Fourth-year Highland coach Brian Hooker has enjoyed great success, but the ultimate dream of a state championship has evaded him and still motivates him.
The Hawks are 78-15 in Hooker’s first three seasons with each Delaney Athletic Conference regular season championship, but they lost in the VISAA Division II state quarterfinals each of the past two boys basketball seasons.
“Hopefully one of these years we will knock down that door and get into the state final four,” Hooker said. “That is what we would ultimately like.”
The Hawks lost six seniors following last season, including Darret Justice and Cam Timmons, and lost four players to transfer. But they have plenty of potential with junior point guard Angelo Brizzi, senior guard Zion Hanberry and Patriot transfer Yusef Salih, a junior guard.
“We are very much a different team this year,” Hooker said. “We are pretty young.
Brizzi has nearly 15 NCAA Division I scholarship offers and averaged more than 17 points per game last season.
“Angelo is going to be a big part of what we do and a big focal point,” Hooker said. “He is a rare combination of a scoring point guard. He will lead the ship.”
Hanberry will be Mr. Everything as the Hawks attempt to grab the DAC regular season and tournament titles for the second consecutive season.
“He is a tremendous basketball player and one of the most solid players I have ever coached,” Hooker said. “I can trust him in all facets. If you are going to have a team with one senior he is a pretty good one to have.”
Salih transferred in after a great season at Patriot High.
“Yusef probably would have been their top returning guard from a pretty good Patriot team last year,” Hooker said. “He is another kid that is an all-around player. He can score the ball, handle the ball and he can also defend really well. We are excited about him.”
Highland will also rely on sophomore Roman Barshow, a 6-foot-5 sophomore transfer from Paul VI. One of the Hawks’ youngest players is also their tallest – 6-8 freshman Patrick O’Brien.
“We have to work on putting some muscle on him but he is another very skilled kid,” Hooker said. “He can step out and hit 3-pointers and plays really hard.”