Lions trek into the Wild

Players have learned to stick together through coaching turmoil

FUTURE MVP—Oaks Christian High senior guard Jordan Jones, left, scored 20 points in a 65-60 win against Agoura on Jan. 8 on the road. Photos by BOBBY CURTIS/Acorn Newspapers

FUTURE MVP—Oaks Christian High senior guard Jordan Jones, left, scored 20 points in a 65-60 win against Agoura on Jan. 8 on the road. Photos by BOBBY CURTIS/Acorn Newspapers

Sailing the Bermuda Triangle in a schooner made of Swiss cheese is safer than being an Oaks Christian High boys’ basketball head coach.

Jordan Wild is the team’s fifth skipper in five seasons. There has been one constant—the players.

“As much as we appreciate our past coaches and Coach Wild now, it is about us,” senior guard Jordan Jones said, “because at the end of the day, that’s been the only stabilizing factor here. We’ve been struggling the past couple years with coaching changes and our record, to some extent, but it’s made us stronger. We’re a family. We’re going to work through it.

ROYAL FLUSH—Oaks Christian senior Talin Lewis dunks against Agoura. Lewis scored 12 points in the Marmonte League win.

ROYAL FLUSH—Oaks Christian senior Talin Lewis dunks against Agoura. Lewis scored 12 points in the Marmonte League win.

“We’re going to end it right this year.”

Oaks Christian, which improved to 11-6 overall after defeating Agoura 65-60 on Jan. 8 in the Marmonte League opener, wants to win league, CIF-Southern Section and state titles this season. They’re all lofty goals, but a little blood, sweat and tears go with the territory.

The Lions have been nursing injuries and illnesses, and they’re still seeking a cohesive identity on the court. A strong start to the new year has the team feeling groovy, however.

“It’s a fresh start. It’s a new year,” Jones said. “We’re trying to go undefeated for the rest of 2018.”

Jones was the Acorn’s preseason favorite to win Marmonte MVP—and he’s done nothing to dissuade critics. He’s a fundamentally sound go-to scorer who makes his teammates better. When Agoura tried to stifle him with double teams and box-and-ones, he calmly dished the ball to open Lions—and he still finished with 20 points.

“It comes down to making the right basketball play,” Jones said.

Jordan Berens, a junior, is thriving in a prominent role. The 6-foot-5, 200-pound forward can drain 3-pointers from Lakeview Canyon Road and beyond. He’s also a vocal leader who is rebounding at a higher clip than last winter.

Berens said he enjoys suiting up for this coaching staff.

“The coaches are fun,” the junior said. “They bring a lot of joy, intensity and energy.”

Oaks Christian likes to sprint up and down the court, but the Lions know they must lock down defensively to get transition points.

“It starts with defending,” Berens said. “We start scrapping and that leads to easy buckets, and eventually 3s and free throws.”

An honors student with a 3.7 grade-point average, Berens played one year of volleyball.

Talin Lewis is the resident high flyer.

Lewis, a 6-foot-4, 175-pound guard/forward, makes dunking look more effortless than sipping Arnold Palmers from a catamaran. He prefers attacking the hoop, but he spent this offseason working hard on his outside shooting.

“That’s where every team is going to test me this year,” Lewis said. “They know I can drive. They’re going to give me open shots.”

Lewis, who takes Advanced Placement biology, honors anatomy and honors Chinese, said the Lions will be challenged throughout the rugged league slate. Lewis, who is also a track and field star, said he’s looking forward to battling tough foes on the court and silencing opposing fans in hostile territory—especially the Green Hole at Thousand Oaks. The Conejo Valley rivals play Jan. 19 at Thousand Oaks.

“Competition is fun, for sure,” Lewis said. “The Green Hole is crazy. All that booing makes it more fun.”

Lewis, who wants to study biology at Wake Forest, enjoys watching Devin Booker light up scoreboards for the Phoenix Suns. Lewis’ sister, Tierra, is a freshman sprinter on the track and field team. His father, Terry, played football and ran track in high school in Minnesota.

Matt Glover, a senior point guard, and Grant Bierling, a senior guard, solidify the backcourt.

Wild called Glover a workhorse.

“He gets after it defensively,” the coach said of Glover.

Bierling is a consistent player who does a little bit of everything for Oaks Christian.

Jericho Parker, a 6-foot-6, senior center, is an energetic, athletic rebounder who’s working on his low post moves.

Max Harris, a junior guard, provides a spark off the bench.

Jack Boyd, a junior, facilitates the offense at point guard. He’s handling the ball well and gaining confidence with every game.

Garret Moraga, a junior guard, is a strong perimeter shooter.

James Hendrix, a 6-foot-7 sophomore forward, provides defensive toughness and rebounding. Hendrix suited up at tight end and defensive end for the CIF champion football team in the fall.

The Lions hope Gavin Hartoonian, a senior guard, will recover from an injury by the end of the month. He has not played yet this season.

“We have a really good group of guys that get along very well,” Wild said.

Wild, 29, has been coaching for five years, but this is his first high school head coaching gig. Wild played at Fresno Pacific University and professionally in Australia and Germany.

David Henderson, Ayodeji Egbeyemi and Matt Hornbuckle are assistant coaches. Henderson played 16 years professionally overseas. Egbeyemi, who played hoops at Loyola Marymount, worked in the Los Angeles Clippers front office last year. Hornbuckle helped the Lions win a section title in 2003 as an All-CIF standout with his older brother, Mike, the section player of the year that winter.

Angel Richardson, an Oaks Christian senior, is the student team manager.

“I think, guy for guy, we have the most talent in the league,” Jones said. “I believe and I trust everyone on our team to make game-winning plays. Our defense is going to be key winning league. There’s a lot of talent in this league. As long as we’re mentally prepared to go out and perform the way we know, we expect to handle things throughout the league.”

Oaks Christian in a nutshell

Head coach
• Jordan Wild (first season)
• Matt Glover, senior, PG
• Grant Bierling, senior, G
• Jordan Jones, senior, G
• Talin Lewis, senior, G/F
• Jordan Berens, junior, PF
Bench mob
• Jericho Parker
• Max Harris
• Jack Boyd
• Garret Moraga
• James Hendrix
• Gavin Hartoonian
Top 3-point shooters
• Jordan Jones
• Jordan Berens
Stealth defender
• Talin Lewis
Newcomer to watch
• Matt Glover
Next game
• Oaks Christian at Newbury Park, 7:30 p.m. Fri., Jan. 12