It’s a new day for St. Anthony.
When coach Allen Caveness took the program over four years ago, the Saints were struggling and were languishing in Division 4. Over the last three years there’s been steady, measured development and this year the Saints find themselves in Division 1, and in the Del Rey League with state powerhouse Bishop Montgomery.
“I’m proud of where we’re going, but I also know we’re at the bottom of the top,” said Caveness. “We’re on the top bus, but we’re at the back of it. Are we Mater Dei or Bishop Montgomery? No, not yet. We just want to keep climbing the ladder.”
The Saints feature three four-year guys who helped give them a boost up several rungs of that ladder in Frank Staine, Josh Belvin, and Marquise Nelloms. Caveness said their willingness to commit to a building project four years ago is what helped the Saints reach Division 1.
“We’ve had guys come in as transfers each year but we’ve also had that core with those guys,” said Caveness.
The trio definitely takes pride in having helped bring the program to relevance, but they also said they’re not satisfied.
“We’re in Division 1, we’re proud of that,” said Belvin. “But the work can’t stop.”
“We’re not just satisfied with getting to Division 1,” said Staine. “We’re not going to settle for just being here.”
Helping the Saints compete for either an Open Division berth or a good seed in the Division 1 bracket are that trio of seniors, as well as some talented transfers. The biggest impact player is junior Jadon Jones, who figures to be one of the top players in the city.
“This is the longest team we’ve had,” said Caveness. “We have three guys who are 6-5 or bigger with (Nelloms), Jadon, and Frank. That’s very different from what we had last year, when we started three guys who were six foot and under.”
That’s going to be mean big changes for the Saints, who had to apply relentless ball pressure last year with their undersized guards. Now they can sit back in a zone when they want to, and be more disruptive in passing lanes.
Caveness’ philosophy has been to welcome all opponents, even higher-ranked ones. That led to a 1-3 start in the powerhouse Pac Shores Tournament, something Caveness said he didn’t regret.
“It’s been a baptism by fire playing that really tough schedule, but I’m glad we did it, and if I had to do it over again I would,” said Caveness. “Learning to close against elite competition is important for us.
Caveness’ Saints have already beaten Wilson and Los Alamitos with games coming soon against St. John Bosco and Millikan as they look to play the region’s best teams. It’s all part of the program’s long climb to the top.
“I don’t think we’re an elite program yet, but we’re on the stage now,” said Caveness.