Winning Ways Start with Freshman Success

January 6, 2010
Share this story:
Bonita freshman coaches from left, Eddie Parra and Mark Miller.

Bonita freshman coaches from left, Eddie Parra and Mark Miller.

Lately, Bonita has been boasting several winning teams. The varsity girls’ volleyball team enjoyed a spectacular season making it all the way to the CIF finals, and currently both the school’s varsity girls and boys’ basketball teams are ranked No. 2 in the valley, according to the Daily Bulletin’s most recent poll (Jan. 6, 2010).

But for outright winning, you might have to look down to the freshman ranks, where Mark Miller, Eddie Parra and Daniel Lai coach the Bonita freshman basketball team, something the trio has done the last several years. Over the last three, their teams have lost a total of three games, with two of those coming this year. The baby Bearcats were runners-up to Chino Hills in their own just completed tournament at Bonita High, and Chino Hills is a much larger school with a greater pool of athletes to draw from.

Yesterday, the Bearcats went back to work, dismantling a scrappy San Dimas team 64-38, and the Bearcats’ were missing their top big man Ryan Ramirez.

“It’s a very good group,” said Miller, whose son C.J. is one of the stars on the varsity team. “They are very hard working. They have a lot of puzzle pieces that they’re still trying to figure out how to put everything together.”

Miller is speaking modestly. He and his staff are experts at taking an allegedly ordinary team at the start of the season and molding them into an unbeatable, extraordinary unit by season’s end.

No Superstars, But Superstar Coaching

“Rarely at Bonita do we get superstars, and this year is no exception,” said Miller who played at both the college and professional level. “So, we’re proud of the way they’re finding how to work together and play hard and play tough and play smart and play unselfishly.”

A big part of the trio’s job is putting the players on a path of improvement that starts with the first day of freshman practice and carries through to the last tip of their senior year.

“You will never see more improvement than you see at the freshmen level,” Miller said, which is one reason he so enjoys coaching the ninth grade class. “Why you might not win all you games, it’s fun to see where they start and where they finish up.”

Every season Miller and his staff face three key coaching challenges: 1) help their players unlearn bad habits and replace them with solid fundamentals, 2) learn the complicated Bonita offense used by the varsity and 3) play defense and rebound.

As for completing the puzzle, the coaching staff likes the pieces it has to work with.

Against San Dimas, Riley Brungard, one of the team’s captains, poured in 16 points, cashing in on a number of mid range jumpers. “He’s one of our better decision makers,” Miller said.

At the guard position, the Bearcats boast a lot of quickness in the likes of Karlik Clayton (No. 4), Joey Hubbard (No. 3) and Garrett Chow (No. 11). Billy Karim (No. 12) and Dylan Hensley (No. 10) further bolster Bonita’s guard play. Mark Salsa (No. 2) is another good decision maker adding balance to the Bonita attack.

Playing closer to the basket, Bonita displays equal versatility with Ryan Ramirez (No. 35), co-captain Brian Mahoud (No. 22), Josh Resendez (No. 21) and Spencer Hoff (No. 32).

“Brian can play inside or out, and has a good-facing-the-basket game,” Miller noted. “Spencer is just a beast inside; he’s working on his shooting touch, but he’s as physical as they come. Josh has a real nice post-up game.”

Taking the Long View

Miller and staff have been around long enough to know that players who might not see a lot of action now may rise up to be the stars of the future.

“We have a lot of kids with great potential and athleticism,” Miller said. “Lots of kids show up at the freshman level and sort of dominate but never really make it to the varsity level because they’ve already matured and developed so we continually look for kids who have tremendous potential athletically but may need to round out their basketball skills. A lot of times, those kids go on to great things at Bonita.”

For instance, Brad Ko (No. 2) has come on strong to impress the coaches. “Brad Ko has done really well,” Miller said. “He’s probably our most improved player at this point.”

Understanding how players develop, Bonita casts a wide net, as far as trying to give each player a chance to shine and gain game experience. On Tuesday, Coach Parra went deep into bench in the blowout against San Dimas, with a number of players putting points in the scorebook.

Even with the start of league play, adjustments continue. The coaches are still adjusting to their players and the players are adjusting to playing a higher level of basketball. They’re not playing City League or club basketball anymore. “A lot of times, our freshman players don’t know what they can quite do yet,” Miller admitted.

But one thing is pretty clear, through all the learning, growth and development, Miller and his coaching staff just keep winning at a remarkable rate.

Bonita Boys’ Freshman Roster

Joey Hubbard

Brad Ko

Ryan Saldivar

Mark Salsa

Riley Brungard

Karlik Clayton

Garrett Chow

Bryan Mahoud

Josh Resendez

Billy Karim

Robbie Ramirez

Spencer Hoff

Dylan Hensley

Ryan Ramirez


Leave a Reply