A new era is underway in the St. Anthony boys’ basketball program, but the culture of Saints Basketball should endure. St. Anthony has been arguably the most successful hoops program in the city over the past few seasons under head coach Allen Caveness, who made the leap to college ball during the offseason and is now an assistant coach at Long Beach State.
In steps former Caveness assistant Alan Mitchell–a passionate coach with a strong existing relationship with the Saints’ players. According to Mitchell, the first few days of practice were a little lackadaisical with a new coach in charge, but after an off day the team returned with A-plus practices.
“I just challenged them to have better energy and be more competitive,’ Mitchell explained. “The best thing for me since July is learning what can make each kid go; what’s going to make them turn it up a notch. Every kid can’t respond to yelling, every kid doesn’t need an arm around them. Some need it, some don’t, but I just know how important my voice is as a coach. I think that’s probably been the biggest challenge, is making sure I can get to each kid and having that line of communication open with them, so we can both be better.”
The Saints’ calling card has been high-intensity defense, rotating players in and out to apply pressure all over the court. Mitchell hopes to continue bringing the same intensity, while also being flexible enough to play a number of different styles.
“Energy will be on 10. Physicality will be on 10. We will be able to do it all,” Mitchell boasted. “Everybody knows when you face St. Anthony, you better be in shape. It’s gonna be a fast-paced game, but I want us to make sure we can execute as well.”
Mitchell’s first Saints team has the luxury of two standout seniors: point guard Jaayden Bush and 6-foot-9 forward Elijah Price. Both players have been fixtures in the purple and white and will look to elevate their game even further this season.
Bush is known as a terrific perimeter defender who has steadily improved his offensive abilities, but his value to the team goes beyond his technical skills on the court. He’ll be the clear leader on and off the floor who will help set the tone for the Saints night in and night out.
“Dude is a winner,” Mitchell said of Bush. “He’s the ultimate competitor. He reminds me of (two-time collegiate National Defensive Player of the Year) Jevon Carter who was at West Virginia because he can control a game without scoring. He’s our heart and soul. His energy and his competitiveness is outrageous.”
Price represents St. Anthony’s only true post presence, meaning his ability to rebound and protect the paint will be huge for the Saints if they’re looking to battle their way through a tough Del Rey League and get back to the playoffs. Price has been a key player for the Saints over the past few seasons and he continues to blossom into a Division I prospect.
“What’s impressed me over the three years I’ve been with him, is every year he’s added something new and gotten better,” Mitchell said of Price’s growth in the program. “At first it was rebound and block shots only, then he started making a mid-range jump shot, now I need him to get the ball off the glass and start our breaks so we can play a little bit faster. He’s constantly wanting to work, getting in the weight room, and him accepting that leadership role has been big for me.”
The supporting cast features a mix of seniors and exciting young prospects. Senior Izaiah Lyons-Day should be in the starting five for the Saints, along with sophomore forward Amaan Zavahir and freshman guard Jaedyn Patterson.
Zavahir has shown an ability to do a little bit of everything and is a high-upside player who can rebound, shoot, create off the dribble and defend. For Patterson, it’s rare to see a ninth grader step in and earn a starting spot at an established program, but Mitchell has been impressed with his maturity and his ability to impact the game in several ways.
“He earned it,” said Mitchell of Patterson getting into the first rotation. “He was coming off the bench for us in the fall, but I was just so impressed by how fast he was able to catch up on everything we did. He’s very smart, he’s a high IQ guy and that’s how he grabbed that spot. Hopefully he grasps it and just keeps going the next four years.”
Senior Lucas Gray is a transfer guard from Los Alamitos who can really shoot the ball. He’ll be a valuable offensive weapon for the Saints after his 30-day sit-out period. Another key contributor will be 6-foot-4 senior Trevon Morris, who will be St. Anthony’s second-best on-ball defender behind Bush. Senior forward Jayden Walker also figures to get his fair share of run off the bench.
St. Anthony went 10-4 during the shortened 2021 season, finishing third in the powerful Del Rey League before winning a Division 1 playoff game. During their last full basketball season, the Saints went 26-6 and were selected for the 2019-20 CIF Open Division playoffs. Over the fall, St. Anthony played a number of Open Division teams to get themselves ready for a tough schedule ahead, and with hopes of getting back to that level of competition.
“I love where we are right now,” Mitchell boasted. “Finishing up the fall being as active as we were, I’m excited to see us put it together. I believe in each and every one of my guys and God-willing if we stay healthy, we should be in the thick of it and be one of the best teams in Southern California.”