Scot-ish Independence

McKay’s Noah Tavera driving the ball up court during two-on-two Drills (Picture By Jeremy McDonald)

By Jeremy McDonald

SALEM, Ore.—McKay Men’s Basketball Coach Dean Sanderson blows his whistle to stop practice five minutes into the Royal Scots third practice of the season.

“If you’re jogging, we’re already losing by 30.  I don’t want to be losing by 30,” Sanderson sternly told his team.  “Will you hold each other accountable?”

With footsteps pounding the hard floor court echoed as they ran their second sprint of the young practice, it’s known in the McKay gym that the expectation of them is high set forth by the Sanderson Staff.

The idea for the high intensity practice stems from Sanderson’s days of playing basketball.  To create chaos offensively and defensively.

Josiah Castillo passing the ball to a teammate (Picture By Jeremy McDonald)

“We expect there to be chaos both offensively and defensively,” Sanderson said.  “Kids would have to think, kids would have to move to the next thing while going 100-percent, sprinting everywhere.

“So we’re asking kids to make good decisions, going at a break neck speed.  If we’re not practicing that way, we’re definitely not going to be playing that way.”

For senior big man Tristen Wilson, he has already seen a huge difference from his junior year to three-days into his senior season.

There’s no “for sure” starting spot, the intensity is higher than it was last year and it had created a competition to be better overall on the court.

(Left to Right) Coaches Chris Slezak, Matt Espinoza, Jack Martino (Picture By Jeremy McDonald)

“Last year it had a different feel to it.  We were (in the) “doing whatever we want” mentality.  This year the coaches aren’t allowing that,” said Wilson  “This year, it’s much faster pace.  We’re on the line 10 times more than we did last year.  We have people competing, working their butts off to get that starting spot”.

Even Demeris Bailey is surprised with the intensity of the practices.

“It’s the most intense it’s ever been,” he said.  “Everything is just quick, if it’s not quick we’re on the line running.”

The “Scots 22” will look to their senior leadership to set an example as McKay looks to improve from 2014’s 5-18 overall record.

“Their important,” Sanderson said about the seniors. “If we don’t have seniors leadership then no program will be successful.

“It doesn’t matter who you are or what system you’re running.  Nobody is going to be successful, those guys got to take their leadership to another level.”

Coach Martino speaking to a few of the McKay Players during Practice (Picture By Jeremy McDonald)

If there is one voice just as loud as Sanderson during Wednesday afternoon’s practices, it’s Scots Legend Jack Martino.

“Don’t stand, Don’t Stand!” you can hear him yell during practice.  “This is your conditioning.  If you don’t run here, we’ll run on the track.  The Track is open today.”

Sanderson describes the switch to go fast as a learning process to go fast to give it their all every lay-up, every pass and every shot, on a constant basis.

“Ideally we’ll never have to run,” said Sanderson. “We’re going so hard drill to drill that we’re getting all that, it’s a learning process.  These guys are working hard, it may seem like we’re on them constantly.

Going up for a lay-up (Picture by Jeremy McDonald)

“They are working hard, it’s just a mental switch that’s going to take a while to go and they’ll always wants to go half-speed.  It’s just a mental hurdle that they have to overcome right now.”

Terms have been used about this team as to their identity:  Relentless.  Scrappy.  Hungry.

Like the Scots did with William Wallace in the 13th-Century, these modern day Scots battle, use heart, their scrappy-wit and hunger to overcome adversity.

“That’s McKay, we’ve never given up,” Wilson said.  “Even the past four years with the hard times, we fought through adversity to become the team we are now.”

As the practice’s high-intensity pace continued with intra-squad scrimmages, McKay know that’ll it’ll pay off once the games count.  But until their December 2 date with Dallas at home, the focus is here and now.

“We’re just tired of losing.  We’re not going to settle for this (anymore),” said Bailey.  “This year we’re going to do whatever we can to win.

“Just take it practice by practice.”


Jeremy McDonald is a professional sports journalist in the Salem/Portland area and is a member of the Society of Professional Journalist in Oregon with B.S. degrees from Southern Oregon University in Journalism (2011) and Health/PE (2013).  Got a story idea? Email him at or on Twitter at @J_McDonald81!

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