Prep boys' basketball: Ben Lomond tries to change team's culture

Prep boys' basketball • The Scots are trying to make the playoffs for a second consecutive season.
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Ogden • Ben Lomond boys' basketball players file out of the locker room, and one by one, they leap up above the doorway and touch their goal, where a picture of the Dee Events Center is taped.

It is there, on the Dee Events Center floor, in the deep rounds of the Class 3A state tournament, where the Scots want to finish their season. Around the edges of the photo, words written in permanent black marker read: "2013 State Championship."

"We'd always go up and slap that wall, just as tradition," senior guard Sterling Brandley said. "We just thought up as a team to put the picture there. Now before every game, we remember our goal."

But wrapped up in the Scots' goal of reaching the late rounds of the playoffs and earning a trip to the Dee Events Center is a larger purpose. The Scots talk of this grander objective in reverential tones, because regardless of how this season ends, it will leave a lasting impact that will trickle down through the program for years.

Ben Lomond athletics long have struggled to get respect. Opposing teams have marked games against the Scots as wins before they were played, and a culture of losing and selfishness has pervaded the Ben Lomond locker rooms.

"[Former players] just thought, 'I don't care if I lose. If I score 30 points, that's good for me,'" senior forward Josh Hardin said

But the Scots' basketball team has dedicated itself to changing that, and it's succeeding. The wins certainly have helped — the Scots entered the week 7-3 in Region 11 and are in line to make the playoffs for the second straight year — but it's the sportsmanship and class they display on the court that have done the most to change the culture.

Even a simple act, such as going out of their way to hand a ball to an official, the Scots say, chips away at their old reputation and builds a new one.

"The biggest thing people think about Ben Lomond is it's an inner-city school, and it's just a bunch of ghetto kids," Hardin said. "But that's starting to change."

Added Brandley: "I think schools were excited to play Ben Lomond because it's an easy win. Now when they play us, they're scared of us, especially because of our defense."

The culture shift began four years ago during coach Ryan Wilcox's first year. Seniors like Hardin and Brandley were freshmen then, and how far the Scots have come has become a source of pride. Though they acknowledge there still is a long way to go, the Scots have seized the respect of not only their opponents but themselves.

"It doesn't just make the basketball team look good," Hardin said. "It makes the school look good. There's a change in our programs, and it's getting better every year."

If the Scots are able to go deep into the Class 3A playoffs, they will show to a statewide audience the progress the program has made. They're not short on confidence in their ability to make it that far.

And thanks to a smothering defense that's held several of the best scorers and top scoring teams in the state to lower-than-average point totals, that confidence doesn't seem misplaced.

"I think we have a chance on any given night," Wilcox said. "We can play with anybody in the state, and hopefully it happens for us on the right nights, and we'll be in the mix."