Coach Tom Mott is in his 21st season as a high school basketball coach but his team this season at St. Joeseph High School could be the most talented team he’s ever had.
“We’re obviously far from perfect…and we still haven't played our perfect game,” Mott said. “If we ever play that perfect game, then absolutely, we're the most talented team that that I've been lucky enough to coach.”
Despite finishing the regular season with an undefeated league record, the Knights have lost six games total by a margin of no more than six points to some of the best teams in the state and even the country.
In early December, the Knights played one of the most popular high school basketball teams in the country thanks to one of the most watched high school players; Bronny James of Sierra Canyon High School.
The Knights lost 71-65 but set the tone that this team had enough firepower to play with anybody.
“Once you play the best, you can compare yourself and see where you're at, what you need to get better at and see I'm really not that far away from being as good as these guys,” senior guard Luis Marin explained.
The high-profile nature and hype of this year’s team doesn’t change the fact last year they lost the Central Section Open championship to Clovis West in overtime. In order to remedy that loss, it’ll take chemistry paired with the star-studded talent to get back to the top.
“With a lot of individual good players, it can be easy sometimes for people to be selfish or just have certain spurts where we're not playing as a team,” Marin commented.
Speaking of individually talented players, the Knights have the number one sophomore of the 2025 class the state: Tounde Yessoufou. Averaging over 28 points and 11 rebounds per game, even a national recruit of his caliber isn’t satisfied with the numbers and recognition he’s received thus far.
“I tell myself that I'm not good enough already into setting my goal of going to the NBA,” Yessoufou explained. “I always put the work in. It doesn't matter what people say, it doesn't affect me at all, because I know I still have a lot of work to do.”
Trust is another big component to the St. Joseph’s team. The players trust Mott and the rest of the coaching staff to get to where they need to be. Mott, no stranger to winning section championships with their last in the 2020-2021 season.
“They're not just coaches, I see them more as like parental figures,” Marin said.
With a first round bye in the Division I playoffs, St. Joseph will already be in the state tournament in March and for Mott and his group, the goal is simple.
“Ultimately, these guys know what the goal is and the goal always at the end of the year to play for a CIF championship.”