Back in early December, just two days before Sierra Canyon (Chatsworth, Calif.) was set to open its season against Shadow Mountain (Phoenix) in the Spalding Hoophall Classic West, Trailblazers guard Cassius Stanley took a break from stroking jump shots inside the posh Sierra Canyon gym, plopped down on the bleachers and made a bold prediction.
“We’re gonna win the title,” Stanley said. “Just watch.”
Stanley, a five-star prospect, made the assertion knowing two things: The Open Division is widely regarded as California’s most grueling and that he wouldn’t be able to join his team for 30 days under transfer relocation rules.
Stanley was one of six newcomers to the team, four of the other newbies just happened to be the sons of former NBA stars like Scotty Pippen Jr., son of Hall of Famer Scottie Sr.; Duane Washington Jr., son of former NBA player Duane Sr. and nephew of 18-year retired L.A. Lakers star Derek Fisher; Kenyon Martin Jr., son of 15-year retired NBA veteran Kenyon Martin Sr.; and Terren Frank, son of former NBA player Tellis Frank.
That’s 11 NBA titles between the group’s fathers and uncles, the most, by far, of any roster in the country, making Stanley’s preseason prediction seem slightly less lofty if you buy in to the idea of championship pedigree.
On Saturday, Stanley backed up his words scoring 23 points to lead Sierra Canyon past Sheldon (Sacramento, Calif.) 75-62 at Golden 1 Center.
“We worked so hard this season and we’ve been through so much, people wouldn’t believe it,” Stanley said. “We had talent, but in this division everyone is strong and no one really thought we could get it done, but we knew.”
Stanley said the team bypassed the typical chemistry concerns any newly assembled team would face by creating genuine friendships off the court and never losing sight of the ultimate goal.
“We’ve been so focused on winning that we sort of blocked everything else out,” said Stanley, a junior. “We just kept all of the distractions away and kept our goals in front of us. That’s why we looked like we’ve been playing together for years. We just didn’t let distractions in.”
That alone is quite a feat for a school which enrolls the children of Hollywood A-Listers like Kevin Hart, Anthony Anderson, Will Smith, Sean “Diddy” Combs, Kris Jenner and Jamie Foxx.
Add in the fact that everyone from Kanye West to the Kardashians have been courtside at their home games this season and the Trailblazers’ laser focus gets even more impressive.
“People think that’s hard to block out, but it’s really not,” said Pippen, a junior guard who scored 21 points in the win. “Most of us are used to being around or at least seeing celebrities so to go to school with their kids is just normal to us. We knew what we wanted to accomplish and that’s a credit to Coach (Andre) Chevalier.”
No word yet on whether the Trailblazers are planning to enlist one of their A-List friends connections to perform at a celebratory party, but Pippen and Stanley are already confident about the prospects for a repeat.
“I feel like we can do it again,” Pippen said. “As long as no one leaves and we stay healthy I’m pretty confident that we can do it again. We’re already talking about it.”
Added Stanley: “I said it this year and I’m saying it again now, we’re gonna win another one next season.”
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