Wasatch basketball team is ‘strongest in 108 years’
By Matt Harris
MT. PLEASANT—The Wasatch Academy boys’ basketball team is excited. They have every reason to be.
The Tigers are close to the beginning of what looks to be another promising season; this time sporting a lineup the athletic department’s official Twitter page called “the strongest in 108 years.”
Coach David Evans returns for his second year with the program after taking Wasatch Academy to the GEICO Nationals in his first year.
“Well, I’m not calling it that,” Evans said about the tweet, chuckling. “I think our social media guy’s calling it that. It’s just that we’re very senior heavy, experience heavy; we have five seniors that have all committed to Division 1 schools, and then we have a lot of underclassmen that compliment them well.”
The Tigers are nationally ranked in the preseason top 25 by MaxPreps.com at No. 16. They hold national ranking in numerous other polls across the country as well.
Evans said the primary focus for Wasatch Academy in their practices is to move and share the ball, lock down on defense, and score with efficiency. The Tigers aim to generate 80 percent or more of their scoring on assisted baskets.
The roster is stacked for Wasatch this year. Senior Caleb Lohner committed to Utah in the offseason and is ranked No. 72 in the ESPN 100 class of 2020. Even better, senior Mady Sissoko ranks at No. 38 on the same list and publicly committed to basketball powerhouse Michigan State just last September.
Beyond that, seniors Mike Saunders, Richie Saunders and Leonardo Colimerio committed to Cincinnati, BYU, and Fresno State, respectively.
Sissoko suffered an injury to his hand, according to MaxPreps, which will keep him out for an undisclosed amount of time. Until then, Evans said they are slotting junior Fousseyni Traore into the center position, while Lohner plays at forward.
A huge addition to the Tigers’ roster is at point guard, where Wasatch Academy brought on sophomore Rickie Isaacs from Las Vegas. Isaacs is a five-star prospect at 15 years old and already listed as the No. 17 player in the nation for the class of 2022. He already holds college scholarship offers from Texas Tech and Arkansas.
The Tigers also bring in Brennan Rigsby, a junior from Colorado, Matus Hronsky, a sophomore from Slovakia, and a slew of freshmen, all of which bring a lot of excitement to Evans and his staff.
“The program’s just growing as a whole,” Evans said.
The Tigers face a favorable schedule as well this year. After the last few years saw Wasatch Academy take off on a plane almost immediately to start the season in one national tournament or another, they will play the first seven games of their season in Utah, three of them on their home court.
Evans said that while the athletic program looks all over the country for invitationals to boost their national resume, they want to maintain an association with the UHSAA and teams in the state of Utah.
The trouble is finding teams that want to play against a team they’re almost guaranteed to lose to, Evans said. Many schools in Utah have turned the Tigers down, Evans said.
The Tigers have not lost an instate matchup since a three-point loss to a Lone Peak team that was not only coached by Evans, but also featured a senior guard, Frank Jackson, who is currently on the roster of the New Orleans Pelicans.
“We will take any game we can at our own gym,” Evans said, “and there’s a lot of people that reached out to us and said they’d like to play, so I really appreciate the people that have decided to come down and play us.”
Wasatch Academy, unlike in times past, will not host any Sanpete teams, but they will play 13 games against Utah schools, the most in one season since going independent. Their first real test of the season will be a Utah school as they travel to UVU to face Lone Peak in the Utah Valley Tipoff Classic. It’s the first meeting in three years between the two schools.
The Tigers will only play one game outside Utah between the start of their season and mid-December, a trip to Desert Oasis in Las Vegas on Monday, Dec. 9. The Tigers’ first tournament will be the Vivint Great Western Shootout at Orem High School.
The first major road trip for Wasatch Academy will be the ‘Iolani Prep Classic in Hawaii, featuring teams all over the country, from Dec. 17-22. Other tournaments throughout the season will be the Cancer Research Classic in Wheeling, W.Va., the Kevin Durant MLK Classic in Washington, D.C., and the Bob Kirk Invitational in Cumberland, Md.
While tournament-related opponents are largely unknown yet, perhaps the top game on the Tigers’ schedule as composed is MaxPreps’ No. 8 team, Paul VI, a Catholic school in Fairfax, Va. The Tigers face the Panthers and their Duke University-committed senior guard, Jeremy Roach, in January.
Wasatch will begin their season with a home matchup against 5A Payson on Tuesday, Nov. 26, before taking on Lone Peak in Orem the next day. Their first home matchup is against Wasatch High School on Monday, Dec. 2.