By Jeremy McDonald
SALEM, Ore.– There’s a sense of drive, motivation and desire in the main gym at North Salem High School for the guys basketball team with the 2016-2017 just days away from starting their season.
A hop in their step that started with the demands of first-year Head Coach Cameron McCormick as this idea of thinking differently than the norm at North of a winning mentality.
And it starts with the small things. The process from Point A to Point B.
“I think so far they want to buy into it and so that’s really helpful because they are doing their best to buy in to it,” said McCormick. “Expectations are. We’re going to be mainly focus on how we do things. So I really want to see it daily during practice and I want to see it Tuesday and Friday Nights, people will see that how we’re playing basketball, is different.
“And that’s what we’re really focused on…focusing on the process. How we’re doing things as to the results. We all want to win, but we really need to focus on ‘are we all arriving on time? Are we attending everything that we can?’ Little things like that, then that will add up to what we do on the court.”
This change in mentality, this new hop was sparked with how last season went and it just built as McCormick stepped into the Head Coach role over the summer.
Going back to this spark last year real quick, the Vikings last season went 1-22 overall, the lone win coming from a 50-49 victory over St. Helens on December 29, 2015.
Alex Vasquez was a junior on that squad starting, and he remembers how much last season hurt as he prepares for his senior season this year on the court.
“It hurt a lot knowing that we won one game after putting in all that hard work,” Vasquez started to describe. “This year, it gave us a lot of motivation to get more than one win and with the coaching this year and our whole scheme on offense and defense, I think we’re going to pull out a couple more wins.”
It’s been almost a year since that last win, that last taste of victory.
But, under the first-year McCormick, the momentum that they built from a promising summer league schedule and so far with practice mixed in with that fire and desire to build for the future from the sour taste of last season, there’s momentum as they learn this new system and them gelling as a unit with the season starting Friday at Woodburn.
“I like it a lot, it suits a lot of our players, since we’re undersize, we’ll be better in shape and it’s going to help us a lot against team’s bigger than us,” Vasquez said of McCormick’s Run-and-gun system. “We’re gelling really well, we’re practicing great and we’re having a lot of fun. We’re expecting great things this year.”
McCormick addressed the team before Monday’s practice reminding them that they are what they believe to be the best players for the team this year as he shared some pre-practice notes before they went to work.
And though they are undersized as a team, they make that up with speed and depth; something that McCormick knows that they can used to their advantage when the Greater Valley Conference-league comes around.
“One way it’s going to help us is that teams that match our speed,” starts McCormick. “One thing I have confidence in is that we have depth. I’m going to demand that these guys give me all of their effort while they’re on the court and I would love it if they tire themselves out enough where they need a sub and I’m confident I’ve got four-to-five guys that can come off the bench and give me the same maximum amount of effort.
“So in my mind, any given game we’re going to have nine, ten, maybe eleven guys that could come out and go full speed until they get tired and then another guy is going to come in and give us the same effort.”
All of this is in confidence that they can change the mindset, the mentality of this Viking Program from believing they’ll lose, to know that they can compete and win.
Vasquez pointed out that they have the fire to get there from last year, and McCormick knows that it’ll be baby steps, looking at the minor victories as they build to the big victories that they want.
McCormick’s philosophy is that, if it happens, it happens. Don’t put blame on the refs, the facility they are at, teachers etc, regardless of the situation, it’s something that they are in control of and that they can learn from it and move forward.
“One of the biggest things is changing our mindset,” he said. “And some of these guys have endured so much losing that now it is something that is in their mind they might think might likely happen. So in changing that, and letting them know that we’re more in control of our destiny than we maybe think.
“In one of our meetings we talked about, learned helplessness and we’re eliminating that from our program this year, meaning that we’re not victims. We can find small victories in everything that we do, but if we do fail, it’s not the worst thing that could happen. We’ll learn from it, but we’re in control of that.”
As practice continued into a breaking a press drill, the Vikings continued this fire and desire they have as the season is just a few days away and every second adds to the itch that North Salem is waiting to scratch.
Tip off for their season opener at Woodburn High School in Woodburn is 7pm with their home opener at North Salem High School Tuesday versus St. Helens at 6:45pm. For full schedule go to: http://www.osaa.org/teams/16259 .
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