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Mater Dei’s boys basketball team should be good, too – Orange County Register - FlagSpin

Mater Dei’s boys basketball team should be good, too – Orange County Register


Interviews with Mater Dei football people completed , it was time to take a look at what was going on inside the school’s gym.

“Doesn’t that kid look like Shaq?” asked Gary McKnight, going into his 40th season coaching Mater Dei’s boys basketball team.

It’s easy to see what McKnight was talking about. The Shaquille O’Neal-ish player is Tee Bartlett. He is 6-foot-10 and 240 pounds and moves around like a small forward.

Bartlett is a freshman.

McKnight points to another freshman on the court, Owen Verna. He is a 6-2 guard.

“By the time he’s done,” McKnight said, “he might be one of the best players we’ve had here.”

Another freshman is Blake Davidson. He is 6-6 and the younger brother of Nick Davidson, a senior last season at Mater Dei who now is at Nevada, and junior forward Zack Davidson, who like Nick is 6-8.

“Blake might end up being taller than his brothers,” McKnight said. “He finishes very well and he’s very good around the basket. Very intelligent, too.”

The senior class is good, too, including 6-6 guard Jack McCloskey, 6-6 guard Kaden Minter and 6-5 guard Gabriel Quiette. The roster has some Mater Dei legacy names, too. Sophomore guard Brady Karich’s father Andy was an outstanding Monarch, as was junior guard Luke Peabody’s father Tom.

Basketball season is less than two months away. Mater Dei’s opener is Nov. 22 at Calvary Chapel. The Monarchs play in a couple of out-of-state tournaments in December, at Chicago and at Florida.

McKnight not long ago swore off playing games outside of Southern California. What changed?

McKnight: “I got bored.”


• Crean Lutheran might have Orange County’s No. 2 boys basketball team when the preseason rankings are out next month. The Saints, who last season finished 17-2 and won the Empire League and CIF Southern Section Division 2A championship, have a couple of good returnees, including 6-9 senior Kote Keat, the CIF-SS Division 2A player of the year and a UC Santa Barbara commit. They also have back 6-11 center James Agany, Parker Tuttle and multi-sport standout Jack Fairchild. Their offseason additions include 6-4 senior point guard Rui Han, who transferred from Damien, Victorious Miller, a nationally-ranked 6-5 sophomore who spent last school year at the Academy of Sports Science prep school in Corona, and 5-11 sophomore guard Darrell Morris who also is from the Academy of Sports Science.

• If you watch the Mater Dei-St. John Bosco football game Friday night you will see along the legs of the Bosco players pants “CAETERA TOLLE” which comes from the Salesian religious congregation’s coach of arms, “Da mihi animas, caetera tolle” (“Give me souls, take away the rest”). Salesians founded the school and remain involved in its management.

• The CIF Southern Section Council on Thursday supported St. Margaret’s appeal of its placement in the Coast View Athletic Association. St. Margaret’s instead will be in the Orange Coast League for two years beginning with the 2022-23 school year.

• The Coast View Athletic Association supported the appeal. While the support was a benevolent gesture, a working knowledge of CVAA attitudinal history suggests that south county public schools would never want a private school in its group.

• For the first time in CIF-SS football, teams will be placed in divisions at the end of the regular season. Plenty of social-media discussion centers on how many teams will be in Division 1 and which teams. There are plenty of crucial games to be played, including Trinity League games and Friday’s Sierra Canyon-Mission Viejo, that will decide the makeup of the Division 1 bracket.

• It won’t happen, but a six-team Division 1 football bracket could work. The top two teams get first-round byes; first-round games on Nov. 12 (a week after the other divisions have their first-round games); those winners play the top two-seeded teams Nov. 19 in the semifinals, then the championship game on Nov. 26.

• If you’re curious why a 0-5 team is in the Orange County football top 25 and a 5-0 team is not, examine the nonleague schedules of those non-top 25 5-0 teams. Coaches know how good their teams are, and will select nonleague opponents accordingly.

• CIF State Executive Director Ron Nocetti was at the CIF-SS Council meeting Thursday and acknowledged that the state group is thinking about Saddleback College as a setting for state football championship games. Nocetti said Saddleback College’s football facilities have much to offer, including nearby fields for teams to prepare for their games while a previous game is finishing, which would allow for games to kick off on time.

• Tuesday was a big day in county girls volleyball. Aliso Niguel defeated San Clemente in five sets to take sole possession of first place in the South Coast League and improve to 13-2 overall and 4-0 in league; Mater Dei swept JSerra to up its record to 24-2 overall and 4-0 in the Trinity League; and Huntington Beach defeated Newport Harbor in four sets in a nonleague match.

• The Chargers and Rams are working with the NFL and Nike to start girls flag football at local high schools.

• Officials are needed in every sport in Orange County. The Orange County Softball Officials Association needs umpires for the coming season for which pay goes from $74-$86, depending upon level and how many umps are working a game. For information contact Bill Taraschi at or Steven Thompson at

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Travis Burnett

Travis Burnett

A pioneer in the flag football community, Travis helped co-found the Flag Football World Championship Tour, FlagSpin and USA Flag. Featuring 15+ years of content creation for the sport of flag football, creating and managing the largest flag football tournaments on the planet, coaching experience at the youth and adult level as well as an active player with National and World Championship level experience.

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