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Stuart Hall does what ‘good programs’ do: Put it together after rough start

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Miles Amos is playing a big-brother role for the young Stuart Hall boys basketball team. (Courtesy Lindsay MacGarva/Stuart Hall Athletics)

With just one returning starter, it was expected to be a difficult year for the Stuart Hall Knights, and while Charley Johnson’s team got off to a bit of a slow start, the boys have been rolling as of late.

Led by Miles Amos, a standout junior guard and the team’s lone returning starter, the young core has started to take shape. The Knights start two juniors, two sophomores and a freshman with four seniors coming off the bench. It’s a young team with boundless potential.

Stuart Hall is once again among San Francisco’s best teams. The Knights are currently on a four-game win streak, including a win over defending state champion Mission.

“I think there were some nerves about how we were going to be this year, but we’ve stayed solid, and good programs seem to find a way,” said Johnson.

Nigel Burris, a 6-foot-4 freshman with long arms and excellent athleticism, plays with the poise of a much more experienced player and excels in all facets of the game.

“He’s scoring, rebounding, doing a little bit of everything,” said Johnson. “He’s got a super-high basketball IQ.”

Burris is also a tremendous free-throw shooter on a team that has historically struggled at the line. In last Thursday’s win over Urban, he was a perfect 7-for-7. Opponents looking to foul Stuart Hall late in games now have to go out of their way to avoid Burris.

Spencer O’Brien-Steele, another junior, has emerged in the four-game winning streak as a dynamic player on both ends of the court, scoring 19 in a 49-41 win at Lick-Wilmerding to open league play.

The Knights also play three sophomores, with Tomas Wolber and defensive stopper Jay Henry Ryan in the starting lineup and sharpshooter Jo Weinstein coming off the bench. Weinstein scored 10 points in last Thursday’s win over Urban, including a pair of threes in the fourth quarter to create some separation.

Perhaps the game that had the most profound effect on the Knights wasn’t a win, but a 74-72 loss to Riordan in which they squandered a 23-point lead.

“The loss against Riordan showed the guys that we can play with them,” said Johnson. “Riordan’s got a solid club, and it showed the guys that we were capable.”

The Knights have won five of six since that defeat and now stand at 3-0 in BCL West play.

While other players have emerged, Amos is Stuart Hall’s star and leader. He scored 20 points apiece in wins over Mission and Urban.

“He’s a dynamic player who really hasn’t been stopped by anyone this season,” said Johnson. “Even when our team was in a bit of a funk, he seemed to find a way. He’s having an exceptional year and is validating his potential as a collegiate player.”

At the Burlingame Lions Club Invitational in December, Amos scored 17 in a loss to Menlo and 25 in a defeat at the hands of Half Moon Bay, both Division IV powerhouses that the Knights could see again should they qualify for the state tournament.

Amos has a chance to be Stuart Hall’s second Division I player. Armani Collins, a 2015 graduate, initially went to Portland State and now plays at Bethune-Cookman. Not only does Amos have incredible talent, he’s stepped into his leadership role as the team’s lone returning starter.

“I’ve been playing a big brother role, trying to get the guys into the right spots,” said the junior. “We’re starting to catch our footing right now and we’re on a good little win streak.”

Stuart Hall will try to extend that streak and take sole possession of first place when the Knights host University at 6:30 on Tuesday. With sparse parking available and seating in high demand at Stuart Hall’s cozy gym, known as “The Dungeon” for its location at the bottom of three flights of stairs, fans are advised to arrive early.

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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