Head coach Steven Pinchback enters his second year at San Marcos high school with the intention of continuing the reconstruction process of the boys basketball program.
The Rattlers finished last season with a 15-19 overall record that saw slight improvements from the year prior. Pinchback has no shortage of confidence in his squad entering the 2020-21 campaign.
“Pretty soon we will be the city of champions,” Pinchback said. “The guys have been working all summer. It’s part of the process to get to where we’re going.”
While the Rattlers are definitely excited about their talented young core and the future, there are some pivotal contributors that graduated in 2020.
Key Exits: Josh DeLeon, Sam Johnson, Joey Hernandez, CJ Valencia
The Rattlers lost a talented senior class that possessed chemistry on and off the floor. Josh DeLeon led the team in points and finished as one of the district’s leading scorers.
Sam Johnson provided San Marcos with energy both mentally and physically and was a big presence on the boards. The “three-and-D” wing duo of starters Joey Hernadez and CJ Valencia excited as well.
Key Returners: Kaden Gumbs, Jon Vega, Malik Presley, Caleb Williams
There’s a reason Pinchback is so excited about the future in San Marcos. The majority of the talent on their roster last year was in their freshman tenure, with four starting throughout the season.
The only thing that changes this year is that they’re classified as sophomores. 247sports, the nation’s leading high school recruiting website, ranks sophomore forward Malik Presley as the fourth-best player in the state of Texas and the 49th ranked player in the country in his class. Presley enters his second season after a highlight-filled summer full of dunking on people.
Assistant coach Jason Napoli believes that sophomore point guard Kaden Gumbs is “the most underrated point guard in Texas, if not the nation.” Gumbs also had a successful summer playing against top talent from around the state, and of course, throwing lobs to Presley.
Gumbs has a great feeling about their chemistry and potential heading into the upcoming season.
“Our chemistry is really good right now,” Gumbs said. “I’ve been playing with those guys since we were little. Me, Malik, Caleb, we all played together and we just brought Mateus up. We got some other additions… it’s going to be a good year.”
Junior guard Caleb Williams is in store for a boost in minutes following his mid-season promotion to varsity last year where he became a key role player and eventual starter. Williams’ improved role is a product of his scoring and passing ability, so it’s no surprise Williams’ goal for this season is to get better on the other side of the ball.
“I want to get better defensively, moving laterally and up and down the floor,” Williams said. “I’ve been working for this since Freshman year.”
Key Additions: Mateus Perkins, Grayson Harris, Mattayoi Montgomery
Perkins, Harris and Montgomery are just a few of the newest weapons added to San Marcos’ toolkit.
Last season saw the emergence of the “Fab Four” of Gumbs, Presley, Vega, and Isaiah DeLeon. Now, the Rattlers are looking to see a breakout from the bench and its role players.
Presley praised his new teammates for their efforts throughout the fall basketball league while a few players fulfill their football duties.
“Last year we had Jon [Vega] and Isiah [DeLeon], without them two, people had to pick up the rebounding,” Presley said. “Grayson [Harris] coming from JV last year, he definitely has been stepping up rebounding and taking charges for the team.”
Nine of the twelve non-district games for the Rattlers are scheduled against teams that advanced in last year’s UIL playoff tournament. Pinchback says this is “what the kids wanted,” and that he “has no interest in playing games we think we’ll win,” because “that won’t help” his team.
Napoli also points out the toughness of the non-district games.
“I’m just looking at our non-district schedule right now and it’s brutal,” Napoli said. “We’re going to definitely answer some questions here in the next month before we hit our district season.”
Pinchback and his staff hope the preparation during non-district play builds momentum heading into a difficult slate for the remainder of the season.
“The districts that we’ve been in, this one and the one we left, they’re just two of the toughest districts in this region,” Pinchback said. “If you’re lucky enough to make the tournament and you get to have the opportunity to play a playoff game, you’ve earned it in this district. I’ve been here before, I’m excited to be back.”
The main goal for San Marcos this season is simple: take down Westlake. The Chaparrals enter 2020 as the five-time defending district champions with a combined regular-season record of 70-2 in district play during their reign.
“We’re preparing for Westlake and the other teams in our district,” Pinchback said. “We want to be the guys to stop that streak. Why not us? We’ve started to build this monster and now it’s about making everyone believe in what we got going.”
The San Marcos boys basketball season begins tomorrow in Laredo at 1:00 p.m. against the United Longhorns. Coverage of Rattler athletics can be found all season long on @KTSWSports on Twitter.
Featured Image by Texas State Athletics