“Motivation” was the word that Coach Landon Boucher chose when asked what he was left with following last season.
“More than anything, I’m motivated to have not just a more encouraging, but a more stabilizing year,” said Boucher, head coach of the Westmont men’s basketball team.
A year ago, the Westmont men’s basketball team began its season 9-0, which included a pair of wins in their first two Golden State Athletic Conference games. After winning those first pair of conference games, the Warriors proceeded to lose 13 of their final 16 GSAC games.
It was not as though the club played uncompetitive basketball, but instead, they continued to find themselves on the losing end of nail-biters.
The downslide saw the Warriors lose three overtime games, two of which were decided by less than three points. It saw them lose an 82-80 game to Arizona Christian, in a game they at one point led by 12, and a 76-75 game to Vanguard, where a would-have-been buzzer-beating layup refused to fall.
Those grueling defeats, mixed with a pair of forfeits due to COVID-19, combined for an exhausting final stretch to a once-promising season a year ago.
Now, a new group of Warriors enter 2022-23 with a chance to write a new script.
“It’s no secret, the last two years have not been the most ideal first-two years as head coach,” Boucher said. “With COVID, injuries, and some tough breaks, it’s been a grind the whole way through. My hope is this is a year for stability.”
In Boucher’s first-two seasons as head coach of the Warriors, the club has put up a respectable overall record of 24-18. Behind the overall numbers, however, is a subpar GSAC record through a pair of campaigns plagued by the global pandemic. This season, Boucher is hopeful the Warriors can adapt through the adversity that has taxed them in years past.
“Stability in our program, our players, and our coaching staff is what I am personally striving for this season,” added Boucher. “When adversity strikes, because we know it will, my hope is we’re better equipped to handle it than we were in the past.”
This season, Boucher’s active roster features 12 Warriors, four of whom were members of the team last season. With that, the club has also welcomed eight active newcomers.
Headlining the list of returners is fifth-year senior Cade Roth, who, despite missing 11 games last season, led the team with 91 assists.
The Silverton, Ore. native averaged 10.1 points per game and led the team by averaging 5.8 rebounds per game. Aside from his on-the-court skills, it is Roth’s experience and wisdom that most excites Boucher.
“Cade is the only guy on this team who has won a GSAC Championship,” noted Boucher. “Cade wanting to come back for a fifth year was really encouraging for us, because he’s been the leader of this team for three years now. To be able to have some continuity with Cade leading the team is huge.”
Cly Griffith, Jalen Townsell, and Kyler Warren are the remaining three Warriors to return to the club, all of whom are coming back for their second season at Westmont. Griffith, a senior, joined the Warriors at the beginning of the spring semester last season, and looks to play a pivotal role for the team as a returning guard.
In 13 games last year, the Canadian guard averaged 12.5 points per game, while shooting 54.9% from the field.
“Cly got thrown into the middle of the season last year,” Boucher said, “so to get to spend the summer with him and find out more about who he is as a person and a player has been huge. Cly is in an interesting position where, until this season, he had never returned to a college program before. This is the first time in his collegiate career that he’s been a returner, and with that, comes leadership.”
Townsell returns after averaging 12.3 points per game last season, while shooting at a 36.7% clip from beyond the arc. Warren returns after collecting 91 rebounds in 21 starts.
When asked about the structure of the roster, with two-thirds of the men being new to the program, Boucher revealed the positives of the clean slate.
“Last year was very fatiguing,” explained Boucher. “These guys aren’t coming in with the weight of what happened to this team last year. These guys are coming in with momentum, and excitement about being at a new school.
“Anthony McIntyre and Amir Davis were All-State at the junior college level last season. Anthony lost only three games all season. Amir’s team won their league last season. These guys aren’t used to losing. These guys are used to winning, and they expect that from themselves and from this team.”
McIntyre, a 6-4 wing, transfers to Westmont from Ventura College, where he averaged 16.5 points per game en route to earning California Community College Men’s Basketball Coaches Association All-State honors. The Sylmar native pulled down 6.7 rebounds a game as he led the Pirates to a Western State Conference Championship.
Davis, a 6-4 guard from Riverside City College, averaged 11.2 points and 7.8 rebounds per game last season. Davis joined McIntyre on the CCCMBCA All-State team, as the former led the Riverside Tigers to a Co-Orange County Empire Conference Championship.
“To have the size and athleticism we do on the wings is pretty exciting,” explained Boucher. “With Anthony, Amir, and Cade, we expect a lot of production. We expect those guys to guard and rebound over big players throughout the season.”
At the forefront of the Warriors’ rebounding hopes is transfer Tone Patton, who comes to Westmont from Cal St East Bay. For the Pioneers last season, Patton averaged 8.0 points per game in 24 contests, while averaging 5.4 rebounds per game.
The 6-6, 230-pound wing figures to play a key factor for the Warriors when it comes to guarding big men in the GSAC.
“With Tone, you can expect an undersized post player who is going to rebound at a high level,” Boucher said. “Tone can space out the defense on the other end, and hopefully, bring the other team’s big guys out to the three-point line.”
Another transfer who is likely to see the court immediately is guard Drew Ramirez, who comes to the Warriors from Concordia Irvine. As a freshman for the Golden Eagles, the Ventura native averaged 7.7 points per game, while shooting 41.2% from the 3-point line.
“Drew Ramirez has been nails for us in practice,” said Boucher. He’s a guy you can rely on with what he brings. I’m excited about him being a Warrior, especially given how he’s grown up in our backyard. He’s from the Ventura and Oxnard area, so to have a local guy around has been great.”
Moving up the coast, another pair of newcomers join the Warriors from Oregon. Lucas Roth, the younger brother of Cade, comes to Westmont from Corban (Ore.), while freshman Zeke Viuhkola comes to Santa Barbara from West Linn, Ore.
Both the younger Roth and the freshman Viuhkola are 6-2 wings.
“There’s been some really nice surprises coming in,” Boucher said. “Zeke has jumped right in, and he doesn’t feel like a freshman at all. The way he competes, and his ability to shoot, makes us think he’s going to be a really good Westmont Warrior in time.”
Rounding out Westmont’s newcomers are freshman Quinn Thorne, and transfer Brycyn Gossett. Thorne is originally from Chandler, Ariz., where he was a star for the Corona del Sol Aztecs. Gossett is a familiar face to the Santa Barbara community, as the 6-3 forward averaged 9.1 points per game for Santa Barbara City College last season.
Jacob Norling is the sports information assistant at Westmont College.