Coaches and athletes at Mountain House High School will take another step this winter in the creation of a student-athlete culture on the new campus.
The 2014-15 basketball season brings junior varsity and freshman boys teams and a junior varsity girls team to the school, which has freshmen and sophomore classes this year. Boys and girls teams will begin with a series of tournaments and then play in the Trans Valley League.
Mountain House boys
Scott McDonald, the junior varsity boys coach, expects that hard work will compensate for inexperience on the new Mustang teams.
He has a few experienced players among the nine sophomores and three freshmen on the JV team, and many are learning the game.
“They want to get better every single day, and they have that work ethic and mentality to get better, and we’re going to,” McDonald said.
Sophomore Samir Kazimi said the team was enthusiastic well before its first game, which will be today at the Freedom High Tournament in Oakley.
“We’re making history,” he said. “I feel like we could do well. We just have to work hard.”
Sophomore J.D. Dike, who played basketball during his freshman year at St. Mary’s High in Stockton, also feels fortunate to originate a new program.
“We’re going to start off a legacy,” he said. “This year will be a good year, and we’re going to start off so students don’t forget this year, our first year.”
McDonald, a substitute teacher at Mountain House High, brings coaching experience that includes the past year at California High in San Ramon and previous coaching experience at Livermore High. He played basketball at Castro Valley High and St. Mary’s College in Moraga.
He took the job at Mountain House High because of his desire to help a program grow from the earliest stages.
“More than anything, I love seeing where we start and where we finish in those four months, just seeing the improvement,” McDonald said.
Mountain House girls
Coach Reno Ursal has known some of the Mountain House Mustangs girls since they were fifth-graders at Bethany School, where Ursal coached beginning players
“I’ve watched this group grow up, and it’s exciting to be part of the next part of the journey, high school,” he said.
He and assistant coach Pang Kol will lead a group of players who are young even for a JV team, with 10 freshmen and two sophomores.
“We may have some growing pains, but we’re going to fight through them and we’re going to compete,” Ursal said.
Before arriving in Mountain House, where he also coaches the Mountain House-based Wolverines AAU basketball teams, Ursal coached at Encinal High in Alameda. Kol coached at Orestimba High in Newman and has also coached AAU basketball.
Ursal added that now that his players are in high school, he wanted to see them build a student-athlete culture.
“As first-year coaches, we’re creating that expectation, which is exciting, because I have high standards for how they practice, how they act.”
Sophomore Jenessa Pena, who played at Kimball High as a freshman, knows Ursal through the Wolverines.
“What I like about the team is that everybody is dedicated,” she said.
Freshman Mariana Holtz, one of Ursal’s players since she was in fifth grade, said her teammates knew how important their role was as the first Mustang girls team.
“It just makes me feel like we’ve got to prove ourselves,” she said. “I think that we’re going to give it our all this season.”