St. Augustine senior Trey Kell has helped lead the Saints to a 9-0 start this season and the No. 1 ranking in the San Diego Section.
A year ago, basketball fans turned out in droves at the Under Armour Holiday Classic at Torrey Pines to see San Diego State recruits Dakarai Allen and D’Erryl Williams of Sacramento Sheldon.
The pair didn’t disappoint, beating St. Augustine 64-47 to win the National Division.
This season, St. Augustine — 9-0, ranked No. 1 in the county and fresh off winning the Santa Margarita Tournament — is the only San Diego team in the National Division. And San Diego State-bound Trey Kell is in the spotlight.
“Being the only San Diego representative in the top division in a quality tournament is something we take pride in,” Kell said. “We’ll be well-prepared.”
The Saints used the Holiday Classic as a launching point last year.
After losing three times to archrival and tormentor Cathedral Catholic, the Saints beat the Dons 62-36 in the San Diego Section Division III title game.
To prove it wasn’t a fluke, the Saints beat the Dons again in the Southern California Regional and went on to beat San Francisco Sacred Heart Cathedral in overtime to win the State Division III championship.
“Last year’s team was four seniors (led by Brynton Lemar, who is averaging 7.5 points a game as a freshman at UC Davis) and Trey,” said St. Augustine coach Mike Haupt. “Now this is Trey’s team along with a bunch of young and talented kids.”
Sophomores Eric Monroe and Martin Tombe got plenty of playing time last season.
Daniel Caya, Johnny Peterson and Dallas Haupt didn’t play as much, but the coach said each “gained a ton of experience in the title run.”
Kell, a 6-foot-4 shooting guard, played a big role in winning the championship. He had 30 points in the title-game win over Sacred Heart Cathedral.
“From our run to the state title, to travel ball, to signing with San Diego State, it has been a great run,” Kell said. “Now I want, the team wants, to live up to expectations. We want to play hard and keep up the momentum.”
The momentum is clearly in St. Augustine’s favor being ranked No. 1 in the county.
“Our guys like a challenge, and the National Division of this tournament is a challenge,” Haupt said. “Maybe because they’ve tasted success, they really want to do the work it takes to be successful. Our kids like to work, and they like competition.”
The competition will be fierce at Torrey Pines.
The Saints’ first-round game is at 2:15 p.m. today against a tough 7-2 Chino Hills team.
Should the Saints win, they would face the winner of the Lakewood Mayfair-Wesleyan Christian (N.C.) game at 8:30 p.m. Friday.
If they keep winning, the Saints will stay in the prime late-night spot.
“The nice thing about a tournament is it’s the first time you’ll face that team,” Kell said. “When you get to league play, they’ve scouted you like crazy, they know your plays and players. In a tournament, you can just play.
“San Diego State fans came out big time last season to see Allen and Williams in this tournament.
“Since I’ve signed with the Aztecs, social media has blown up, the kids on campus tell me they love my decision and a couple of faculty members said they were going to buy Aztecs season tickets to watch me play.
“I hope we can show them something.”