Littleton confident about new season

Posted 11/23/08

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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Littleton confident about new season


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 said.

“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 better.”

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 so.

“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 All-Continental honors.

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 game.

“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 prospect.”

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 hoop.”

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 physically.”

Conference play begins Jan. 16, 2009 at Rangeview.


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