Gilroy High boys basketball coach Mike Suarez believes this year’s team can develop into something special. The Mustangs, who entered the week with a 3-2 record, opened up its Bob Hagen Tournament with losses to Christopher and Aptos before rolling past Monte Vista Christian. Suarez loves the energy the players bring every time they step on the court, whether it’s a practice or game.
Gilroy has offensive firepower in sophomore guard Drew Gumin, who went 6 for 6 from 3-point range in the second half to lead a furious comeback win over Oak Grove on Nov. 28. Gumin and his twin brother, Mason, form a dynamic backcourt. Mason plays shooting guard and Drew the point guard, but as the Oak Grove game showed Drew can light it up on a moment’s notice.
“Drew is really emulating the selfless attitude we want to incorporate as a team into our culture,” Suarez said. “We give Drew the green light for obvious reasons, but he’s always looking to set his teammates up. Mason has been a great shooter for us, but he’s really focused on the defensive aspect of his game and worked on his quickness. He really wants to defend the best guy on the other team.”
Suarez said Mason Gumin has also put an emphasis on not settling for the outside shot and trying to attack the basket when the opportunity presents itself. Junior Josh Filice-Hollar and senior James Vegas are relied upon to control the glass. The two frontcourt players combined for 27 rebounds against Oak Grove, with Vegas averaging a double-double through the first couple of weeks of play after having a breakout season last year. Filice-Hollar was the Pacific Division Defensive Player of the Year last season, but he didn’t rest on his laurels.
“Josh has really stepped up in his ability to score and rebound,” Suarez said. “James continues to make improvements such as his footwork, defensive discipline, communication and shooting. He’s shooting 50 percent for us and is averaging 12.5 points per game. We rely on Josh and James to make sure not to give up second shots while creating second-chance shots for us.”
Suarez said the team wants to establish a defensive bulldog mentality because while teams sometimes go into shooting slumps, defense is all about effort. Junior point guard Carlos Andrade and senior Jaeru Are provide the team with depth off the bench, as they usually make an immediate impact in the game. Andrade provides solid ball-handling and allows Drew Gumin to switch to the shooting guard spot at any point in a game.
“Carlos definitely helped us versus Oak Grove,” Suarez said. “He turned the tide of that game.”
Are has had a great attitude in switching from point guard to a frontcourt player, as he usually subs in for either Vegas or Filice-Hollar.
“Jaeru is providing us with that sixth man role who can play anywhere in this new era of position-less basketball where you need to be able to play multiple positions,” Suarez said. “He’s got an inside game, an outside game, and is a never-ending mad man because he plays physical and earns his stripes.”
After not playing on the team last year as a junior, Diego Hsu has returned and provided the team with his usual high energetic ways and being an intense competitor, especially defensively. Suarez said Hsu provides leadership on and off the court while also having the ability to spell one of the Gumin brothers when necessary.
Suarez noted the nice background stories on seniors Juan Pirir Lopez and Tony Alvarez, who was the Most Valuable Player on the junior varsity team last season. Alvarez has only been playing organized basketball for the last 18 months, but has come on strong. Pirir Lopez made the JV team as a freshman but wasn’t on the team as a sophomore and got cut off last year’s squad.
“He worked really hard in the off-season to make the necessary improvements that would make him a varsity player,” Suarez said. “He’s really taken advantage of the full opportunity in front of him.”’
A couple of other key newcomers from last year’s JV team include junior Mateo Martinez and senior Jose Rodriguez. The Mustangs expect sophomore Owen Straub to be back this week, and he has shown some potential after making the team last season as a freshman.
“I’m really excited about this group,” Suarez said. “It ended up being a blessing that we had attrition because we have a much more cohesive group. I feel like we’re further along now at this point in the season than we’ve been in the past, and that’s because guys worked hard in the off-season.”