009 at Rangeview.
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