DON KETCHUM is a native of Phoenix. He was a sportswriter for The Arizona Republic/The Phoenix Gazette for nearly four decades. He covered high school sports on several occasions as well as the Arizona Diamondbacks, Arizona Cardinals and Arizona State sports. From 2008-14, he was a staff writer for, the web site of the Arizona Interscholastic Association.

Saturday, December 5, 2020

Basketball Gators will have deep roster

 A nice music playlist mix of pop and holiday tunes wafted through the air of the Activity Center on Friday (Dec. 4). Even a few of the varsity and junior-varsity basketball coaches got their groove on, moving and swaying with the music.

But good things sometimes must come to an end and it was time to wheel the speaker back into the coaches’ office and get down to business.

In the case of the Xavier Prep varsity, it was the second full day of preseason practice after a few days of tryouts, and the Gators were working hard in preparation for a somewhat abbreviated schedule that was pushed by the Covid virus and its safety protocols into the first week of January.

Xavier, which fell to Mesa Westwood in the first round of last year’s state tournament, will play 15 games. That is down three from its original schedule, as well as missing out on a holiday tournament at Phoenix Arcadia.

The roster had been settled, and head coach Jennifer Gillom will oversee a group of 13 that has as much potential as she has seen at XCP for a long time.

“I am super excited,’’ Gillom said. “We are jelling pretty fast. We have had some very good individual players in the past, but I don’t think we have had the same depth as we have with this team.’’

The Gators are young, but they also are good. There are four seniors, one junior, four sophomores and four freshmen. Some of the freshmen play like upperclassmen.

The fact that a few of the players from last year’s team did not return opened things up for this youthful group. Virtually all of the players have had experience playing club ball, and that helps Gillom impart noteworthy aspects of what she wants done and not have to repeat basic instructions as often.

In addition to the club ball, players have been taking a weightlifting class at XCP, usually the final time period of the day, where they can get stronger and build more endurance through running.

“We have a lot of quick learners, and I don’t think you can always say that,’’ Gillom said.

Keep an eye on these players as the season opener at Anthem Boulder Creek approaches on Jan. 5:

*Senior guard Victoria “Tori’’ Saucedo. Gillom said she is playing with a lot more confidence and has improved on her outside shooting.

*Sophomore guard Sienna Cherwinski. She handled the ball most of the time from the point as a freshman, but this season will add to her resume by playing the “2’ and “3’ guards, moving everywhere in the backcourt, according to Gillom.

*Sophomore forward, center and sometime guard Mia Davis. The coach says the 6-foot-1 Davis has worked a lot on her game and now is more of a complete player. “She struggled on defense last season, but now has learned the importance of playing at both ends of the floor,’’ Gillom said.

*Sophomore forward Hannah Young also has improved and should be more effective under the basket, particularly with her rebounding and defense. Junior forward Toni Garcia also fits into this category.

*The depth has improved with the maturity of senior forwards Sophia Alameddin and Rachel Orr and the development of sophomore forward-post Gabi Trbovic as one of the JV squad’s top players last season.

*The four freshmen are guards Dominique “Dom’’ Nesland, Sarah Miller, Maureen Ulrich (guard-forward) and Kalyn Doss. The latter was a member of XCP’s state championship golf team.



(Players listed alphabetically)

Head coach – Jennifer Gillom. Assistant coaches – Patrick Mangosing, Rikki Mulloy.


Sophia Alameddin, Sr., F

Sienna Cherwinski, So., G

Mia Davis, So., F-C

Kalyn Doss, Fr., G

Lauren Etsitty, Sr., G

Toni Garcia, Jr., F

Sarah Miller, Fr., G

Dominique Nesland, Fr., G

Rachel Orr, Sr., F

Tori Saucedo, Sr., G

Gabi Trbovic, So., F-C

Maureen Ulrich, Fr., G-F

Hannah Young, So., F


(Revised from AIA original)

All games, 7 p.m.

Jan. 5 -- @ Anthem Boulder Creek

Jan. 8 – vs. Chandler Basha

Jan. 12 -- @ Chandler High

Jan. 13 -- @ Phoenix South Mountain

Jan. 15 – vs. Gilbert Perry

Jan. 22 -- @ Chandler Hamilton

Jan. 26 -- @ Chandler Basha

Jan. 28 – vs. Chandler High

Feb. 2 -- @ Gilbert Perry

Feb. 5 – vs. Tucson High

Feb. 9 – vs. Chandler Hamilton

Feb. 10 -- @ Phoenix North

Feb. 11 – vs. Phoenix Pinnacle

Feb. 12 – vs. Phoenix Sandra Day O’Connor

Feb. 16 -- @ Scottsdale Chaparral

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