The Community Christian Mustangs boys basketball team has three returning seniors.
And for many teams, the complexion of that type of roster may be suggestive of inexperience. However, the Port Charlotte-based high school’s youthful depth and basketball IQ has the program brimming with optimism and enthusiasm.
This is the program’s second year in the FHSAA, and the team’s nucleus is returning, providing the Mustangs with a solid foundation.
“Everybody worked hard in the offseason, and everybody’s gotten better,” said Kurt Taylor, Community Christian basketball coach. “I believe we have much better chemistry. I’m expecting a lot more victories this year.”
The Mustangs find themselves in the challenging 3A district, where there’s little margin for error.
“I’m expecting our guys to play at a much higher level, also to compete in our district, and to have a chance to win a district championship, and that’s our goal,” said Taylor. “That’s our expectations, and we’re very excited about the progress being made and about the type of season we can have.”
It’s that chemistry, trust and strong bond that makes the Mustangs an engaging adversary. And if it seems like there’s a familial connection, you would be correct. Kurt’s son, Larry, is the Mustangs assistant coach.
“It’s a real blessing to me because obviously I’m his father,” said Kurt. “I never really envisioned this opportunity taking place. The Lord had different plans, and to have Larry on staff, here on the basketball coaching staff, is a great help to me personally and to the kids here at the school.”
Sam Battle is one of the team’s returning seniors. He opened the regular season scoring 25 points and grabbing 15 rebounds against a rival with an experienced and deep roster, Manatee. He’s joined by sophomore Brandon Hill, who Larry Taylor, describes as a young talent and consistently averages close to double doubles, who had 12 points and 8 rebounds against the Hurricanes, and point guard Ethan Bray totaled eight points and five assists against the opposition.
Bray a junior, is one of the team’s three co-captains along with Battle and the team’s other senior Jacob Orr. Bray is the Mustangs point guard, who has an exceptional basketball IQ and possesses outstanding defensive awareness, said Larry.
The Mustangs played St. Stephen’s in their first district game Friday night, and lost 55-45. The road loss was a learning experience. Brandon Hill led the Mustangs with 18 points and grabbed six rebounds; Sam Battle had 11 points and 10 rebounds; Jeren Almeida had seven points and two steals.
“I’m confident that this team is going to be one of the top contenders in the district this year,” said Larry. “When we played Manatee, we only lost to Manatee High School by 11, 63-52.
Larry Taylor, who played collegiately at the Division I level, has worked with a number of players on the team previously, providing the Mustangs coaching staff with great insight and an invaluable perspective.
“It’s great having somebody on the coaching staff that I know,”said Kurt. “That’s a great improvement. I expect him to be a great asset to Community Christian School as a mentor, as far as just being around the kids, being one of the PE instructors, and certainly as a coach of the basketball team and our basketball program. It’s a big step of improvement and realistically I believe we can go to to the next level.”