The rubber soles of the Moon Valley Rockets’ Boys Basketball team squeak on the wood floor of the gym as the boys run through drills. The Rockets, like many others, are gearing up for the first game of the post-season that begins Wednesday. The difference for the Rockets, however, is the growth they’ve seen in their program in recent years.
The Rockets are no stranger to greatness, as they won the State Championships in 1998. Richard Jefferson, who currently plays for the Cleveland Cavaliers, walked on the same court that these players do as a member of the 1998 championship squad. Despite the previous success of the program, they fell into a slump for quite some time. For veterans of the squad, missing the playoffs and a losing record are not-so-distant memories of the past.
The boys worked hard to earn themselves a regular season record of 21-4, earning their first conference championship in 17 years. Head Coach Matt Elliott feels that the team had some extra motivation going into the season after Jefferson brought the NBA Championship Trophy back to the school during an assembly.
“I think it was good for the kids to see him and get to talk to him, meet him, shake his hand, and hear his story of when he played at Moon Valley,” said Elliott. “We also had the leading scorer Devin Green come in and talk to the kids earlier this year, as well, so I think it was good for the kids to see a little bit of the history of the Moon Valley Program.
Since taking over the program five years ago, Head Coach Matt Elliott has made a drastic push to turn a once-failing program back to prominence. Last year, Elliott coached the team to the #15 seed and a spot in the playoffs, but they were eliminated in the second round on the road. Now, the Rockets are looking to show how much they’ve improved on the court.
Elliott’s dramatic change he’s brought to the program was enough to land him a nomination for AZ Central’s “Coach of the Year” award. Elliott’s name is listed along with a few of the other top coaches in the state.
As a four-year varsity player, captain Trevor Thompson spoke about how Elliott has helped the team to recognize their talent and potential. “He’s helped me get better each and every year,” said Thompson. “He definitely deserves that honor and I hope he wins. He’s a great guy,” said Thompson.
Thompson said that his relationship with Coach Elliott began back when he was in eighth grade and would attend the Rocket’s home basketball games. His freshman year, Elliott believed in his abilities and gave him a spot on the varsity roster. Over the course of his time playing for Elliott, Thompson has worked day in and day out. His efforts have not been unnoticed, as he was both the leading scorer and rebounder for the team.
Senior and co-captain Cam’ron Davis, said the success this season was a reflection of all the time they’ve spent in the gym. “It’s humbling,” Davis said. It just proves that all of our hard work over the last four years, especially for the seniors, has paid off.”
The Rockets are taking things one game at a time at this point and are just focusing on what’s immediately in front of them. Their game plan for tomorrow, according to Coach Elliott, is exactly the same as it’s been all season. “We need to defend, rebound, share the floor and share the basketball,” said Elliott. “If we do that, we’ll give ourselves a good chance.”