Ranch & Coast Magazine

December 2023

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At an exuberant Ring & Banner Ceremony at the University Club atop Symphony Towers in October, the team's coaches, players, and administration gathered to unveil the trappings of an unprecedented season for the Aztecs and revel a little before the 2023-24 season got underway. ere, returning players and Head Coach Brian Dutcher reflected on their journey while also looking to the year ahead. e downside to reaching these new heights — if there is one — is that bigger successes also lead to higher expectations, both from the outside as well as within their own ranks. (In fact, the team has already been tapped as the predicted 2024 Mountain West champs.) Are they feeling the pressure? It depends on who you ask. "I definitely feel and welcome a responsibility to help the team return to championship status because myself and the returners know what it takes to get there, allowing us to help the others understand the process of becoming a championship team," said Butler. But knowing they are capable of getting there doesn't mean resting on their laurels. "Last year was unbelievable, but we can't let last season affect what we do this season," he continued. "We have to set new goals, create great chemistry, and focus on one game at a time to ensure a successful season." Fellow senior Jaedon LeDee agreed. "I feel we have a responsibility to do well again this season. I believe we should have high goals for ourselves anyway, and last year, we saw that anything is possible," he said. "It shows that anything can happen if we work hard and believe." LeDee and Butler also align with a clean slate approach as they return to play.. "Each season, we reset at zero because it's a new year, new team, and new opponents. Nothing will be handed to us, so we have to earn it," said LeDee. However, forward Micah Parrish had a different take. "We don't feel like it's a responsibility to carry our team to those expectations. is is a new team, new year, we know what we have to focus on. It's just a matter of being a team and getting through the ups and down of a season," he said. ough a finals loss is a tough blow, Parrish says that after reaching the championship this year, "I feel like we have the confidence that we can end up back there if we just be ourselves and trust the process." detour recreation JAEDON LEDEE: PHOTO BY CARSON COOK ALL OTHER PHOTOGRAPHY BY TIM HARDY A Triumphant Return to Montezuma Mesa San Diego State's 2023 NCAA Finalist basketball team readies for a repeat W HEN 2023'S MARCH MADNESS turned into a truly amazing April for the SDSU Men's Basketball team, it raised the bar to new heights. Never before in 55 seasons had the Aztecs reached the Final Four. And then, with the collective hopes and enthusiasm of what felt like the entire county and well beyond, they pushed even further, seizing a trip to their maiden NCAA championship game after a breathtaking buzzer-beater from guard Lamont Butler. ough a dominant UConn team raised the final trophy, SDSU's performance nonetheless announced that basketball on e Mesa has entered a new era — one in which the team will be an ongoing contender to go deep in the Mountain West and the NCAA Tournament. BY DEANNA MURPHY Jaedon LeDee stands at the free throw line with Lamont Butler at his side ranchandcoast.com 126 DECEMBER 2023 RANCH & COAST MAGAZINE

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