After completing one of the most successful seasons in program history, the St. Anthony boys’ basketball team waited over 13 months to return to the court. Their encore has been delayed, but it’s here at last for head coach Allen Caveness and his squad.
The Saints were the best team in the city during the 2019-20 season, posting a 26-2 regular season record while winning a hard-earned Del Rey League championship. St. Anthony was then awarded a berth into the CIF-SS Open Division bracket, one of the most competitive postseason competitions in the country. Though the playoffs didn’t go their way, that group of Saints put themselves into an elite category and helped elevate the program in year six under Caveness.
Key figures from that Open Division squad have moved on, with graduating senior Jadon Jones the most notable example. Jones has already proven himself at the Division I level with a terrific freshman season at Long Beach State. That means new leaders will need to emerge for Caveness, who likes the talent on the roster but admits this season will be tough to predict.
“There’s a lot of unknowns,” Caveness admitted. “Our core is Elijah Price, Jayden Bush, and Kaih Williams, but they were role players last year. So they’re going to have to be guys that give us bigger contributions. What I do like is they’ve been with the program all three years, so they know our culture and our core values, but they’re going to be asked to do more.”
Those three players are all juniors, and represent a strong foundation for the 2021 squad. Price is a key interior player who Caveness said is the best rebounder and rim protector he’s had at St. Anthony. He has already had a big hand in St. Anthony’s two wins to open the season, racking up 14 points, 13 rebounds, and seven assists during the Saints’ 67-50 win over JSerra.
Bush (pictured) is lauded as the program’s best perimeter defender, and a player Caveness describes as the “consummate point guard.” His leadership and work ethic will be valuable assets for this year’s team. Williams, meanwhile, has already shown his ability as a scorer, pouring in a team-high 21 points in a season-opening win over Brentwood.
In addition to those key returners, there’s also some exciting new players in the rotation for the Saints as they look to build off the momentum from last season. Sophomore forward James McCallum already turned heads with a team-high 16 points in the JSerra win, and junior guard Akoye Hudson has already been a bright spot for the Saints since transferring in from Leuzinger High.
“He’s been really good for us,” Caveness said of Hudson’s impact. “He came from a program that’s really different from ours, but he’s trying to adapt and figure out where he fits. He’s grown a lot in the last few months and the light is starting to come on for him. If it continues to come on for him and McCallum then we have a chance to be really good.”
There’s also some additional x-factors for the Saints who have yet to see the court this season. Senior George Ashley is a transfer from Carson High who sat out the first few games of the year. Then there’s the 6-foot-7 DeDrick Allen, who has missed the last two seasons with injury but would be a major piece for the Saints if he can hit the floor. In addition to his size, Allen is a great athlete who can also shoot the three, making him a potential matchup nightmare.
“There’s a few unknowns, but if those guys figure it out we have a chance to be really good,” admitted Caveness. “I think we’ll be competitive, I just don’t know how competitive we’ll be.”
With talented programs like Bishop Montgomery, St. Bernard, and Serra in the Del Rey League with them, the Saints will need to be pretty competitive if they intend to repeat as league champs. Add in some non-league contests against Loyola and Mater Dei, and St. Anthony will get all the tests they need to prepare them for another potential playoff run.
Saints fans have every reason to be excited about this year’s group, but with such a strong junior core, there’s even more optimism for the future. The goal for the unpredictable season ahead is to build off last year’s success and maintain the course for one of the top basketball programs in the area.
“A lot of people in the program feel like next year could potentially be our best team ever,” Caveness said. “We could bring back five starters and four guys off the bench, and we’ve never had that before. I don’t want to overlook this season at all, and we’re going to do everything we can to have a great season this year, but we just don’t know what it’s going to look like. As far as this season goes, we’re looking to maximize every opportunity.”