Tracy High is starting the season with a new coach, while Kimball and Millennium will count on experienced varsity players and talented newcomers to move them forward.
West Wolf Pack
West High’s 2012-13 basketball team is an example of the kind of transition coaches like to see.
The Wolf Pack went 22-6 overall and 8-2 in the Tri-City Athletic League, and was good enough to bag a second consecutive tournament win in the Tracy/West Winter Holiday Classic, a second-place finish in league and a trip to the first round of the Sac-Joaquin Section Division I playoffs.
Some key players from that team have graduated, but head coach Derek Sprecksel still has nine seniors and seven juniors — and plenty of varsity experience with which to work.
“Some of them got a lot of playing time last year,” Sprecksel said. “Some of them were reserves, but they all practiced very well and developed in the off-season, and they’re hungry.”
Among the returning players, Justin Saar, a 6-0 guard, was one of last year’s top scorers, especially with his outside shots. Junior Kenneth Daye, a 6-1 guard, also was a solid scorer and made the TCAL’s all-defensive team.
West’s tall men will be 6-4 senior forward Abraham Graham and 6-3 senior forward Obrien Nnaji.
Also back are seniors DeAndre Thompson and Hayden Ordone.
Sprecksel said that he expects the team’s speed and bench depth will make a difference.
“We’ve been quick, but this group is exceptionally quick,” he said. “They have a chance to be an exceptional pressing team.”
Delta Charter Dragons
The Dragons expect nothing less than their third straight Mountain Valley League title.
Coach Shaun Wilson said that with five returning players, the team is set to win league and go deep into playoffs.
“This year, we’re definitely trying to exceed that and achieve state,” he said. “We’re tired of just league championships.”
Delta Charter went 16-8 overall and 12-0 in the MVL last season and went to the first round of the Sac-Joaquin Section Division V playoffs.
The Dragons’ scoring leaders graduated in June, but the team brings back a core of players, including seniors Mickey Dundee and Mike Rivera, juniors Jordan Thornton and Jeff Galloway and sophomore DeAndre Ragsdale.
New players include seniors Joseph Peebles and Miles Barret and juniors Dramell Pitts and Brandon Mills.
Dundee, a 5-9 guard, said the newcomers will help bring the team success this year.
“They’re good, athletic players,” he said. “I think if we execute and listen to our coaches, we’ll gain experience.”
Wilson said the team’s big advantage will be speed, which will bolster the defense.
“If you have good man-to-man defense, you don’t have to play a zone defense,” Wilson said. “We can press the ball and then make easy baskets and turnovers for easy layups.”
The Bulldogs get a new start this year with the help of head coach Junior Cueva.
His basketball experience coaching the Tracy Hurricanes and Valley Blue Devils has put him in contact with players from all over town.
“Probably the last three or four years, I’ve known anyone that’s played basketball, and I’ve traveled with them,” Cueva said.
“I wanted to do the high school thing so I could have a more consistent team and be able to work with them.”
Cueva, 26, is the site director for the Tracy Boys & Girls Clubs’ North School site, and has six years of experience as athletic director for the club, which included creating a recreational basketball program.
The Bulldogs have four returning seniors from a year ago, when the team went 10-14 overall and 4-6 in the San Joaquin Athletic Association.
Senior forwards Luke Hanna, 6-2, and Clay Robles, 6-1, are back. Also returning are junior forwards Josh Brakkee, 6-5, and Jeff Takahashi, 6-0.
Cueva has eight more players coming up from the junior varsity team.
“It’s a young team, but it’s a good thing though,” Cueva said. “We’ll put our foundation in and hit the ground running. We work really hard. All of these kids bust their butts.”
The third year of varsity basketball at Kimball High brings a group of returning seniors with a strong foundation of varsity experience.
Seniors DeVante Baisa, Chandler Alves and Derek Van de Streek have been varsity starters since they were sophomores, and will be joined by fellow seniors Alex Toledo, Kyle Pajarillo and Evan Owens.
Owens, a 6-2 forward, was the Jaguars’ leading scorer last year with 9.2 points per game, and made the all-Valley Oak League second team.
Joining the varsity team, which went 11-16 overall and 4-10 in the VOL last year, are players from a 2011-12 junior varsity team that finished the VOL season in first place.
“The kids coming up from the lower levels understand what we’re trying to do at the varsity level,” Kimball coach Joe Lawrence said.
Alves, a 5-9 guard, said that the team has bonded over the past three years, and the upcoming JV players fit in well.
“We just have a lot more chemistry going for us, better relationships, and I think we’re going to go really far,” he said.
Van de Streek, a 6-3 forward, added that the team is working hard to start the season right.
“The intensity in practice has been kept up really well,” he said. “Everybody is doing their part and working as a team.”
Millennium coach Mike Woods said that even with good players on his 2011-12 team a small roster usually proved to be the Falcons’ undoing. As a result, Millennium went 8-14 overall and 3-7 in the Central California Athletic Alliance.
“We didn’t have enough bodies last year. We won’t have that problem this year,” Woods said.
Woods expects seven returning players and eight more coming up from the junior varsity will create balance on the court and depth on the bench.
“Now we have to get everybody on the same page, so that when we substitute there’s no drop in play,” Woods said. “We can be consistent in our offense and defense and be competitive on both ends.”
The Falcons’ roster includes seniors Mark Dewitt, Alex McEldowney, Zach Yanke, John Lukach, Ben Kilburn and Derritt Scarver, and sophomore Damariae Williams, all returners. Dewitt was one of the team’s leading scorers last year.
Woods said that the experience they represent is encouraging.
“Once it gets to the court, it has to translate, and that’s what we’re trying to do, make sure that when they’re on the court, in every play they have to compete,” Woods said. “We’ve got some quick guys and we have more guys with basketball savvy.”
• Contact Bob Brownne at 830-4227 or email@example.com.