Members of the Golden Secondary School senior boys’ basketball team hesitate to say that this is a rebuilding year, but it’s clearly a team in transition as it begins life without graduated stars such as Saje Gosal, Neal Randhawa and Josh Hiraoka.
While the team hasn’t quite developed into the juggernaut that it was a year ago, the early returns have been positive following a successful tournament in Canmore.
Led by returning players Meva Dhami, Kiran Gosal and John Oszust, the Eagles lost a heartbreaking overtime game against Holy Trinity Academy, one of the top ranked teams in Alberta. Golden then had its way with Okotoks, taking them out easily by an 84-51 count before falling to Rundle Academy by an 80-61 score that was close until the fourth quarter.
The Eagles had their chances against Holy Trinity in the opener, with an opportunity late in regulation to put themselves ahead for good. Having only begun practicing formally at the start of the month, the Eagles improvised with their final possession and failed to get a shot off. It’s something that head coach Kindy Gosal expects will come with more practice.
“It’s a process. We’ve been thinking about and planning how we build this team…teaching everybody how we play and what we do on defence and offence. Early season there’s a lot of growth and a lot of learning that’s going on,” Kindy said.
Last year, much of the Eagles’ core group of players had been playing together since they were mere toddlers. That’s no longer the case and the chemistry will have to be developed over time.
Newcomers Arun Randhawa, Pau Masco, Ben Wiegert, Blake Gulbe, Carsten Wendt and Paul Pothoff round out the Eagles’ roster this season.
Wiegert and Masco have emerged as starters so far, but all players have a role to play given the team’s small roster.
Weigert, who is joining the Eagles’ program from Invermere as David Thompson isn’t fielding a team this year, offers the team a good dose of size while standing at 6’4”.
“We’re definitely really lucky to have him,” Kiran said.
Wendt, an exchange student, is in the same height range as well.
“We didn’t take as big of a step down in size as I would have expected,” Kiran said.
The graduation of last year’s leaders has also meant new roles for the club’s current veterans and co-captains, Kiran and Dhami.
“I’ve always tried to be pretty talkative on the court and always the point guard…directing where people are going. It’s kind of off the court where I have to try and be motivational for people, whereas last year I would just sit on the side and listen to the captains talk,” Kiran said.
“Last year we had all played together for so long that we were all kind of leaders in the group, everyone had something to say. This year, it’s not really a teaching role but explaining…you have to take that step further and explain what’s happening next in a situation,” Dhami added.
On the court, the pressure will be on the team’s two veterans to perform. In the past, the Eagles could survive a poor game from Dhami or Kiran knowing that they had Saje or Randhawa to pick up the slack. They’ll be counted on as primary scorers this year, however, and both say they enjoy the added pressure.
“I do enjoy it. Before a game I know that I’ve got to perform and if I don’t, the team as a whole might struggle,” Dhami said.
“That pressure, I think it kind of pushes me.”
“Last year I could have good games and bad games and we’d still get the win. I think that I need to start to realize that my shots are directly impacting (the score),” Kiran said.
Having made it to provincials each of the last two seasons, participating for a third year in a row would seem to be a logical goal for the team, but the Eagles aren’t looking that far ahead yet. As the old sports cliche goes, they are preferring to take things one game at a time.
“We’re going to try and not focus so much on the long term goals…and stay in the moment,” Kiran said.
The Eagles will get right back on the court this weekend for a tournament in Airdrie. They’ll host a six team tournament in Golden in February.