By Lee Davis
Leave it to Bucky McMillan to be in the center of a big high school basketball story in the normally slow month of July.
McMillan, the ultra-successful coach of the Mountain Brook boys basketball team, learned that a new weapon will be added to his arsenal when the season begins later this year. Trendon Watford, a 6-foot-7-inch forward who led Shades Valley to the Class 6A regional finals as an eighth-grader last spring, has transferred to Mountain Brook. Watford is the younger brother of former Mountie star Christian Watford, who had an outstanding career at Indiana University.
Trendon, who played for Shades Valley while attending Irondale Middle School, enrolled at Mountain Brook as a rising freshman earlier this summer.
He will almost certainly have an immediate impact, as the Spartans lose four starters from last year’s team, which produced a 27-8 record and lost to Hoover in the Class 7A finals. Mountain Brook had claimed the Class 7A crown in the two previous seasons.
“We enrolled Trendon right after we withdrew him from middle school in Irondale,” Watford’s father, Ernest, said. “The reputation that Mountain Brook schools have with good teachers and a great community will prepare Trendon for the next level from an athletic and academic standpoint.”
Incredibly, Watford already has offers from Southeastern Conference schools, including Alabama, Mississippi State and Florida.
McMillan said that the addition of Watford to the Spartans’ lineup will not change his underlying philosophy.
“Our team goals every year are to be the hardest-working team, to be an unselfish team, to be confident and play fearless basketball on all stages,” he said. “Players will come and go, but what we strive for won’t change.”
While Mountain Brook’s basketball program has benefited greatly from high profile move-ins in recent years, McMillan bristled at the suggestion that the school system actively recruits outstanding athletes. He said the attractiveness of Mountain Brook educationally and environmentally is a natural draw for anyone.
“It’s mind-boggling to me when I hear that stuff about recruiting,” he said. “Mountain Brook has the best public school system in the state and is the safest community in the state. Any parent would want his kid – athlete or not – to come here. Plus, we’ve done really well in basketball the last six or seven years and won two state championships. So if you had a kid that could play and had the means, why wouldn’t you want him to go to Mountain Brook, where he would have a chance to excel both academically and athletically?”
McMillan pointed out that other athletic programs in affluent communities benefit from move-ins as well. “There are plenty of other fine basketball programs around here,” he said. “We aren’t the only one that attracts move-ins. But it seems ours draw the most attention. I think part of it is a misconception about our community. It’s a great place, but we’re not Beverly Hills. Not everyone who lives here is a millionaire.”
Mountain Brook’s team-first concept is actually a drawing card even for high profile players capable of piling up impressive individual statistics, according to McMillan.
“The first thing I tell all of our players is that coaches at every level – high school, college or NBA – want to be successful,” he explained. “That’s how they keep their jobs. And a team wins with good basketball players as opposed to just talented basketball players. Good players are the ones who have character and do the things to help their team be successful. Talented players are the ones who have the ability but don’t necessarily use it to the team’s benefit. We want all our guys who go through our program to be good basketball players.”
McMillan is cautiously optimistic about his team’s prospects for 2015-16.
“We’ve only got three returning seniors on our roster so we’re not going to have a lot of experience at the start,” he said. “As the saying goes, the best thing about inexperienced players is that they eventually get experience. Regardless of our record there will be some growing pains, but I think by the time January rolls around we’ll be getting things together.”
If history is any indication, expect Mountain Brook to make another serious championship run.