OREM — All eight of the teams participating in this week's Great Western Shootout at Orem High School are grateful to be included, but perhaps none as much as Wasatch Academy.
Given its status as a private school located in rural Mt. Pleasant, quality games aren't always easy to come by for a Tiger program which has attracted top talent from far away over the years. Doing as much has vaulted coach Curtis Condie's program to a national status that includes a majority of games scheduled with out-of-state opponents.
So when quality opponents, such as Smoky Hill (Colorado), Richland (Washington), British Columbia Christian Academy (Canada) and Wakefield (Virginia) all come into Utah to play, it makes the challenge of playing top opponents much easier.
"Oh, we love this tournament so much," Condie said after his team took down Wakefield 79-57 on Thursday. "These guys do an amazing job organizing it and bringing in some really good competition to play. Not only do we get top out-of-state programs, but real good in-state competition as well. So I love it."
Thursday's game against the Warriors was a bit tight before the Tigers' overwhelming size and athleticism took charge in the second half. Leading that charge was the play of big men, such as junior Tyrese Samuel (6-foot-8), junior Bernardo Da Silva (6-9) and sophomore Mady Sissoko (6-9), along with quality guard play from seniors Damion Squire and Matt Bradley, who scored 22 and 20 points, respectively.
As for Bradley, he's new to the program despite his senior status, after his parents elected to send him to Wasatch after he was named California Division 4 Player of the Year.
"His parents just wanted him to be in a different environment to get ready for college," Condie said of Bradley, who is committed to sign with Cal. "So he's doing great on the court and in the classroom and we're certainly pleased to have him."
Bradley doesn't appear to be the only Wasatch player headed for the next level, with Condie hoping to have several players follow in the steps of players like Koby McEwen, who is now at Utah State and Jackson Rowe, who plays for Cal State Fullerton. Both players pulled down Freshman of the Year for their respective conferences last season, with Condie, who also played for Utah State, proud of both accomplishments.
"It's great to see great kids have success and that's what we're hoping to accomplish at Wasatch Academy," Condie said. "Sure, basketball success is great, but we also stress academics and I love the support we've been given in both of those areas."
Wasatch Academy is now 5-0 on the season and will next play Smoky Hill on Friday.