The student newspaper of Vernon Hills High School

The Scratching Post

The student newspaper of Vernon Hills High School

The Scratching Post

The student newspaper of Vernon Hills High School

The Scratching Post

Basketball players jump into new season

Nolan Clay
Boys’ Varsity basketball team walks onto the Carmel Catholic courts.

Basketball is back and VHHS teams are gearing up for a positive season filled with goal setting, teamwork and strong leadership.

6’3” varsity power forward Tomasz Starr (11) entered his third year of high school basketball with strong goals and ambitions. 

“Individually, my goal is that I would like to contribute to my team, obviously scoring-wise, but [also by] playing my role offensively. As a team, I think we always want to be with it and we want to get more than 20 wins this year, that’s probably our biggest goal,” Starr said.

Starr’s coach, Matt McCarty, reflected upon how last season went and how he plans to help his team improve this season.

“Last year, we finished 16-16, so we were right at that 500 level…we did have a winning record in conference last year,” McCarty said. “We were 6-4 at conference last year, so [our goal is to improve] upon that — maybe getting a 7-3 or 8-2, having an overall winning record and playing for a regional championship.”

Along with this, McCarty reminisced about two of his star players last year and how the current team can learn from them.

“Milan Raval and Nolan Lazor watched a ton of film on their opponents and got better by watching film…I’m going to try to make that very apparent to [the current team] that you’ve got to get better in that area,” McCarty said. “Spending time researching your opponent, knowing your opponent, knowing the little things and details about them, translates to better performance on the court.”

On the girl’s varsity basketball team, Emma Jocson (9) explained one of her main goals as a freshman on varsity.

“As a player, I want to get better, but I also want to create more bonds with my teammates so we can play better together,” Jocson said. [We can accomplish this by] communicating with each other and not arguing, making sure that everyone is on the same page.”

Jocson has been playing basketball since 4th grade and has stuck with it because of her love for the sport as well as her role models and support system in her life. Her main role model is her dad, who coaches her on what she can do to improve on her game, while also commending her admirable plays. Starr also shares a special bond with his dad when it comes to basketball.

“A lot of [my inspiration] has been my dad, who has always pushed me in so many ways and taught me to be a better player, and not only that, but also the mental aspect of being a better player,” Starr said. “My dad’s awesome and a really positive leader in my life who’s really helped me grow.”

Starr elaborated on other role models who inspire him, including an NBA player, his coach and his fellow teammates.

“One of my greatest role models, Kobe Bryant, always taught me his work ethic, and I’ve always tried to replicate that in my day,” Starr said. “I’ve also gotten a lot of support from my teammates, specifically one of my closest friends, AJ. We’ve grown up playing ever since freshman year. I think he’s helped me grow…he’s really kept me going…and has just been a positive person in my life,” Starr said.

Starr gave a shout out to McCarty when he reflected on a piece of advice he gave to him.

“One of the most inspirational quotes I’ve heard from Coach McCarty is to never let the little mistakes bother you and to just flush them out and keep your head in the game, no matter what mistakes might happen. You’ve got to stay in the game and not let mistakes distract you,” Starr said.

Along with inspiration from McCarty, when cogitating about team leadership, one specific person came to Starr’s mind.

“One of the strongest leaders we have on our team is Dylan Chung (12). He holds us accountable, keeps the team together and keeps a positive attitude during practice,” Starr said.

On a personal level, Starr always tries his best to have a positive approach on the court.

“In practice I always try to encourage everybody…I believe their confidence is one of the most important things of the game. I also just try to play my best no matter what happens and keep my head up,” Starr said. 

McCarty spoke about one of his junior players.

“AJ [Anthony Morgan Jr. (11)] started almost every game last year as a sophomore, so he’s at the top of our leadership category for juniors, and he works really hard,” McCarty said.

In addition to Morgan, McCarty gave a hand to his senior players. 

“We have a good senior group…Dylan Chung (12) has always been our on-court leader, he’s our point guard…Dylan Einhorn (12) has always been a very good team leader with getting the guys in the right place and being our bench leader and practice leader. Deen Hatibovic (12) and Bryce Drextler (12) have done a good job, too,” McCarty said. 

Over on the girl’s side, Jocson expressed her views on leadership within her team.

“Elise [Davis] (12) is a strong leader on our team. She’s very vocal, and if you need to ask any questions, you can ask her,” Jocson said.

Personally, Jocson possesses an encouraging demeanor and supportive mindset during games, as well as at practice.

“I motivate them, I cheer them on when I’m on the bench or sideline at practice. I’ll correct them if they need any correcting, and I’ll help them if they need,” Jocson said. 

Hard work allows athletes to achieve their team and personal goals. Starr shared a fond memory of an important milestone in his life that he worked for.

“When I threw down my first dunk, that was probably one of the most shocking moments in my life because I always remembered seeing myself as a middle and elementary school kid, never thinking I would ever be able to do that. When I got my first dunk, I got really excited, and ever since then, I’ve just been working on it more and more to a point where I’ve got a pretty good dunk,” Starr said.

Being able to reach his goal of dunking required a lot of time, practice and dedication, which taught Starr how to split his time between school and basketball.

“School is always a priority for me, but I treat both [school and basketball] with respect and respectfully with my time. I try to spend just as much time training, and by training I mean not just shooting at the basketball hoop, but also the way I eat, the way I work out, those kinds of things,” Starr said.

Starr continued to explain how both school and basketball share a similar and essential aspect of life. 

“Both require discipline. You need discipline to keep going because there’s going to be days where you don’t feel like doing it, don’t feel like going to the court and taking a day or two off,” Starr said. You feel like not trying your hardest, but you have to, because at the end of the day, those are the kinds of things that you need and that the team expects of you. Just as you expect good grades, you expect good results on the court. That’s discipline.” 

McCarty relayed his eagerness for the rest of the 2023-2024 basketball season. 

“We’ve had a good first week, we went 3-1, so a lot of good things, but also a lot of things to work on. It’s a good group with a good attitude; I’m looking forward to working with them all season,” McCarty said.