BASKETBALL PREVIEW: Its Pre-Season Work Now Dunn, Damien Hopeful of Return to Playoffs

December 2, 2009
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Senior shooting guard Chris Adams connected on more than 100 3-point bombs last seasons, giving the Spartans a perfect complement to its strong inside game led by sophomore center Chris Reyes.

Senior shooting guard Chris Adams connected on more than 100 3-point bombs last seasons, giving the Spartans a perfect complement to its strong inside game led by sophomore center Chris Reyes.

 Matt Dunn, Damien’s head basketball coach has anything but the seven-year itch. In his 7th campaign for the Spartans, he still loves coaching at Damien and seems particularly taken with this year’s team.

“Our chemistry is better than it’s ever been,” Dunn said on the eve of Damien’s first game of the season against Chatsworth in the Glendora Tournament. “We really have had no non-basketball issues, which really helps keep your mind fresh as a coach. My young men are all here on time and they all work their tails off to boot.”

Last year, the team certainly proved hard work pays off. Sneaking into the playoffs, it made a long run before bowing out in the Section Division IIA semifinals. Two of his key players from that team return, sophomore 6-foot-7 center Chris Reyes and 6-foot-3 senior point guard Chris Adams.

“They are two very special young men and very talented players, so it’s fun going into a basketball season when you know you’ve got a couple of guys who can probably score a basket when you need one,” Dunn said.

They’ll be supported by senior guard Terrell Bolden, whom the coach expects to have a breakout year. “He has really mastered the art of working hard,” Dunn said, adding that he’s told practically everyone around that Bolden will be the area’s most improved player.

Outside his senior guards, Damien boasts a fairly young team. For instance, Dunn likes the potential of sophomore guard Clayton White, and juniors Kevin Mansour, JJ Pavia and Ryan Tatera and a host of others that “run 12 deep,” yet he understands they’re going to make mistakes, especially on the road in hostile, decibel-deafening gyms filled with thousands of screaming maniacs. “We’re certainly young in game experience,” Dunn said.

Interestingly, Dunn doesn’t set goals like winning league or earning a CIF championship. He’s more about the process than the result at this time in the season.

“We don’t really have a goal of winning a championship here at the beginning,” Dunn explained. “We’re going to try to get better every day and see where that puts us at the end.”

Damien ducks in a last practice before tipping off against Chatsworth High School.

Damien ducks in a last practice before tipping off against Chatsworth High School.

Of course, the momentum carrying over from last season’s late run certainly won’t inhibit the team’s chances and season-long maturation.

“The momentum has certainly carried over to our student body,” Dunn said. “There are a lot of guys on campus excited about the start of basketball season. We got to experience the whole deal last year, so it’s realistic to think that we could get back there again.”

For Dunn, who daily teaches five geometry classes in addition to his full-time basketball duties, he just loves being on campus. He sees himself not as survivor in the coaching ranks but as a “succeeder.”

“Preparation is key,” Dunn noted. “We’re big on the whole thing of ‘Prepare to succeed.’ I’ve always thought you can’t control if you’re the biggest or the strongest or the smartest, but you can always control how hard you work.”

In every game, Dunn expects his team to win the battle of the boards and be rewarded with more shots than their opponents, which can often spell the margin of victory.

Getting his players to buy into that sense of hustle, hard work and overachievement is what makes his experience at Damien so satisfying, said Dunn.

“I’m a Catholic school guy at heart,” said Dunn, who attended Jesuit in Sacramento. “I believe in this educational model, so it makes it really easy to coach here. We have true student athletes — guys who take their job in the classroom very seriously and a community that seriously supports them as well. That makes it a pretty easy place to work.”

That said, Dunn admitted he will be out to win every game.

“For now, we’ll focus on putting all the pieces together, to find the five best player that work together,” he said.

Sort of like solving a puzzle or one of those brain-teasing geometry problems he gives his students every day.


December 1, 2009, GLENDORA, CA — Getting 27 points from sophomore center Chris Reyes, Damien High School made its 2009-10 basketball debut a success by defeating Chatsworth High 49-38 in the first round of the Glendora Tournament. Reyes also had six blocks for the Spartans.

After taking an early 12-8 first-quarter lead, the Spartans pushed their advantage to 29-16 at half, at one point enjoying a 25-10 before the half-time buzzer. After two periods, Reyes had 12 of his 27 points and senior shooting guard Chris Adams pumped in 11 points.

In the third quarter, however, Damien turned stone cold, collecting only a pair of points on single free throws from Adams and Reyes. The dry spell allowed Chatsworth to tie the game at the end of the period, 31-31.

In the fourth, Damien settled down, getting some early buckets to lead 37-31, before closing out the contest 49-38.

“I thought it was a typical first game,” Damien head coach Matt Dunn said. “We got off to a good start, and then we were so excited I think we ran out of energy there for a little while. You get such a good adrenaline flowing, and then it’s hard to get it to go back on again. I could almost tell at half-time, I was a little worried, I wasn’t sure whether we’d be able to get our attention back up there, but we did.

“We made enough plays down the stretch. Your first game, any win’s a good one. We’ll take it.”

Dunn expected more offense from his players.

“I thought a lot of our shots were short, which I think means we were a little fatigued,  just from the excitement of playing the first game. It’s good to have that one over because it wasn’t very pretty.”

Dunn’s squad has learned its first early-season lesson: winning ugly is better than losing.

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