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Walnut High School | 400 Pierre Rd. Walnut, Calif. 91789

the hoofprint

Walnut High School | 400 Pierre Rd. Walnut, Calif. 91789

the hoofprint

Walnut High School | 400 Pierre Rd. Walnut, Calif. 91789

Varsity boys basketball’s gradual rise to Division 1

Athletic director Jerry Person and basketball coach Joe Khouzam explain the procedures of transitioning between divisions in athletics.
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Photo by Stephanie Cheng
Point guard sophomore Jacob Ventura moves along the baseline, challenging small forward junior Myles Wainwright to create an open look for his teammate. “This year’s practice is more serious and competitive. Given that our team is now Division 1, we’re trying to elevate each other’s skills to perform well during matches,” Ventura said.

This season, varsity boys basketball moved to Division 1 as the result of the program’s successful past two seasons.

In order to change divisions, sports teams are judged based on their regular season standings, playoff performance and the strength of opponents from the past two seasons. From the past two seasons, a power ranking is formed and, for the majority of sports teams on campus, the past two years’ power rankings are the determining factors in division placement.

According to athletic director Jerry Person, California Interstate Federation (CIF) puts together a formula to determine power rankings and then rank all schools based on the power rankings. All teams in CIF are ranked from one to around 500 and cutoffs are determined to place teams in different divisions. 

“I think we play great basketball and compete in most every game that we have because we have a good program, but when you’re playing teams that are in Division 1, they usually have more kids in the school or they’re a private school and they’re selecting who they have come in so I don’t think it’s fair that we got bumped up to Division 1,” Person said. “It’s a testament to coach Khouzam and the program because of the success they’ve had and that’s how they got ranked there.”

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Varsity boys basketball won 28 games, including many against Division 1 schools, and reached the quarterfinals of Division 2A last season, all of which increased their power ranking. 

“Preparation wise, whether we’re in Division 1 or Division 2, we don’t change how we do things. We don’t bring our level of preparation down for lower level teams. So I don’t care if we’re playing the Division 5 school or Division 1 school, we prepare exactly the same,” varsity boys basketball coach Joe Khouzam said. 

In combination with the move in divisions, the team also lost 10 seniors who were part of the 2023 graduating class, contributing to the variety of changes this season compared to the last.

“It’s just a different way of coaching. Last year’s group was on varsity for a long time. I don’t feel like I coached the details as much because they already knew everything. This is a younger group, so it’s a lot more teaching this year,” Khouzam said. “We have to teach them what our expectations are. Every high school goes through it; you go through a cycle of your older guys leaving and then you have to start over again.”

As a result of the change in division, slight changes came to the way each player approaches practices and games.

“It was good for us as a team because now we’re more competitive during games and during practice. I think our coach expects more out of us because we’re D1 and because last year’s team had the best record in school history,” center senior Chris Wang said.

So far this season the team’s non-league standing is 5-3, playing a variety of teams at different divisions ranging from 4AA, 3AA, 2A and 3A.

“I will say the games we lost, we should have won, we just didn’t play our type of basketball. This year’s group is just learning how to play at the varsity level at the varsity speed,” Khouzam said. “So far, so good, but we have a tough schedule. If we play the right way, I feel good about things but when they get lazy and don’t do what they’re supposed to do, it’s tough for us.” 

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David Kang, Online editor-in-chief and In-depth editor
Hi my name is David Kang, I'm in the 11th grade, and I'll be the Online editor-in-chief and In-Depth editor for The Hoofprint. Outside of The Hoofprint, I enjoy baking and basketball as some pastimes.
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