The562’s season previews for the 2022-23 school year are sponsored by Vertical Raise, the official team fundraising partner of The562.
The562’s coverage of Cabrillo Athletics is sponsored by the Cohn Family.
The key number for Cabrillo boys’ basketball this season is 14. That’s the win total the Jags are hunting in year one for head coach Chris Spencer, and it would be a significant achievement for the Moore League’s youngest program.
“We have an ongoing goal for our season of 14 wins,” said Spencer. “The best team in Cabrillo history, to my knowledge, is 13-11. That’s the class of 2010, and our whole goal is we want to be the best team in school history. We think that will land us a playoff spot and in D5 we like our chances against anyone.”
In fact, the Jags were listed on the preseason watchlist as one of the top teams in Division 5AA, but making the postseason will be the key. Cabrillo hasn’t made the playoffs since the 2016-17 season, the last time they won double-digit games.
Spencer is optimistic that he and his coaching staff can help shift the culture of Cabrillo Basketball in the years ahead. During his playing days, Spencer was a standout at Long Beach Jordan in the Class of 2012 before moving on to LBCC and ultimately Benedict College in South Carolina. He then played professionally overseas before turning to coaching, where he was most recently an assistant coach at St. Anthony.
In his first high school head coaching gig, he’s working to establish a culture at Cabrillo by creating school pride and a connection to the alumni base. He helped organize the first ever Cabrillo alumni basketball game, and has a former Cabrillo player, Christian Verdugo, on his coaching staff. Verdugo was a two-time All-Moore League selection, was a senior on that 2010 team, and is able to relate to the Jags’ players in a unique way.
“No one has more alumni spirit than him,” Spencer said.
On the court, Cabrillo has the benefit of returning its first team All-Moore League guard from last year, Deshon McMiller, who Spencer expects to have a fantastic senior season.
“He’s gonna be amazing for us,” Spencer said of McMiller. “He’s been a leader throughout the summer and the spring, he does everything–he rebounds, he's gonna get gritty, he's my type of guy. He's gonna get down and dirty, he doesn't take days off. He's a construction worker, he puts his hard hat on and comes to work every single day. You don't have to worry about ‘Deuce’, he’s gonna take care of business.”
McMiller has taken to Spencer’s coaching style right away and said he’s looking forward to the upcoming season. He said the team’s focus is on doing the little things right, which will in turn lead to more success overall.
“I feel like (Spencer) taking over the program is probably the best thing that’s happened to us,” explained McMiller. “For the simple fact that he's young so he relates to us, and it's easier to connect with him and talk to him even if it's for something beyond basketball. We know that’s somebody that we can reach out to. And he's brought out a lot of the dog in us, made us really work and pushed us to our limit to make us better.”
Behind McMiller, the Jags have a solid junior class led by returning guard Chad Washington. Spencer calls him a “gadget guy” who’s capable of guarding all five positions and has made a big improvement from last season. Another junior that’s made a big leap is guard Jeremy Siquig, who prides himself on his defense and is emerging as a scorer.
“He will be one of the best defenders in the Moore League,” Spencer said of Siquig. “His on-ball defense sets a precedent and he’s got some newfound confidence in his offense, so he'll be huge for us.“
The Jags also got a big lift during the offseason with the arrival of twins Jayden and Jorden McDaniel. The pair of juniors were previously at Compton, but are now at Cabrillo where they should see big minutes out of the gate. Jayden is an effective sharp-shooter from the outside while Jayden is an explosive and dynamic ball-handler who will look to get into the seams of the defense and create for his teammates.
The roster won’t be particularly deep, but given Spencer’s style as a player and what he’s preaching as a coach, Cabrillo will play hard defensively and won’t roll over, regardless of their opponent. Spencer has brought in high expectations for the program from the beginning and is eager to make Cabrillo a relevant program in the city that raised him.
“One of the things I love is how Long Beach rallies behind each other,” Spencer said. “From my friends who are Poly alums and my guys that I went to Jordan with, the whole city gets behind you. It's been a thing where we've all wanted Cabrillo to be good for a really long time, and it's nothing more special than trying to be the guy that brings it out.”
The non-league portion of the schedule will be huge for the Jags as they push toward that magic number of 14 wins. During Moore League play, Cabrillo will open with three straight home games against Compton (Dec. 14), Jordan (Dec. 19) and Millikan (Dec. 21).