The final run ep 1: Boys Basketball

Discussing with seniors Austin Hwang, Shreyas Inampudi, Dominic Kellogg III, Itai Lavi and Leonardo Sze about their final CCS and season

Aditya Shukla and Michelle Zheng

MZ: In the 2022-23 winter sports season, Boys Basketball, Girls Basketball and Wrestling all advanced to the CIF Central Coast Section playoffs. In the podcast, we will be discussing with Boys Basketball seniors Austin Hwang, Shreyas Inampudi, Dominic Kellog, Itai Lavi and Leonardo Sze about their experience at CCS and their thoughts on their final season of high school. We are Adi Shukla and Michelle Zheng and this is The Final Run! 

AS: Why don’t we get into that? So going into the last CCS playoffs, because you guys are all seniors, you’re all graduating. Did you guys come in with a different mindset this year as compared to last year? Or previous years? And, what’s sort of the key kind of difference in terms of mindset and goals that you guys wanted to accomplish?  

IL: I think our captain could start us off with that one.

AH: Captain Bud Kellogg.

DK: Co-captain, co-captain Austin. 

AH: Well, I mean, every year we’re trying to win. But I feel like this year was really different for us, especially since we’re battling a lot of things, like his cousin actually crashed into one of our coach’s cars, so we couldn’t–we actually didn’t have one of our coaches. So that was a huge loss for us. So I feel like we were kind of the underdogs from the start. And I feel like we use that mentality to push through a lot of our games. Because we knew that we were going to be short-handed, we knew that we’d have to play extra hard just to have a chance with some of the other better teams.

IL: Yeah, we were playing with a chip on our shoulder, you could say. 

DK: We had a major chip on our shoulder because we had our leading scorers come into practice late and it’s hard. We need, we need our biggest scores and when they’re not at practice, it just brings the energy down. So we’re shooting ourselves in the foot the whole season with stuff like that happening.

AH: Yeah, and our defensive liability court. Pardon my French, but these slow-a** guys just on the court, not playing any defense. It really hurt us. 

DK: And gambling: that kills us too! Taking a bet and all that. There’s a lot of people who betted on themselves on the court. They shouldn’t have been doing that because then they will play four or five sometimes. They’ll gamble for steals all game and it’s like four on five on defense, and then there’s already slow people like you were saying, so that’s three on five right there. 

LS: With [Itai Lavi] on the court, that’s basically two on five. 

AS: You know, I’m going to have to pause this and let’s go back more into thenon-gambling aspects of being part of the Boys Basketball team because let me just remind you–

SI: By gambling, he means like, if you’re in the passing lane and if the ball is coming, they’re just going to jump it and take a risk. Most of the time–

DK: Most of the time, you don’t get it though, so now you’re just doing it to hurt us, you know?

AS: Yeah.

IL: Let’s go back to the team though. 

SI: So he said  “Don’t never count this out.” Because, I mean, if you could look at us, we don’t look like no—my bad, my bad—we don’t look like, we don’t look like a basketball team, if you look at our team. But the way we play, like damn, “these guys are good!”

IL: People that come into the gym and they watch us, they tell our coach all the time, like “hey, man, y’all play hard.” That’s what our coach keeps telling uSI: that people come into the gym-

AH: Yeah, it’s a pleasure watching us. 

IL: He has an expectation of his team, like people expect his teams to play hard, you know. And I think that’s what, that’s what we’re trying to do you know.

LS: Last year we definitely didn’t meet our expectations, you know. We definitely came short of even making CCS, so to begin the season we really just had to change our entire mindset with a whole new group of guys—there were some seniors kind of leaving us. But you know, we kept our heads high. We added Mr. Bud here, and you know, an amazing addition on the defensive end. You’re kind of just like D Rod, you feel me. We decided to change our mindset–

IL: Dennis Rodman 

AH: Oh, D Rodman.

AS: Let’s keep going. Did you guys have like, based on all that you guys have said, as you guys started getting into CCS, did you guys have different expectations for yourself and the team and what exactly were those?

DK: One thing that I did expect in the last game that we lost by 20, I expected our leading scorer, top of the team, to win with leading scores. You know, one of our leading scorers, I think, had 1 point or 0 and the other had 40, 50 or something. And it had players who don’t score that much–we had to step up. And it’s so much we can do since we haven’t been in that position all season, we haven’t been put in that position with the ball in our hands to go score like how they score. So they just left us out there all by ourselves I feel.

IL: Yeah, but I mean, I mentioned this in my postgame interview from that game and all the other interviews that I’ve had this season that we don’t come in with the expectation of losing any game, right? The goal was always, you know, it remained the same. You come into any game, you think, “Hey, it could be a challenge, but we’re not coming here to lose, right?” It’s a business trip at the end of the day and I’m not trying to lose any business out here.

DK: I felt like it was a business for us. 

SI: It was a business for me for sure.

LS: Writing off of Bud, it’s just really hard when your stars just underperform on the biggest scene. This was like, this was the biggest game of our entire season. Like, genuinely, this was actually the biggest game of our lives and it happened to be our last game of our careers as well. But it’s just such a darn shame that our two biggest stars, they just can’t rise to the occasion. You know, they cracked under pressure. They’re just like, they’re not diamonds.

IL: We should give them some, we should give them some credit though for helping us get to where we were.

AH: I think we should look at the positivity–positive aspect..

DK: No, but they got us, they got us there, but like, for what? You could’ve just lost the first–

AH: I think there’s that one person in Monta Vista that had like a 23 point triple double.

LS: Was that Tate? 

IL: Tate June?

LS: Yeah that was Tate.   

IL: So let’s hear our next question for us. 

MZ: So this is now you’re senior–in your senior year, did you guys have any different feelings going into the game? Like, were you guys more excited or more sad?

DK: I was like, for me, just coming here, everybody telling me like, “This school isn’t good at sports, right.” And then  just me being on the team and I was able to make history with the team. I felt good. I’ve never been here. It’s my first time here and the team I’m on makes history, so you got to feel good. I felt good.

IL: Kind of adding on to Bud, it’s our last season, so we gotta give it our all . We can’t just give up here. So I mean, obviously the last game, it’s a bit sad, you know, you get a bit emotional like, “I did, I did all this for that.” But, it was a great, great ride from tip to end. Being with my team, you know, a team that feels like family. So it’s really, it’s really great.

AH: I feel like we’re all pretty emotional during our last game because, win or lose, this is the first time that Monta Vista has gotten that far to CCS for basketball in around 30 years. So it was kind of emotional for me personally. Because my last season, I made — we made history. 

SI: Kind of adding on to that, we historically aren’t one of the best squads on paper in recent history. Because first of all, we don’t have any height. Our biggest player is probably Bud that actually, like you know, is productive. And we’re really, really carried by our guards and I think our guard heavy team making it this far into CCS is something that no team really does. It’s always carried by their bigs (centers) or their forwards. 

IL: Yeah, we lost our biggest scorer in the off season, but I mean, we still persevered.

MZ: So you guys said that you guys felt really emotional during the last game of CCS. Was it because you guys made history or was it more because this is your last year?

DK: For me, you know, I just came out of nowhere and it’s like, if I wasn’t here would that have went that far? Because the first half of the season, preseason was rough. I came in the second half and we had a better record. So like, without me there, you know, without the help that I put in and the blood, sweat and tears that I gave to this team, would they have went that far? They still would have had the elite scorers, but would they have had that little Black kid, the big Black kid that was playing in the post, stopping those seven foot kids, while he’s 5 ’11”, just working hard. No one saw that. They always saw the scores. They never saw the work that me and Itai put in. Without us, where would they be? You know, I’m just proud. 

AH: Well correlation doesn’t mean causation.

DK: I’m just proud that we helped the team in a big way. Without us,  there’s no St. Francis game. We’re not there. We don’t beat [Gunn High School] without me and Itai. 

AS: Does anybody else want to talk about what carried the team all the way to CCS playoffs, just besides Dominic? 

DK: Hey, hey, hey. I’m gonna, I’m gonna, I’m gonna keep this so serious right now. No jokes, like, my heart goes out to you, [Itai]. Because without Itai, we wouldn’t have made it. You know, we needed those preseason wins. We had to get over five hundred to qualify, you know, without Itai getting us those wins, we wouldn’t be here today. We wouldn’t be having this podcast talking about how far we’re making history. So I just want to — hats off to you.

IL: Yeah, but I mean, I think what carried us was really our heart. Like Shreyas was saying earlier, we’re not the biggest team on paper. We’re not the most skilled on paper. But I think with a lot of heart and we had pride, like we had pride in the program. We bought in. Everyone can buy out but you can’t– 

SI: You can’t buy in.

IL: Like once you’re in, it’s easy to buy out, but we’re already in so why? Yeah, we’re in it to win it. Our coach says all the time, you know, we got to own the program. So we took ownership. We’re proud to be on the team.

AH: I feel like another reason that we were so successful during the playoffs was because of our coach. Coach [Wade] Nakamura — he’s like what, 5’6’’ — played D2 college basketball, so I feel like since we’re sort of an undersized team and he’s an undersized guard that went pretty far in his basketball career, I feel like a lot of his playstyle and drive rubbed off on us in a big way that really helped us. 

IL: And hats off to our other coach, Ryan Matsui. He’s been with us since freshman year. Last year, he wasn’t part of the coaching staff and this year, he came back and I think that actually made a big difference just like for the players. Most of the juniors and seniors had a connection with him. And I think he was like a great addition. Like he’s a great coach.

AS: Yeah. So I think overall, besides kind of the minutiae of what you guys could have done better during games and things like that, do you guys have any other regrets about how the season turned out? It doesn’t necessarily have to be that you guys, you know, didn’t reach higher levels, or like high levels of competition, but in terms of regrets as a team, like things you guys feel like you could have improved on in just how you guys operated as a group?

IL: Yeah, actually, I have one big regret. There’s one practice where there’s a bit of a scuffle between me and some teammates, and I regret that you know, sometimes, although it was  a bit of a scuffle [and] we let emotions get the best of us. I think actually, I don’t know if it’s really a regret because it helped us grow closer. You can only go to the top once you’ve been to the bottom with your teammates. I mean, I just regret maybe getting my frustration out a little bit too much, but I think I think our team chemistry was great, so maybe like some jokes that some other teammates made about each other were bad for the team chemistry. So I think that might have been a regret for some people.

LS: Just not taking the moment to just soak everything all in. All these years just went by so fast. At the end of each practice, we’re just focusing on the next practice and the next game. We never once just took a moment to just stare at what we built and what we have. In my eyes, we are the CCS champions and my trophies are these boys right here. And then, I feel is what it is. Just like appreciating what we’ve done.

MZ: That’s it for the first episode of the final run. Thank you to the seniors for joining us on this podcast today. This is Adi Shukla and Michelle Zheng and stay tuned for our next episode.