Rebuilding is something every basketball team goes through no matter what level it is. In the NBA, players get older, teams run their course, and it comes time to hit the reset button and build again from the bottom up.
In high school, players graduate and go off to college, leaving the underclassmen to pick up the mantle and see if they can live up to the legacy before them.
The Crossroads Roadrunners are hoping to do just that as they enter this season as a reloaded team. Gone are Shareef O’Neal, D.J. Houston, Ben Terry, Jay Davis, and Tamir Saban, all key players on last season’s state championship winning team.
Taking their place are quite a few young faces. It’s a challenge that head coach Anthony Davis is looking forward to. Last season was his first as a head coach and he had a roster that was ready to win now. This season, he’s got the task of grooming and getting to the point where they’re ready to win.
“It’s been great, me as a young coach just going back to developing that piece especially early. I need it, it’s really good for me and it helps me out,” Davis said. “It just starts with my young guys, and just doing it with the basics, the fundamentals. We graduated a lot, but just getting back with the young guys, the little stuff like culture, terminology, the little things like that and just building these guys up.”
One of the newcomers this season is freshman big man Henri Adiassa. Standing at 6-10, the young center has already turned in some dominant performances in his first few high school games, as well as a thunderous dunk that ended up going viral where he jumped over his defender.
Adiassa journeyed to the United States from his home country of Cameroon to pursue his dream of playing basketball. He’s widely regarded as one of the top prospects for the Class of 2022. Playing in front of the Crossroads home crowd in his first official high school basketball game, he couldn’t help but feel the butterflies in his stomach.
“It’s a bit hard, my first high school basketball game. I was scared at first but after I was okay, it’s just a game,” Adiassa said. “But I think I can bring a lot. My teammates have helped me a lot.”
In his first game, a win over Pacific Palisades High School, Adiassa put up 16 points and 18 rebounds. He followed that up in his next game with 16 points and 15 rebounds and the monster dunk.
Even though he’s a freshman, Adiassa has a very advanced skill set. He’s a traditional big man who plays in the paint. His footwork in the post is impressive and he’s incorporated the lost art of the hook shot into his game. He does, however, want to add a jump shot to his offensive arsenal.
“I’m a good post player, I like to play a lot in the post,” Adiassa said. “One part of my game I can improve on a bit is my jumper but in time it will get there.”
While the Roadrunners have a majority of younger players on the team, they do have a couple of upperclassmen to help steady the ship. One of them is junior guard Miles Ceballos who was a part of last season’s title team.
The son of former NBA player Cedric Ceballos, Miles is taking on a larger role this season both on the court as a player, and off the court as a leader.
“I feel like I can be a big brother on this team. Guys like Shareef [O’Neal] and D.J. [Houston], they played that role for me last year,” Ceballos said. “I feel like it’s my turn to play that role for the younger guys on this team.”
Ceballos has been one of the Roadrunners leading scorers throughout their first few games. He’s shown an ability to put the ball on the floor and attack the rim. He can also step out and shoot from the perimeter. He envisions himself as the vocal leader on the floor for his teammates.
While it’s still incredibly early in the season, he is impressed with what he sees from the rest of the guys on the team.
“I see a lot of growing we can do,” Ceballos said. “From the time we met in June, started fall practice, we’ve grown a lot. I feel like we can only get better.”
Davis agrees in that there is much room for growth and development, and he’s encouraged by a lot of what he’s seen in the early goings. The team’s defensive energy, in particular, has been one of the things that’s stood out to him.
In their opening win over Pacific Palisades, however, they let up a bit and allowed a small run late in the fourth quarter.
When we’re up, really just focus on ‘don’t let up,’ just keep going,” Davis said. “Since it’s so early in the season, we have so much stuff we need to work on. Just never letting up, just keep on putting our foot to their neck.”
And despite the youth on the roster, it’s never too much to have high expectations.
“I want to see us improve as a team, and maybe winning a state championship,” Ceballos said.
Adiassa echoed that sentiment.
“I’m trying to get a CIF championship like Shareef [O’Neal] and all of them did,” Adiassa said. “I’m trying to get mine in my freshman year.”
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