Junior Lewis Stallworth is part of a group of underclassmen leading Hart boys basketball.
The Hart boys basketball team is always expected to contend for a league championship, or at least place in the top three. Last year the Indians finished 17-11 overall, 6-4 and third place in league. Two years ago, in what was arguably a rebuilding year, Hart finished 13-13 and 5-5 in league. Tom Kelly is entering his 13th year as the Indians head coach, and at 13-0 and ranked fifth in the CIF Southern Section Division 3-AAA poll, Kelly admits this could be a very special year.
“Great group of kids, they enjoy playing with each other,” Kelly said. “They hang out together… They’re just a fun group to be around. (And they can) get up and down the court. This is the fastest team we’ve ever coached, the most explosive team we’ve ever coached. If we can defend like we’ve done traditionally, then we can be pretty special.”
Just three season ago, the Indians went 0-10 in league, the first time Hart went winless in Foothill League play. Even though Kelly jokes he is still scarred by the memory, he was impressed with how hard his players wanted to work in the off-season that year, which ultimately built this undefeated team going into 2013.
“I think this group is way more talented and we’re way deeper,” Kelly said. “We’ve had so much fun coaching them the last three years, even the year we didn’t win a lot of games, we had a great group of kids. We just didn’t win enough games.”
This season, like last, the Indians are led by youth, most notably sophomore guard Myles Franklin and junior guard Lewis Stallworth.
“Lewis is an amazing player,” Kelly said. “He’s in the gym when he’s not practicing with us, when he’s on his own he is practicing at the athletic club or L.A. Fitness or the sports complex. The kid is just a gym rat and wants to play and get better. He has the goal to play at the college level and he’s going to do it.”
And when you ask Coach Kelly about Franklin…
“Same. Ditto. Just as explosive, a year younger so we’re going to have him for three. Everything I just said about Lewis, ditto for Myles.”
“I believe we go 13 deep,” said Stallworth. “Every guy can come in and contribute, so if one guy is not having a good game one guy can come in and have a great game. I believe in our depth and we have trust. Last year we didn’t have a lot of trust in our teammates. This year we all trust each other and we do a lot of team bonding things. I believe all my teammates are good.”
“And it’s not always in the scoring column either,” Kelly said. “It could be getting extra rebounds, taking a charge, it could be just playing good defense. Stuff that won’t show up in the stat sheet we’re doing.”
On any given night, any number of players, starters and those off the bench alike, can be scoring in double digits. It might be Stallworth or Franklin, but it’s also likely the Indians will be led by Davis Koppenhaver, Niko Cruz or Andrew MacArthur.
“I believe in our bench… Andrew MacArthur coming off our bench is critical to the team because he comes in and makes all the hustle plays,” Stallworth said. “Like he’ll go for the loose rebounds, dive on loose balls, make the extra pass, attack the rim hard. So I believe he’s a key factor this year.”
Tom Kelly is not the type of coach to brag or make predictions about his team, so for him to say this group of Indians could be doing something special this year means a lot.
“We’ve got to keep getting better and we’ve got to be hungry and not fed,” Kelly said. “We can’t relax on how well we’re playing, we’ve just got to want to get better. And then you know the playoffs come and you’ve got to hope for a good draw and get lucky in the playoffs too.”
“I believe this is our year now,” Stallworth said. “I believe it’s time for us to show what we have. We’re a younger team and I believe that we can do it and we’re confident. So I believe we can beat anyone.”