WEST JORDAN The odds of doing six consecutive interviews with teenagers who are all engaging and articulate aren't good.
Not good, Mary Swanson of "Dumb and Dumber," like one out of 100? "I'd say more like one out of a million."
But that's what happened inside West Jordan's basketball gymnasium last week.
Four girls basketball players and then two boys basketball players.
None of them said anything earth-shattering, but each of the six confidently stepped up, answered questions and behaved exactly as any coach would have hoped.
And as both West Jordan coaches will quickly tell you, the scene was indicative of Jaguar basketball as a whole.
For the first time during boys coach Scott Briggs' nine-year tenure, his squad doesn't have a team GPA of 3.5 or above. Still, at 3.38, it remains very good. And on the girls team, two of the players will be nominated for academic All-State
"These kids are impressive kids," said girls coach Carlson Boudreaux.
Though the situation may be different for each team West Jordan's boys squad is a perennial state contender, while the girls squad hopes to get back to the 5A tournament after missing out a year ago both West Jordan basketball programs will hope to win games this season with those kinds of athletes.Heading into the Christmas moratorium, here's a closer look at both:
BOYS: Unlike most other basketball programs around the state, West Jordan's boys team doesn't set a goal each year to win a region or state title.
Instead, the objective, which has been at the core of West Jordan's hugely successful run during this decade, is a lot more basic.
"Our goal is the same as it always is we're hoping to leave practice today a little bit better than when we walked in," said Briggs. "That sounds almost like, 'Oh, that's a textbook answer,' but we try to live it. And we think, it we take care of that, by the end of the season, we'll be playing the best basketball that we can play, which, with the kids we have this season, we feel like we can make some noise."
His players, it appears, have bought in. When casually asked what their team goals are for the season, both Tanner Connors and Jordan Weirick echoed Briggs' sentiments about simply trying to improve day-by-day.
The way Weirick sees it, taking that approach has helped the Jags remain focused.
"He just tells us, 'Don't get caught up with just worrying about the big picture. Worry about game-by-game, so you can get better,'" said Weirick. "If you focus on the big picture, than you just let little things slide by all the time."
Connors and Weirick, both All-State selections a season ago, will be at the core of everything the Jaguars do. Throw point guard Mason Sawyer and talented swing man Rayes Gallegos into the mix, and it appears West Jordan has an outstanding nucleus to build around.
"We feel like we can put a package together," said Briggs. "We know we're not the most talented team around, but we also think ... that we can compete with people."
Heading into the season, Briggs listed depth as a huge concern for his squad, and, ironically, that element of West Jordan's team was tested early when several starters, including Connors and Gallegos, went down with injuries.
However, Briggs said that reserves Tyson Holt, Jonah Blanchfield, Andre Ashton and DJ Tialavea all filled in admirably."They all just stepped in and did a great job, and I didn't think they were ready to play varsity," said Briggs. "We're better at full strength, but if we were to get into foul trouble or somebody was to go down, I'm not as nervous as I would've been (before the season started) to go play."
GIRLS: Heading into the season, West Jordan like virtually every other prep basketball team felt confident about its squad and was thrilled to get going.
Then came its season-opener against Jordan High.
Jordan crushed the Jags that night, holding them to just five points in the first half before cruising to a 52-27 win.
It was a wake-up call, to say the least.
"The experience," dead-panned junior guard Gabriella Rodriguez, "it kind of kicked us in the butt."
Since then, however, the Jags have improved immensely. It might not show in the win-loss column West Jordan hadn't won a game entering this week but there's no question that the Jaguars have been getting better while facing some of the better teams in the state.
"Basically," said Rodriguez, "it's a huge improvement from the first game. Our record is ... not so good right now, but the teams that we've played have been undefeated and No. 1, No. 2, so it's a huge jump from the first game, just improving on the little things, getting better each game."
Added center Julianne Tialavea: "Yeah, we've played some tough teams, but it's going to help us out a lot regular-season wise. We've come a long way. We've been a lot more aggressive. We're getting our points up. Defense is coming along. We're getting there."
Ah, the regular season. Everything West Jordan has been doing right now revolves around trying to position themselves to do well during the regular season and get to the 5A tournament.
"We're going to work our tails off the rest of the preseason, but we're working toward getting into region and doing well in region," said Boudreaux.
West Jordan made it to the playoffs two years ago but missed out last season. Region 3 only received three playoff spots a year ago, but if it had gotten four spots as it has this season the Jags would have finished just a game out of contention.
Expect juniors Rodriguez and forward Whitney Woodruff to help lead the way. Entering this week, Rodriguez has averaged 15.17 ppg, while Woodruff has added 10.83 ppg.
Woodruff has also averaged 6 rebounds per game and two steals per game.
"She's the glue," Boudreaux said of Woodruff. " ....She helps us with a lot with character, with teaching younger kids that haven't been in those situations. They look at her and realize, 'You know, the coach is going bananas, the game's not going the way we want it to, and she's still just out there, working as hard as she needs to, with a demeanor that says, 'We're going to be OK.'"I think that says a lot about what she brings to this team."
West Jordan Jaguars basketball preview
League: Region 3
Last season: 13-9 overall, third in Region 3, lost in first round of state playoffs
Predicted 2007-08 finish: First (Tie with Bingham)
Coach: Scott Briggs, 9th year overall as a head coach
Assistant coaches: Kevin Damron, Andrew Blanchard, Brian Allfrey, Kasey Walkenhurst, Adam Pitcher
Key returning players: Tanner Connors, 6-0 guard, Sr.; Mason Sawyer, 5-10 guard, Jr.; Jordan Weirick, 6-3 forward, Jr.; Rayes Gallegos, 6-2 guard, Jr.
Nov. 27 West Jordan 59, Granger 36
Nov. 28 West Jordan 48, Hillcrest 44
Nov. 30 West Jordan 56, Highland 52
Dec. 3 Pleasant Grove 67, West Jordan 59
Dec. 7 Davis 64, West Jordan 59
Dec. 14 Brighton 73, West Jordan 62
Dec. 18 West Jordan 60, Skyline 51
Dec. 20 West Jordan 60, Weber 50
Dec. 28 Murray at West Jordan, 7 p.m.
Jan. 3 Jordan at West Jordan, 7 p.m.
Jan. 8 Taylorsville at West Jordan, 7 p.m.
Jan. 11 West Jordan at Hunter, 7 p.m.
Jan. 15 Copper Hills at West Jordan, 7 p.m.
Jan. 18 Riverton at West Jordan, 7 p.m.
Jan. 22 West Jordan at Kearns, 7 p.m.
Jan. 25 West Jordan at Bingham, 7 p.m.
Feb. 1 Hunter at West Jordan, 7 p.m.
Feb. 5 West Jordan at Copper Hills, 7 p.m.
Feb. 8 West Jordan at Riverton, 7 p.m.
Feb. 15 Bingham at West Jordan, 7 p.m.
League: Region 3
Last season: 6-13 overall, fifth in Region 3, didn't qualify for the state playoffs
Predicted 2007-08 finish: Fourth
Coach: Carlson Boudreaux, 3rd year at West Jordan
Assistant coaches: Cindi Arko, Kody Byrd, Brittnie Thacker
Key returning players: Leslie Bateman, 6-0 center, Jr.; Carli Christoffersen, 5-8 forward, Sr.; Amanda Jewkes, 5-7 guard/forward, Sr.; Gabriella Rodriguez, 5-4 guard, Jr.; Julianne Tialavea, 5-11 center, Sr.; Whitney Woodruff, 5-8 forward, Jr.Key newcomers: Kortni Atkinson, 5-2 guard, Jr.; Taylor Johnson, 5-7 guard/forward; Kendra Lightner, 5-7 guard/forward, Jr.
Nov. 29 Jordan 52, West Jordan 27
Dec. 4 Alta 51, West Jordan 44
Dec. 5 Layton 56, West Jordan 54
Dec. 7 Skyline 71, West Jordan 49
Dec. 11 Sky View 81, West Jordan 73 (OT)
Dec. 13 Lone Peak 52, West Jordan 44
Dec. 18 American Fork 66, West Jordan 52
Dec. 20 West Jordan 50, Payson 43
Dec. 28 West Jordan at Hillcrest, 4 p.m.
Jan. 3 West Jordan at Brighton, 7 p.m.
Jan. 8 West Jordan at Bingham, 7 p.m.
Jan. 10 Hunter at West Jordan, 7 p.m.
Jan. 15 West Jordan at Copper Hills, 7 p.m.
Jan. 17 Riverton at West Jordan, 7 p.m.
Jan. 24 Kearns at West Jordan, 7 p.m.
Jan. 29 Bingham at West Jordan, 7 p.m.
Jan. 31 West Jordan at Hunter, 7 p.m.
Feb. 5 Copper Hills at West Jordan, 7 p.m.
Feb. 7 West Jordan at Riverton, 7 p.m.
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