Capital Christian’s boys basketball team has very few gym rats.
The Cougars, who play in the CIF State Division IV championship Saturday at Cal’s Haas Pavilion, don’t have a lot of athletes who spend every free moment playing basketball. Instead, they are a collection of football players, baseball players and scholars who play basketball because it’s the seasonal thing to do.
And after Capital Christian (27-8) plays Crespi of Encino (28-7) – win or lose – many of the players will immediately move on to other passions, from spring sports to musical productions.
“It’s a completely different makeup than a lot of teams in that we don’t have a lot of basketball players, but it works for us,” Capital Christian coach Devon Jones said. “What we have are athletes who get along, who love to play together, who are coachable, who play hard and who have bonded.”
Coaches and teachers call senior guard Justice Shelton-Mosley a once-in-a-generation student. After amassing nearly 7,000 all-purpose yards and 90 touchdowns as a receiver, running back, free safety and kick returner during three varsity seasons, Shelton-Mosley is headed to Harvard to study and play football.
After basketball, Shelton-Mosley also will dabble in track and perhaps baseball, and he’s especially fond of his other outdoor hobby, bass fishing. He does all this while maintaining a 4.21 GPA, filming educational videos with teammates on the dangers of drinking and driving, and singing in the school choir and musicals.
Shelton-Mosley even delivers powerful pregame motivational speeches about sacrifice and loyalty, punctuated with a favorite line, “When you want to succeed as bad as you want to breathe.”
“The freshmen on campus here,” Jones said, “follow Justice around. They idolize him.”
But Shelton-Mosley isn’t without a weakness, Jones teased. When asked about Shelton-Mosley’s singing ability, the coach raised his eyebrows, sighed and let out an emphatic, “ehh!”
Responded Shelton-Mosley: “Coach, you need to hear me more!”
Last year, Capital Christian was led by big players, including 6-foot-10 D.J. Wilson, now at Michigan. This year, the Cougars are guard heavy.
The leading scorer is Tiegen Jones, a 6-4 junior and the coach’s son. His best sport? Baseball, as a left-handed power pitcher. Edward Ware is an All-Metro defensive back who also plays strong defense for the basketball team. Forwards Nick Aibuedefe and Marcus Fowler are other football standouts who have boosted the basketball program.
Fowler had career highs of 18 points and 14 rebounds in the Cougars’ 60-47 victory over Saint Mary’s of Albany to win the CIF Northern California championship last weekend.
“He’s our grit guy,” coach Jones said.
Two guards, freshman Zachary Chappell and senior Dante Henley, are the exception; both play basketball year round. Henley is a transfer from Jesuit who helped the Marauders win the Sac-Joaquin Section Division I championship last season.
Capital Christian encourages athletes to play as many sports as possible, for the experience and to avoid one-sport burnout. The football team was 13-1 and won a section title, and the baseball team this spring is aiming to win its third consecutive section Division V title.
Jones said the success has created a positive vibe on campus. Every student seemingly is involved in something, athletic or academic, or both.
“It’s good to do different things, different sports,” Jones said. “Players come in fresh for another sport.”
Since the football players joined the team, the Cougars are 22-2, including 8-0 in the playoffs.
“Edward Ware and I talked about this when we were freshmen, that it was our dream to finish our senior seasons like this, as champions,” Shelton-Mosley said. “We’re almost there.”
Follow Joe Davidson on Twitter @SacBee_JoeD.