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 Long Beach Wilson Athletics is sponsored by Joel Bitonio, Class of 2009.
It’s fair to say that injuries and late-season stumbles torpedoed any chance the Wilson boys’ basketball team had of competing in the Moore League and making the playoffs last season. It’s also fair to say the Bruins are primed to put that behind them and capitalize on their potential.
“I think we’re a dark horse this year,” senior Sean Oliver said. “We feel like this could be one of the best teams in Wilson history. If we just keep our heads in the game and play hard, everything else will handle itself.”
The 6’6” 185-pound Oliver was one of the Bruins who missed time last year when Wilson lost a CIF postseason play-in tiebreaker 65-62 against Millikan.
“We’re trying to get the taste of last year’s game out of our mouths, but that’s what motivated us to do the hard work,” Wilson eighth-year coach James Boykin said. “The next day (after that loss) there were like six guys in the gym working out. It’s easier to be motivated when you truly believe you have a chance.”
Oliver (pictured) has a chance to be one of the best scorers in the league after averaging over 26 points, nine rebounds and four assists per game in limited time last year, according to Boykin. He’s also been working hard on his fitness and defense in the offseason.
“I know I can score, so I’ve been working on defense, getting on a diet, doing slide drills at the beach and just a lot of running,” Oliver said. “(The diet) is eating more of the right stuff. You’ve got to get the greens in there with real chicken and not fried. All of that stuff.”
Oliver will be joined by fellow seniors Keon Young, Michael Kirley (pictured), Salameh Dugum-Maraboto and sophomore Lincoln Dean in the starting lineup.
“We’re looking solid,” Oliver added. “The chemistry is really good and we have multiple guys who can do a lot of things. Our whole starting five can explode (offensively). By December we should look like a top team.”
Boykin knows he has a variety of offensive weapons, but he wants his Bruins to play unselfishly.
“It’s about ball movement,” Boykin said. “I have a lot of confident guys on the team and they all have the ability to put the ball in the bucket. It’s getting them to buy in to play for one another and being each other's biggest fans. When that ball is moving we’re tough to guard.”
Young is a 6’5” 185-pound shooting forward who broke his leg in the first month of last season but is back to add versatility to the lineup. Dugum-Maraboto transferred in from Heritage Christian, and Kirley is back to be the glue on both sides of the floor. Dean will handle the point guard responsibilities as Wilson runs the motion offense that doesn’t rely on positions.
“Everything depends on matchups and adjustments,” Boykin said. “Everybody in the starting five can score 20 points in a game, so the team is talented... For us it’s about staying out of our own way and handling adversity well."
"We’ve been working a lot on the mental side of the game and staying tough and handling adversity and letting our basketball play itself out," he added. "I put them through certain drills in practice, and maybe we’re doing something competitive, and I purposefully don’t give them calls, and we see how they handle that in a live setting. I also talk to them in group settings about how they handle these things.”
Coming off the bench first will likely be the 6’7” 210-pound senior Denis Kayembe, who has improved a lot and can be a true big in the paint. Sophomore Nathaniel Parris and junior Ryan Alavi will also get a decent amount of playing time. Parris is a good defender with high energy, and Alavi is a tough guard who can shoot. Boykin plans on playing eight or nine players a game.
“I would say it’s the most balanced since I’ve been in the league,” Boykin said. “I think it’s going to be a fun, interesting and competitive Moore League this year.”
Wilson opened its season with a 94-56 win over Palmdale on Monday.
The Bruins haven't won a league title since 1971.