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PrepFocus: St. Ignatius goes international again with trip to Argentina

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The St. Ignatius basketball team during last year’s trip to Taiwan. (Courtesy / St. Ignatius basketball)

For a second consecutive summer, the St. Ignatius boys basketball team is headed out of the country for an immersive experience that combines basketball and culture. Having visited Taiwan last summer, the Wildcats are set to depart next week for Argentina.

Not only will the trip provide exciting opportunities and bonding experiences, it’ll provide a chance for a young lineup that missed numerous games due to injuries last year with a chance to make up for lost time.

Entering the 2017-18 season, the Wildcats boasted not only a trio of three-year starters, but a host of juniors who created matchup problems for opponents with their mix of size and skill. Those juniors started dropping like flies. Garrett Cason — whose blocks caught eyes around the WCAL as a sophomore — went down for the year with an ACL injury. Sam Nangle — a 6-foot-7 shooter — missed much of the year with a hairline fracture. Neal Begovich, who, at 6-foot-8, combines athleticism and a tremendous inside-out game, hurt his knee after a monster reverse alley-oop in a game in December. He was severely limited for the rest of the year.

Wrenn Robinson, the only one of the regular juniors to avoid major injury, missed the start of league play with a heel fracture.

Robinson, who started for most of the season, will be asked to step into an even more instrumental role as a senior, as he inherits the point guard position from Darrion Trammell, who started there for three years.

“Wrenn’s been playing really well in summer league and the EYBL circuit,” said head coach Rob Marcaletti.

The trip gives the Wildcats a chance to roll into next season with momentum, where they’ll have a chance to build on the third-place WCAL finish, their highest in Marcaletti’s four years at the helm. Though Trammell, Brandon Beckman, Matt Redmond, Teddy Snyder and others graduated, this year’s group has the framework to build on and will have the international travel to prepare them for another grueling year.

While some of the trip will be spent in luxury — thanks to a great deal at a five-star hotel in Buenos Aires — a significant portion of the funds are being raised by the players themselves.

“I want our guys taking ownership in the process and taking any financial burden off our families,” said Marcaletti.

On June 28, the Wildcats will fly out of San Francisco, and they’ll travel to Buenos Aires via Houston. From there, they’ll take a domestic flight to San Carlos de Bariloche. While many teens will be spending summer vacations in tropical climates, SI’s hoopsters will be nestled in mountain cabins. They’ll also be staying in Bahia Blanca and Buenos Aires before returning home. In Bahia Blanca, they’ll be working with Pepe Sanchez, who played on Argentina’s 2004 Olympic gold medal team.

Just like the trip to Taiwan, the Wildcats are accounting for their own finances and doing more than just traveling to play basketball. Their international adventures include cultural immersion through cuisine, academics, bilingual conversations and the general experience of spending time in another country. Teachers from St. Ignatius and schools in Argentina will guide the team, and the players will also be teaching English to some of their peers.

Omissions: In last week’s PrepFocus, proper recognition was not given to the St. Ignatius boys water polo team, which won the program’s first ever section title in November. The Wildcats defeated Santa Cruz 14-6 to win the CCS Division II Championship. Additionally, not only did SI track athletes Delaney Peranich and Megan Ronan reach the state finals, both medaled. Peranich finished sixth in the high jump and Ronan, a freshman, placed fifth in the long jump.

Prep Focus writer Ethan Kassel covers high school sports throughout the Bay Area. If you have a story tip, game to watch or player to track, email him at ethankassel@gmail.com.

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