Friday, Dec. 19, 2014 | 1:30 p.m.
Mojave High basketball press conference
In Colin Darfour’s first season coaching the Mojave High basketball team, the Rattlers won five games.
Three seasons later, the Rattlers are expected to contend for a spot in the Division I-A state tournament. They opened the season ranked No. 9 in the Sun’s preseason rankings and haven’t disappointed in the first month of the season, winning their initial two league games to head into winter break with a 6-5 record.
In three weeks, Mojave has won more games this season than in Darfour’s first campaign of 2011-12.
“We just kept at it,” the coach said. “My very first year, we went 5-20. As a team and as a program, we felt like we never wanted to experience that again.”
Mojave’s backcourt of senior Malik Abbott and junior Darryl Adams have led the breakthrough. Abbott, a four-year varsity player, is a knock down shooter with a high basketball IQ, and Adams is one of the classification’s most athletic guards. Darfour, who played at UNLV for Charlie Spoonhour and Lon Kruger, keeps his team moving at a fast pace. He has the personnel, including veteran wing Jordan Glenn, to create matchup problems in transition.
“We like to run a lot. They do call us the Runnin’ Rattlers,” Adams said.
Mojave’s transformation started taking shape last season. It took third in the Division I-A Sunset, barely losing to established Cheyenne and twice losing by just 10 points to eventual state champion Clark. In the playoffs, though, Mojave was beaten by 30 points by Clark in a game where the winner advanced to the state tournament.
They continued the progression in the offseason. They played nearly 50 games in summer and fall leagues, consistently beating higher-classification teams and showing they could match Clark basket-for-basket.
“We have been getting better every single year,” Abbott said. “Last year is when we picked it up. We were a contender last year. This year, we are a big-time contender.”
The team’s results on the court mirror other successes at Mojave. In 2011, Mojave was one of three low-performing high schools pegged by the Clark County School District to be turned around. With federal money, the district aimed to improve facilities, test scores and student morale. Winning basketball games surely helps.
“Having a winning sports program is paramount to the turnaround philosophy because the community can get behind it,” Darfour said.