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Junior Sam Darnold. Photo by Steve Breazeale
Junior Sam Darnold. Photo by Steve Breazeale

Darnold, Shelmidine return to revamp roster

By Steve Breazeale

The San Clemente boys basketball team is hoping to peak at the right moment.

As the squad gears up to defend its Sea View League title on January 15 with a road game against San Juan Hills, recent additions to the roster have them looking more like the team head coach Marc Popovich envisioned he’d have last summer. That’s in large part due to the return of reigning league MVP Sam Darnold and point guard Gage Shelmidine.

The Tritons (8-8) have pulled off some good wins and suffered tough losses in the preseason while Darnold, who was healing a broken foot, sat on the sidelines and Shelmidine, a transfer from Saddleback Valley Christian, had to sit out due to eligibility requirements.

On December 26, the Tritons got their MVP back. Darnold took to the court for the first time this season in a tournament game against Eastlake, where he dropped 22 points in an 81-66 victory. Darnold topped that performance by scoring 26 points in a Tritons 81-66 nonleague loss to Edison three games later.

The Tritons like to play an up-tempo style of offense and Darnold, a 6-foot-5-inch forward who can handle the ball, attack at the rim and shoot 3-pointers, is just the type of player who can thrive in that environment.

“It’s been good for us, because (Darnold) gives us our foundation every game and he makes everyone better,” Popovich said.

Shelmidine joined the rotation on January 7 in a 60-53 win over Troy, delivering five points and three steals. While Popovich said Shelmidine is a true point guard and will not light up the scoreboard every night, Shelmidine’s responsibility will lie in getting the offense going.

Darnold and Shelmidine join a group that Popovich believes played well to start the season. Juniors Elijah Morris (12 points per game) and Nick Crankshaw (10.3 ppg), along with senior Austin Miller (9.2 ppg), have been the backbone of a team that is beginning to take shape just in time for their league opener against San Juan Hills on January 15.

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