To say Cyprus senior guard Connor Squire has a chip on his shoulder is the understatement of the decade, considering the haunting memories of last season.
Squire was sensational as a junior, but he was part of the worst boys basketball team in school history. Cyprus went 0-21, losing every game by at least 5 points. The Pirates lost 16 games by at least 15 points.
Squire and the other six senior Pirates are dead set on doing whatever it takes to prevent a repeat of last season's nightmare.
"We see what happened last year, and it was just terrible," Squire said. "We knew we had to work harder and get along better. As seniors, we feel that it's on us to carry that responsibility."
From the moment last season ended, Squire has led the cause for the Pirates, and they have shown that last year is in the rearview mirror.
Cyprus played in multiple tournaments against some of the state's top squads over the summer, and it competed. The Pirates lost to Bingham on a buzzer-beater in one tournament and later beat West Jordan.
Squire has been the prime catalyst for the rejuvenation of the program. He was a great athlete and scorer last season, but he now is a complete basketball player.
"Last year, he thought he had to put the team on his back, and that sometimes caused him to make bad decisions," Cyprus coach Robb Collins said. "He now trusts his teammates more. He will look for the open man and pass out of double teams. He is a night-and-day better teammate."
Because Squire trusts his teammates, their confidence has soared. As a result, they have improved along with him. This is not the same team that went winless a year ago. This group of Pirates believes it can win. Squire said the team never really had that outlook last year, and that spawned a great deal of negativity. Now it is all positivity in the Cyprus locker room.
The Pirates have the right mindset. They have the desire and work ethic. They just have to create a winning culture.
Cyprus already was more competitive against Stansbury in the opener than it was at any point last season. The Pirates led by 9 points with three minutes left in the game. They just didn't know how to finish.
"Instead of buckling down and tightening the noose, we got timid," Collins said. "We didn't know how to handle the situation."
Cyprus ended up losing the game by 1 point. While the narrow defeat left a bitter taste in the players' mouths, it also proved to them that they can win if they play as a team. Squire knows he doesn't have to score 30 or 35 points per game, and his teammates know they can be the difference in a win or loss.
"We know what to do, and we were willing to do it," Squire said. "Now it's time to just make it happen and win some games."
The Pirates know they likely won't compete for a state title or even a region championship. They do believe they can surprise some people. Their goal is not to be an automatic win for every team they play. If opposing teams are going to beat Cyprus, they are going to have to work for it.
After losing every game by at least 5 points last season, Cyprus lost by just 1 point in the season opener against Stansbury.
Senior guard Connor Squire averaged 21.5 points in the team's first two games.