After a record-breaking season last year, in which his squad became the first boys basketball team in school history to go undefeated in league play en route to its first Frontier League title since 2007, Malibu High School basketball coach Bobby Tenorio is preaching a different set of priorities for the upcoming season: Maintain excellence, and build on those successes.
“We are excited. We want to build off of last season,” Tenorio explained. “I know it will be hard to win 18 games again but we want to be at a level where we are competitive every season from now on.”
It’s going to be a challenge. Last year, Malibu had a championship season as it went 18-8 overall and 10-0 in league. Normally, defending its Frontier League title would have been the main focus for this year. But thanks to California Interscholastic Federation rules based on competitive equity, which mandate that the top finisher in the Frontier League move up in competition, the Sharks were elevated in the off-season to the highly competitive Tri- Valley League. Formidable opponents such as Oaks Christian, Oak Park, Saint Bonaventure and Santa Clara now comprise the Sharks’ league schedule.
“We can’t set our goals too high. We need to be realistic,” Tenorio said. “We haven’t played teams like this. We will have our hands full but I think we can compete. We have the desire and heart to play against tougher teams. I want the guys to come in and just play hard and play tough.”
Junior Justin Holmes returns to lead the Sharks. The six-foot-six, 250-pound center averaged 18.2 points and 14.1 rebounds per game last season en route to being named the Most Valuable Player of the Frontier League. Holmes spent the summer honing his skills to prepare for the challenges that lie ahead this season.
“I love basketball. I’ve been conditioning since the summer so it’s fun to be back on the court,” Holmes said. “It’s been good getting to know these guys and bonding with them. I have to be aware of double and triple teams and set the offense up. When the offense goes through me, it usually works.”
Holmes had an eye-popping 20 double-doubles (double figures in points and rebounds in a game) out of a possible 26 contests last season. In the regular season opener last week against Jefferson in the Saint Monica Tournament, Holmes picked up where he left off and scored 32 points while grabbing 19 rebounds.
“Justin had a breakout season last year. He’s become 10 times better since then,” Tenorio said. “He has developed a nice jumper and his post game is polished. This is his team.”
Senior Will Rosenthal joins Holmes as one of only two returning starters from last year. Rosenthal, Holmes and junior guard Anthony Kodomichalos have been named team captains by Tenorio.
“Will has to bring senior leadership and step up as our captain. He needs to push the team and feed off of Justin,” Tenorio said. “Between the two of them, they will help us make it or break it. They are our key players. If we get something going between them, we will be pretty successful.”
Rosenthal, a rangy six-foot-three forward, brings experience, leadership and the ability to shoot from the outside or drive strong to the basket, which will aid the MHS offense.
The Sharks went 2-2 at the Saint Monica Tournament as they began their pre-season schedule. Rosenthal understands the significance of leading a young team by example. He scored 19 points recently in a 63-59 victory against King-Drew.
“I have to be a vocal leader out there. I need to improve my scoring from last year and step up this season,” Rosenthal said. “We are young and inexperienced. We have a lot of work to do.”
Kodomichalos, senior Andrew Yazdani and junior Bryan Salcedo return to add strength and skill to a solid backcourt. Frankie McGovern brings a deft shooting touch to the team despite being just a freshman.
Malibu will host Hueneme on Monday at 7 p.m. in a nonleague matchup before playing in the Clash on the Coast Tournament at Pacifica High School from Dec. 12-15, followed by a trip to Palm Springs for the MaxPreps Holiday Classic after Christmas.
“We have a lot of youth but they will bring excitement and hard work,” said Tenorio, who begins his fourth season at Malibu. “I’m also excited about getting this team to come together and mesh as one.”
“The biggest part for us is effort,” Holmes added. “We are not that deep this year, but if everyone brings 100 percent effort and knows their roles, I think we will be good.”