The Mountain Pointe Pride boys basketball team has about four months until the regular season gets underway. For head coach Hosea Graham, that time is all about one thing: work.

After competing in the eighth annual Best in Basketball Summer Invitational, Graham is confident in his system.

“I was really pleased with the defense and the effort. I told the kids what I’m really looking for is the effort,” Graham said. “If we’re going to be a defensive team, then maximum effort is the minimum requirement.

“We can develop the skill sets that are required to be successful, but we can’t instill that energy and that effort. We really have something good to work with.

Graham begins his second season as coach of the Pride after a brief stint with Westwood High School.

“The transition is very smooth as far as the culture and adapting to the philosophies of my staff,” he said. “The great thing is they’re hungry, they’re energetic and they play really hard. That’s hard to do with high school kids, is get them to play hard.”

Though things are smoothing out, Graham has eight spots to fill after last season’s seniors graduated. But he already has a few players in mind.

“I only have two seniors on my team this year. I had a successful season with my J.V. team last year. Now they’re getting acclimated to the pace of varsity basketball,” he said. “We get to have everybody for two more years, so that’s really exciting.”

Graham said this is the time to start developing the program, and he’s already seen what the freshmen and junior varsity teams have to offer.

“I’ve got a great group of kids coming in for my freshman class, and there are probably six who will all play J.V.,” Graham said. “I’ll have probably three freshmen and two J.V. [players] that will be up with the varsity preparing them to play varsity when they’re sophomores.”

He added he would dress two J.V. players on varsity and they would see playing time to get them ready for the following season.

“We’re also developing Lawrence Combs, who didn’t play last year; he transferred from Desert Vista. He’s about 6-5 and extremely athletic, and he’s developing into a very good basketball player,” Graham said.

Graham said he is moving forward with building in the program, and there were two players in particular he hasn’t factored in to next season’s plan.

“Cortez Johnson is probably not coming back. He went back to New Orleans, I haven’t seen him all summer, and I don’t know what he’s going to do. So we’re going as if he’s not coming back. I don’t think he makes that much of an impact on what our future holds anyway,” Graham said.

“I’d love to have Tyree Shivers, but I don’t know if he’s just focusing on football. So he’s kind of behind the curve now with us because we’ve made so much progress with everybody. If he was playing basketball, of course he would be a big contributor to the team.”

Graham added he was more than confident in his team’s chances, especially with senior-to-be Isaiah Ledford leading the team.

“He’s back and he understands exactly what we need and how we run our offenses and defenses, and he’s stepped up big time for us this summer,” Graham said.

Ledford and his coach were on the same page at the end of the tournament, knowing there was a lot to work on, but remaining optimistic for the season ahead.

“This was a time to see what we need to work on, and we did that. I’m really looking forward to playing with these guys,” Ledford said. “We’ve got a really good team this year.”

• Will Argeros is a junior at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University. He is interning this semester for the AFN.

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