ACT 1: THE PRESEASON: McKay Basketball

McKay’s Head Coach Dean Sanderson going through a drill with the team (Picture By Jeremy McDonald)

By Jeremy McDonald

Writer’s Note:  I thought of this idea in November, 2015 to piece together a season-long story of McKay Boy’s Basketball from my time covering the squad after being welcomed to document their journey from try-outs to season’s end.  This is part one of the series and will be part of the entire series come season’s end whenever that maybe for the Royal Scots Boys Basketball team!

Walking into the gym just day’s before the “official” start practice, the Royal Scots were already working hard around the OSAA-Regulations of the “No Coaching Before November 16” rule with basketball conditioning.

“I think right now at McKay, kids are used to losing.  Kids are accepting losing,” Sanderson said in the November 12 article “McKay’s MBB Coaches Looking To Change Culture At School.”  “I think the community is accepts and in other schools in our area accept that McKay isn’t going to be that good and we want to change that.”

The goal was simple said Sanderson that day, to make teams hate playing them.

“We want teams to not looking forward to playing us,” Sanderson continued.  “Know that they’re going to come in to a battle. it’s going to be hard earn and that it’s going to hurt the next day.  They’re going to have to work to beat us.”

Matt Espinoza demonstrating a conditioning drill (Picture By Jeremy McDonald)

That philosophy carried over into when practices became “official” as the mentality and the intensity of the practices grew and grew.

The first Wednesday of the season featured several sideline-to-sideline sprints within the moments of practice.

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

During practice, if it wasn’t Sanderson, you heard Jack Martino filling the gaps with his powerful voice.

“Don’t stand, Don’t stand,” he yells.  “This is your conditioning.  If you don’t run here, we’ll run on the track.  The track is open today.”

For athlete’s, this is different from the year before.  Tristen Wilson mentioned how his junior year to this point of his senior year was almost unnoticeable.

“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,” he described the difference.

“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”.

The team continued to step up to the adversity of that practice as Wilson mentions that it’s the ‘McKay Way’ to never, never give up.

That plan is even fueling the other seniors like Demeris Bailey.

“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.”

As practice continues, the intensity remains.  The thirst, the hunger to get better, the message of resiliency from the coaching staff to the players got stronger.


The mental philopshy of “hard work pays off” grew with every drill they ran, every sideline-to-sideline sprint they did if they give it their full effort.

The sweat, blood and tears made the bond stronger not just the team, but the ‘McKay Way’ of never giving up.

With less than a week until tip-off, you saw all of it build as they entered Thanksgiving Eve’s 6am practice.  Short-handed, because of injury or personal reasons, the team fought on, believing in the ‘Next Man’ Up ideology.

During the 6am practice, with all of the Scots tired and fatigued; they ran sideline-to-sideline for a better part of 30 minutes on Thanksgiving Eve.

That Wednesday practice before Thanksgiving was the toughest said Wilson as they got back on track on Friday.

“That was the toughest practice for all of us,” said Wilson on the practice.  “We were tired and coaches don’t accept that anymore.

“We get on the line and that Wednesday practice we were on that line for half-an-hour, it was tough but we’re not accepting a loser’s mentality anymore.”

With Saturday marking the last day of practice before ‘Game Week’, Sanderson is looking forward to what’s ahead for Monday’s practice.

“(The) guys are slowly figuring out the speed we are looking to play at,” he said.  “We will get back a couple players Monday and should have a better idea of where we are at going in to Monday.”

To Be Continued…

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!

Like us on Facebook at Jmcdonaldmedia!


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