Winning culture puts Cardinal Newman on threshold of record

Every dribble they make, every shot they take, every pump move they fake, Cardinal Newman's basketball players know they'll be watched, studied, judged. They know they have never lived in a vacuum here, performed in a bubble, isolated and apart from the alumni, from the history.

"When you come here to Newman," said center Sebastian Rodrigues, "you learn, if you already don't know, the culture here is bigger than any one player."

Standing outside the John Fitzgerald Memorial Gymnasium Thursday with guards Tim McCullough and Kenny Love, Rodrigues said the word culture matter-of-factly. For Rodrigues, the word was a known, a given, as if the word "culture" was a tattoo on their arm that they carried with them everywhere, to display when called upon. Not so much as a word of arrogance, but one that signified a point of reference, from which all future discussions emanate.

Cardinal Newman Basketball Practice


"What is that culture?" I asked. I was expecting at least a long sentence, containing multiple phrases and talking points. I mean, Rodrigues was referring to the core belief of his high school basketball team.

"To win," McCullough said.

"To win? That's it?"

"Yes," McCullough said. "It's pretty simple."

To win or not to win, that is the question which surfaces, floats and saturates Newman's campus. The Cardinals are just two victories away from winning the Division 4 CIF State Championship, their NorCal final this afternoon at American Canyon High School against Archbishop Riordan. It is heady stuff indeed, being so close to the mountain's summit. The moment carries even a more dramatic layer: If Cardinal Newman wins, it will its 32nd victory of the season. Newman will set a large school record in the Empire for most victories in a season.

"We know it (the record) is out there," Love said, "but, we really haven't paid much attention to it. We are focusing on preparing for the game."

Athletes everywhere in every sport say the same thing Long just said. Take-'em-one-game-at-a-time. Stay in the moment. Don't look ahead because you may not get there. All of it sounds like it came out of the Put Me To Sleep Clich?Handbook, the one used by coaches in an attempt to keep their athletes from losing focus.

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