Student Viewpoint: The old and the new in Newman hoops

Editor’s note: Connor Williams is a senior at Cardinal Newman High School and plans to study journalism in college. If you are, or know of, a student at any North Coast school who is interested in writing a Student Viewpoint for PD Preps, please contact Eric Wittmershaus at eric wittmershaus [at] pressdemocrat [dot] com.


What happens when you lose something valuable, something you can’t live without? Panic usually is the first feeling to set in, but then after that? What does it mean for a team to lose its best player? John Wooden forbid its best two players!

These were the questions that the Cardinal Newman basketball team would have to face if it was going to be successful during its 2011-2012 campaign. The Cardinals would be moving forward from arguably one of the best guard duos in Newman history, and getting past the Xavier McCall and Bobby Sharp era would mean recreating the Cardinal offense through a smorgasbord of new key players.

This year, Coach Tom Bonfigli, recent winner of his record 601st game, would be returning only three seniors (Chris Cavalin, Nolan Forghani and Simon Gathuru) and two returning starters (Cavalin and junior Kenny Love). He’ll be trying to continue his winning ways with a fourth consecutive 20-win season, no small task in a North Bay League that should be more competitive throughout than in years past. Motivating the Cardinals through their preseason weights were the likes of Maria Carrillo, already 4-1, beating teams with their quick scoring and piling up point totals of 77 and 81 in two big wins.

“We’re ready to get on with our season already,” said the 6-foot-5 Forghani. “We’ve done all we can in preparation for games that now we just have to complete our assignments. Once we get a rhythm going, we should be in pretty good shape.”

I think its safe to say that Newman will play at its best when it’s found a rhythm, but what will happen until then? Certainly there will be some early struggles as an identity is found and playmakers emerge, right?

“Hopefully not,” laughed junior forward Justin Beach. “Quite a few of returning players from last year’s varsity group got important minutes throughout different parts of the season, so experience isn’t a concern. At this point, our only focus is to make sure we use all of our assets to their full potential. If we do that every game, we’ll be fine.”

Of course, it would be a dream to imagine that every game will go according to plan, but I like the Cardinals to respond to adversity well and rebound off of any early-season mishaps. (Winning the Rose City Tournament seems to be a decent start). Bet on junior point guard Tim McCullough to be a constant contributor on offense. He spends less time slicing through the paint and more time on the perimeter passing attack, but his best asset is his ability to take momentum from teams with his jump shot. McCullough balances the offense through another blooming star in Kenny Love, whose jumper is equally good. Love likes to handle the ball toward the middle of the court, which draws attention from his teammates, generally leaving them open, and allows him to move the ball around freely, vital to the Cardinals’ offense.

Cavalin, Forghani and junior Nolan Sheehan will provide the power under the basket, something that I felt wasn’t capitalized in the Newman games yet. The Cardinals’ rarely let their forwards and center post up and impose their will on their opponents. This will prove more important as games get tighter during the year.

I like to make comparisons, and I find an intriguing one with the 2008-2009 team that went a meager 28-2. Their only seniors were Danny Binz and Tony Baldocchi (two seniors were added once the football season ended). I’d like to wait a couple more games to make any predictions, but there is no doubt this year’s team has potential and a lot of it. Potential to make us forget about the players lost. Potential to make exciting things happen.