This summer isn’t an ordinary one for the St. Ignatius boys basketball team.
There are higher expectations than usual. An entire starting lineup returns, plus additions from a loaded junior-varsity squad. Building on last year’s second-place finish isn’t just a goal for the program, it’s an expectation among Bay Area audiences.
While most teams spend their summers playing in local tournaments hosted by nearby high schools and colleges, St. Ignatius has a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
On Wednesday, the Wildcats will fly to Taiwan to participate in the SongShan Cup, an invitational tournament made up of teams from Taiwan and Japan. They’ll be playing five games in a 7,000-seat arena in Taipei, with games being shown on Fox Sports Taiwan.
As with most foreign trips, the experiences won’t just be about basketball. The team will be exploring Taipei as an educational and bonding experience.
With most of the core of last year’s 23-7 team returning, there’s already good chemistry. Point guard Darrion Trammell and combo guards Brandon Beckman and Matt Redmond all played together on JV as freshmen and have started on the varsity team since their sophomore year. Teddy Snyder, a 6-5 forward, is coming off a breakout season, and Donovan Jones provided quality minutes off the bench. Wrenn Robinson, Garrett Cason and Jaedon Roberts all showed promise as sophomores and look to refine their skills in their junior seasons.
As if the returners weren’t enough, 6-7 juniors Sam Nangle and Neal Begovich join the squad after excellent JV seasons. Both can play either forward position and can stretch defenses with outside shooting abilities that most players their size lack. Begovich will be able to fill the role of his older brother, Daniel, who was one of only two outgoing seniors who received significant minutes in the 2016-17 season.
Playing eight games over the span of five days will also provide a chance to replicate the grueling schedule that the Wildcats will face. While the games in Taiwan may not represent the same adrenaline as a rivalry game, they’ll be playing elite competition in a condensed window, just like in the West Catholic Athletic League. St. Ignatius last won a share of the league title in 2004, and last took home the title outright in 1999.
Getting that sort of experience will be especially important with the gauntlet that St. Ignatius will need to run to have a shot at a WCAL title in the coming season. The schedule features back-to-back rivalry games with Sacred Heart Cathedral and Serra on two separate occasions. The Bruce-Mahoney Game against SHC is scheduled for Jan. 9, and the Jungle Game, held at Serra, is slated for Jan. 12. Serra won last year’s Jungle Game on a fadeaway buzzer-beater heave launched from well behind the 3-point line.
With all of the excitement that comes with an overseas trip, head coach Rob Marcaletti is keeping his team grounded and level-headed. He has made sure the players understand the value of studying abroad, and while their time in Taiwan is paid for by sponsors, the players have worked to cover the costs of their own airfare.
Coach Marcaletti and his team are posed for an extraordinary season. It’s fitting that even their offseason will be one to remember.