McGraw brothers lead Nueva hoops team to its best season

Courtesy of the McGraw family
Nueva School’s Connor McGraw, left, and older brother Kyle of Los Altos Hills run toward the front court.

For Los Altos Hills residents Kyle and Connor McGraw, Nueva School’s 2018-19 boys basketball season wasn’t just special because their team had its most successful campaign in program history. It also provided the brothers the rare opportunity to play together.

“It was great playing with him,” Kyle said of Connor. “It was one of the first times; I usually just get to practice with him.”

That’s because the brothers are three years apart. Kyle is a senior and Connor is a freshman who went from being one of the Mavericks’ biggest fans to their starting point guard in one year.

“I always watched the Nueva team play and didn’t realize what it would be like to play with Kyle on the same team,” Connor said. “It was amazing.”

Connor added that he’s “always looked up to Kyle” – and not just because his 6-foot-3 brother has six inches on him. Forward Kyle averaged a team-best 21 points per game as a junior, leading Nueva to a second-place finish in the Private School Athletic League North Division and to the quarterfinals of the Central Coast Section Division V playoffs.

That’s as far as Nueva, which launched its basketball program in 2015, had ever advanced in the playoffs – at least until Connor arrived at the small private school in San Mateo. It didn’t take him long to make an impression on coach Chris Brandin.

“He was open about my role, which I loved,” Connor said of the coach. “He said that I would start the season on varsity, but my role depended on how I did in practice. By the first game, I was the starting point guard and further on, I secured my role.”

By the end of the regular season, the Mavericks secured their first PSAL North Division title. Nueva went 14-0 in league, ending Pacific Bay Christian’s six-year reign as champion.

“The highlight was beating Pacific Bay Christian,” said Kyle, whose team beat the Eagles 62-49 and 49-46. “We had lost every game to them (before this year).”

After beating sixth-seeded Woodside Priory 48-42 in the CCS quarterfinals, the No. 3 Mavericks avenged another loss. They defeated No. 2 St. Francis of Watsonville – the team that eliminated them from the playoffs the year before – 65-54 in the semifinals Feb. 21.

“It was great to finally beat them and make it to CCS finals and qualify for states,” Kyle said.

Although Nueva fell to top-seed Eastside Prep 53-47 in the title game two days later, the team still earned a berth in the Northern California playoffs for getting that far. It was another first for the program.

The Mavericks made more school history by winning their NorCal opener Feb. 26. Seeded 12th in Division V, visiting Nueva stunned No. 5 Liberty of Madera 79-66.

“They were a really tough team with some really nice players,” Connor said. “They came out playing better than us, but in the third quarter, we destroyed them.”

Kyle credits much of that to his team’s defense in the second half.

“They have a player who averages 30 points per game, and we focused on him defensively,” he said of Liberty’s Makani Whiteside. “He had 27, but we shut him down more in the second half.”

The Mavericks’ season ended two days later at the home of a familiar foe. No. 4 Eastside Prep beat them 54-51 in the second round.

“We were up most of the way, but they took the lead going into fourth and we couldn’t get it back,” Kyle said.

Kyle, who averaged a team-best 17 points per game this season, will next play for NCAA Division III college Caltech.

Connor, meanwhile, will try to help Nueva reach even greater heights.

“This season will be a big help for next year,” said Connor, whose team went 22-6 overall. “It’s a good stepping stone.”

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