WHAT A RIDE: Windermere Prep, a season for the Lakers' history books

Few outside of Windermere Prep believed. But the Lakers turned many heads en route to their first state-championship appearance since 2016.

With three freshmen in their top-six rotation, the Lakers pulled through and surprised every opponent they faced on the court this season.
With three freshmen in their top-six rotation, the Lakers pulled through and surprised every opponent they faced on the court this season.
Photo by Andrea Mujica
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The Windermere High School boys basketball team’s incredible journey ended one win short of a state championship. The Lakers fell to Riviera Prep 51-27 during the championship game Saturday, March 4. 

“I’m extremely proud of our group,” head basketball coach Brian Hoff said. “This is a group that kind of from the beginning of the season was sort of doubted. We overcame a lot; we got a ton better as the year progressed. The group … bonded very well as a team; we just didn’t play our best. So, it stinks that it came in this moment, but over the course of the year, this group defied odds, and I’m just proud of their togetherness and proud of their competitiveness in order to get this far.” 

Despite the loss at the state championship game, this was a season for the Lakers’ history books. The team had not made it that far into post season play since 2016, when the program brought home their first — and only — state championship title. 

“(We are) special,” freshman shooting guard Brandon Bass Jr. said. “And I feel that’s what helped us get to where we (got this season).” 

In a fast-paced game, the Bulldogs pulled ahead of the Lakers early — taking the lead during the first quarter. Windermere Prep never recovered.

“I thought their defense was great,” Hoff said. “I thought they were in the passing lanes, (and) their passing lane pressure affected a lot of the stuff that we ran.”

Senior point guard Aiden Fletcher helped lead the team during his last game as a Laker.

“It was a great experience,” he said. “We all came together. Young guys put their trust in me, and I put my trust in them. We came a long way. We didn’t get the results that we wanted, but I had a great time with those guys.” 

Through the season, Windermere Prep team had something no other team led by Hoff had had in previous years: three freshmen in its top-six rotation. Those included Bass Jr., center Sinan Huan and small forward or shooting guard Shiva Atwal. 

“To have three young guys like that, it’s unusual (and) it’s uncommon,” Hoff said. “But, these freshman are unusual in a good way. They worked extremely hard, they are extremely talented and this moment (was) not too big for them.”


From Day 1 of practice for the 2022-23 season, the Lakers focused on honing out their defense skills; they believed this would contribute to an unforgettable season. 

Power forward Mason Williams was one of the sources of motivation — and a constant leader — throughout his last season as a Laker.
Photo by Andrea Mujica

“We knew from the very beginning we would need to be a good defensive team to be successful,” Hoff said. “So, luckily, these guys have really bought in on the defensive side to help us make it (that) far.” 

One key element on the defensive side of the ball for the boys was Huan, a 7-foot freshman originally from Beijing, China, who is part of the Residential Life program at the school. 

“I try to block any shots and try to do what I can do to help my teammates to play their best,” he said. “It’s really exciting (to have gotten here) and I’m proud of us. I think we are worth it, we put (in) a lot of time to get (there).” 

After the team bought into the fundamentals of defense for the season, the word “togetherness” resonated with the Lakers.

“Win or lose — we are a family,” Hoff said. “This is not a one-man show, this isn’t a one-man program, this isn’t a one-man team. We have a lot of great players on this team. We have players who play every different role … (and) every player is important. They have a role in our program, so I’m proud of all of our guys — not just the ones (who) score a lot of points but (also) the guys (who) help us get better at practice every day and our leaders from the bench — those guys are extremely important to our success as well.” 

Moving forward, the Lakers will continue practicing their steps and working on their fundamentals so next year, they can come back ready to rumble. 

“I’ve got to get our guys better prepared to play against teams like (Riviera Prep) next year,” Hoff said. “I think this will motivate us,” he said. “I think they had an amazing experience being a part of this run. But at the end of the day, I think they leave more hungry than anything. So I think it should help propel us into the next season.”



Andrea Mujica

Staff writer Andrea Mujica covers sports, news and features. She holds both a bachelor's degree in journalism and an MBA from the University of Central Florida. When she’s not on the sidelines, you can find Andrea coaching rowers at the Orlando Area Rowing Society in Windermere.

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