With Talent, Depth, Experience And No Losses In Nearly Two Years, Campolindo Boys Basketball Opens As NorCal’s Team To Beat •
PICTURED ABOVE: Campolindo Senior Guard Shane O’Reilly. (Berry Evans III photos)
When the Campolindo High boys basketball team opens its season against Dublin in the eighth and final game of the NorCal Tip-Off Classic on Nov. 27 at Newark Memorial High School, it will have been more than 21 months since the two extremely successful East Bay programs squared off.
The last meeting between the two came on Feb. 26, 2020, in the North Coast Section Open Division semifinals — it’s the last time Campolindo lost a game.
Following that night, Campolindo won four straight to reach the CIF Div. I state championship game that never got played due to COVID. Then in an abbreviated season last spring, Campolindo went 15-0 and finished atop of SportStars’ Final NorCal Top 20 rankings.
And that’s where the Cougars will begin the 2021-22 season.
In addition to a current 19-game winning streak, Campolindo basketball coach Steven Dyer returns nine players from last season’s squad. Many of those returners are three- or four-year varsity players as well.
Dyer, however, is quick to point out that nothing is turn-key.
“Every group is different,” the coach said over the phone nine days before the team’s opening game with Dublin. “This group is still trying to find its identity. We didn’t lose a lot, but we did lose some great leaders. Everyone knows Emmanuel (Callas) which is obvious. But Chase Bennett and Max Weaver were both three-year varsity guys who never had gaudy stat lines but knew their roles to a T and did everything that was asked of them.
“We’ve got a lot of talent on this team. But I’m trying to find those guys who can do the little things that others have done the last two or three years in order to win.”
The frontline talent resides in recent St. Mary’s College-signee, 6-3 guard Aidan Mahaney, and Cade Bennett — the son of Mahaney’s soon-to-be collegiate coach, Randy Bennett. With the graduation of Callas, Cade Bennett is the top returning scorer from the spring. He averaged 12.6 points to go with 4.1 rebounds and 3.3 assists per game.
Meanwhile, Mahaney was able to play in just six games last spring while battling various injuries. And according to Dyer, he’s still working though some.
“He’s still battling some ankle stuff that he had last spring,” Dyer said. “We do anticipate having him soon, but we don’t want to try and put a specific date on it.”
When Mahaney is healthy, though, he can influence the game in every phase. In the meantime, Bennett, 6-foot-6 senior post Matt Radell and 6-3 junior guard Shane O’Reilly will likely be the initial spark plugs for the Cougars. There’s also Logan Robeson, a junior who was starting toward the end of his freshman year before missing last spring.
Also, now might be a good time to mention that the Campolindo junior varsity also went 15-0 last spring. Sophomores Tyler Bergren and Dylan Mansour led that team and are now part of a very deep bench for Campolindo.
As the team’s opener nears, Dyer says his top focus with this group is on the defensive side of the ball.
“Defense, defense, defense,” he said. “We knew we can be pretty good on offense. We’ve got guys who can score the ball. We were elite on defense last year, maybe one of the best I’ve had. We need this group knowing that side of the court is the most important when you want to win and it matters most.”
With their name next to the No. 1 in most rankings, there won’t be many games that don’t matter for the Cougars this season.