SportStars Magazine

James Logan Basketball: Colt Fusion

James Logan Basketball, Brett Thompson

With Quickness, Shooting Prowess, Depth And A Defense-First Mentality, James Logan Basketball Is Aiming To Reach Its Second State Final In Three Years •

You might think a team would be nervous. James Logan High’s boys basketball had been in control for most of its late December home game against Stuart Hall-San Francisco on a Saturday night in Union City.

James Logan Basketball, Brett Thompson

Brett Thompson is the senior leader for a Colts team that thrives on up-tempo play and defense. (Jean-Paul Toshiro photos)

But now, in the early stages of the third quarter, the Colts had seen their once 12-point lead whittled down to six.

No worries here. Brah’Jon Thompson buried a 3-pointer. Then, after Tomas Wolber missed a trey at the other end, Malcolm Steadman whipped the ball to Brett Thompson for another 3-pointer. The lead was back up to 12 and James Logan went on to a 77-61 victory.

The Colts sat 7-4 at the winter break, taking a four-game winning streak into the start of Mission Valley Athletic League play on Jan. 4. Outside of a bit of a hiccup at the Gridley Invitational, James Logan looks like it’s ready to make some noise.

“To win state,” said Brah’Jon Thompson when asked the team’s goals. The 2016-17 James Logan basketball team reached the California Interscholastic Federation Division I championship game, losing to Roosevelt-Eastvale by nine. 

It’ll be a combination of a smothering defense, an uptempo, balanced offense and the outstanding play of the Thompson cousins that gets the Colts back to a CIF final. Especially the defense.

 

“When we play those good players, we just go at them and play hard and try to take no possessions off on defense,” Brah’Jon Thompson said.

Said Brett Thompson, “We know if we stop teams from scoring, then we win games. Simple as that.”

James Logan Basketball, Brett Thompson

The Thompson cousins, Brett (0) and Brah’Jon, share a brief exchange during the Colts’ season-opener against Campolindo-Moraga on Nov. 24.

Brett Thompson is the leader, a 5-foot-10 senior with a mop of blond hair flopping around as he runs up and down the court. He’s a deadly shooter and a terrific athlete. Logan basketball coach Melvin Easley said Brett Thompson can play just about any sport.

“He’s a really talented athlete,” Easley said. “I heard he’s a better baseball player. He came mid-season in football and started. I went to his first game and the kid scored three touchdowns. Varsity level. He just walks in.”

Brah’Jon Thompson is also 5-10, a year younger and also deadly from outside.

“He’s not the level of Brett, but he’s getting there,” Easley said. “He is definitely a dynamic player. His defense is coming.”

The starting lineup is filled out by Steadman, Daniel Combs and Gabriel Hawkins.

“Steadman is our long wing,” Easley said of his 6-6 senior. “Malcolm is really a guard and we play him in awkward wing positions. We know that we can also put him in the mid-post and he can turn around and score. Very quick, very dynamic. Gives us some kind of advantage because he can dunk the ball. Malcolm is above the rim.”

As for the 6-3 senior Combs, “He’s kind of our big guy underneath. We don’t have a big, we consider him a power forward, we don’t consider him a center.

“Daniel’s one of those guys who’s always on to the next play. And that’s my motto: we’re on to the next play.”

James Logan Basketball, Gabriel Hawkins

Senior forward Gabriel Hawkins is a scoring threat both inside and outside the paint.

Finally, there’s Hawkins, a 6-4 senior.

“A lot of people, they sleep on Gabriel,” Easley said. “He can hit that three. He’s very dangerous inside and outside. When I get Gabe in the mid-post area, and people 2-3 us, that’s a thing to watch.”

Easley called Hawkins a “sneaky bully,” and one who keys the offense.

“He can hit that mid-post and he can score on you from that mid-post. The game has changed a lot from where everybody was, ‘Oh I need a low-post guy.’ Or (Gabe can score) from a high-post.

“The mid-post is in play because the guard is dynamic up top. He can spin on you, his favorite move is that nice little spin, and he can finish.”

The Colts opened their season with a 69-64 win over Campolindo-Moraga. However, they dropped their next two, to Salesian and Modesto Christian. At the Gridley Invitational, James Logan lost two of three, although again against top competition: Sheldon-Sacramento and Dublin. Incidentally, those four teams comprised the Top 4 of the SportStars NorCal Top 20 Rankings when the calendar turned to 2019.

Still, the Gridley Tournament showing led to a re-focusing of the Logan basketball team.

James Logan Basketball, Malcolm Steadman

At 6-foot-6, Malcolm Steadman is the tallest member of the starting lineup, but he can play any position.

“I’ve got to slow them down,” Easley said. “Individually, they’re dynamic. As a team, they’re starting to gel and realize what they can do together. I put that on Brett. ‘Look at your team. Know exactly who can do what.’”

That includes studying game film, often using Google Classroom. Players are asked to write up reports on the film.

“It gives me a chance to think about how they’re seeing the game,” Easley said. “If you think you know everything in this game, then it’s time to for you to get out of this game. I get to see what they’re seeing, their mindset, how they saw that player play when they watched the video. It brings a different dynamic to how we coach.”

Any future coaches on the roster? Chase Fitzpatrick, a 6-0 senior, often writes up the most detailed reports.

“He tried out every year,” Easley said of Fitzpatrick. “Didn’t make it until this year. He got an opportunity, he got a little bit better.

“I know he’s going to be a coach. He analyzes film and he’s here after practice longer than anybody else. He’s here before practice, and he gives his feedback to everybody. I want them to talk about it. It spurs that basketball conversation. You want them to talk about the basketball.”

James Logan Basketball, Brah'Jon Thompson

Brah’Jon Thompson tries to take a charge against Campolindo’s Aidan Mahaney.

As for the MVAL, Easley said the league will be good this year and several teams will have the opportunity to accomplish big things come North Coast Section playoff time. The players are looking to make the CIF tournament, but Easley wants them to take it one game at a time.

He also can’t help wanting another shot at Dublin, which has been one of the better NCS programs of late.

The first meeting came at the Gridley Invitational, with the Gaels winning 72-60. A holiday tournament means games on three consecutive days — in this case, on the middle day. A playoff matchup will give coaches a couple of days of preparation.

“Dublin shocked us up there,” he said. “Couldn’t really prepare for them like I wanted to. Didn’t know we were going to play them. Didn’t realize that (Jaden Saunders) could shoot like that. We tried what we call a 12. It’s a like a man/help defense, let him shoot. … Uh-huh. He hit like four or five, right there, bam bam bam.

“… I really want that game back.”

But until then, it’s on to the next game, on to the next play.

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