BOYS BASKETBALL: Cougars Ready for Upcoming Season


Coach Nicholas Podesta has high hopes for the Weston Ranch High School basketball team this year. After all, the Cougars are the defending CIF NorCal Division II champions, and the hope the Cougars will continue to excel on the court is a given.

However, as Weston Ranch opens the 2021-2022 season, Podesta also knows there are many questions to answer as he begins his tenure as the basketball coach. Friday night’s opener at Gregori HS (Modesto) will be the first time the Cougs will not have some of the familiar faces fans of the program are used to seeing, and it will be the first time the Cougars will take the court in a year. So, the question is: who will the Cougars be this year?

“We have a very young and inexperienced group,” Podesta said. “Only three student-athletes on this roster have ever played a varsity game, and most of their varsity experience comes from a COVID-shortened season. In addition, some of our players haven’t even played a JV game, so we have quite a bit of learning still to do.”

Like most schools, Weston Ranch will take the floor after a very long break due to the COVID-19 shutdown, which began in March of 2020. The layoff is a concern, but the reality of getting back to basketball helps ease the anxiety of the youth and inexperience in the Cougar program.

“We’re just happy to get back to a full season and allow our student-athletes to compete,” Podesta said. “This past year and a half have been incredibly difficult for everybody. Getting back in the gym and playing a full 28 game schedule is the primary goal.”

And as the Cougars prepare for the season, the goal of getting back to playing also means they will need to manage a challenging (to put it mildly) pre-season schedule and compete in the highly competitive VOL. As a result, every game for the Cougars will be a test and a measuring stick. Weston Ranch is no stranger to playing top-level competition every year, and they also know that the school’s basketball reputation will put them in the cross-hairs of every opponent. Opposing schools know that winning over Weston Ranch is a big deal, and Podesta is ready for those challenges.

“Our youth and inexperience for sure are significant obstacles for us,” said Podesta. “We’re asking a lot of our players, competing against some of the best teams in Northern and Central California. We play a brutal schedule and will need to do our part to ensure they’re prepared and ready for the challenge.”

Fans of Cougar basketball will see new faces on the floor this year. For example, the familiar group (Gavin Wilburn, Titus Haley, Don’jae Lindsey, and Mi’Son Coilton) are gone, so Podesta will turn to a new group to take the reins for the program. It will take patience and time, but it is something Podesta looks forward to viewing.

Podesta said, “We expect big seasons from Richard Banks, Xavion Bell, Khristian Holmes, Elliot, and Elijah Mobley. I’m also very excited to see freshman Darrion Lilly’s development this season. He’s going to be an outstanding four-year varsity player.”

After a long wait, Cougar basketball is back. A new beginning and a new era, and we get our first look at Weston Ranch Friday night at Gregori. For Podesta, carrying the new group into this season is a challenge he accepts, and he is looking forward to keeping Weston Ranch basketball at the top of their game.

“We’re going to put out an exciting product on the floor every night,” Podesta said. “We play very hard and very fast, which makes for exciting basketball. Win or lose, Weston Ranch boys basketball is going to compete for 32 minutes.”

The Cougars will play at Gregori High School of Modesto on November 19. Tip-off is scheduled for 7 pm.


Any reproduction of this story without permission from The Prowl is discouraged