Experience will count in the 2013-14 boys basketball season.
Local coaches expect that the key players needed for a successful campaign are coming into the season with the basketball knowledge to bring new players along.
Tracy High Bulldogs
In his second year of coaching Tracy’s varsity boys, basketball coach Junior Cueva expects that his players’ experience will make all the difference.
The Tracy High team brings back a few players from the 2012-13 team, which went 5-20, 1-9 in the SJAA. But this year Cueva is glad to see players who have been on the court year-round on AAU teams such as the Tracy Hurricanes and Nor Cal Outlawz.
Senior center Josh Brakkee, 6-foot-6 and in his third year on varsity after gaining all-SJAA defensive honors last year, is one of those year-round players.
“Just the fact that all of us played together last year and over the summer is going to help us a lot with team chemistry,” Brakkee said. “I’m loving it. I know we’re going to do good this year.”
Senior forward Jeff Takahashi, also in his third year on varsity play, expects the Bulldogs will be tough on defense and on the transition to offense.
“We’re going to try to run the ball more this year, fast-break more,” Takahashi said. “We have a lot of good shooters. We can really run and gun and kick the ball to the outside and be comfortable with it.”
Cueva also expects to see strong play from junior guards Kharyem Watson and Druce Asah.
West High Wolf Pack
West basketball coach Derek Sprecksel said the Wolf Pack will have seasoned players where they can make the biggest impact.
Among the five seniors who return from last year, Kenneth Daye — a third-year varsity player and a 2012-13 all-Tri-City Athletic League point guard — will set the tempo for West’s attacks on the basket.
“The point guard position at all levels is extremely important, but especially in high school,” Sprecksel said. “That’s a big key to what we do.”
Also returning are senior guards Anthony Ross and Kenny Thompson and senior forwards Daniel Haley and Alvin Crenshaw.
Incoming players include junior forward Spencer Carroll, sophomore guard Isaiah Grady and freshman forward Ephraim Estell.
“We’ve got a lot of guys who can play with their back to the basket and be physical,” Sprecksel said. “We’re a better rebounding team than last year. We still have the quickness and penetration ability that we’re known for with our guards.”
Sprecksel expects the Wolf Pack to improve on their record from last year — 18-10, 5-5 TCAL — and finish better than last year’s fourth-place spot, which would still be good enough to make playoffs in the new Sac-Joaquin Section playoff format.
Kimball High Jaguars
Kimball High coach Joe Lawrence figures that even after graduating the core of last year’s squad, which went 13-14 overall and 5-9 in the Valley Oak League, he’s getting back enough of last year’s players to form the nucleus of a strong team.
He expects guards Jonah Laguana, Bryer Peet and Ben Juarez and forward J.D. Schmidt to be ready for a challenging year.
“This is their fourth year in the program, all of those guys,” Lawrence said “They’re all hardworking kids. They all shoot the ball pretty well.”
Lawrence expects that defending
VOL champion Sierra and VOL opponent Manteca will be tough, and Kimball’s players will often find themselves up against taller teams.
“We’re going to have to rely a lot on our tenaciousness, our defense and shooting the ball well,” Lawrence said.
He expects the Jaguars can be among the top three VOL teams to go to the Division I playoffs.
“The great thing about our league is it’s pretty competitive most of the time. Anybody can beat anybody in our league.”
Delta Charter High Dragons
Eric Ragsdale, the new Delta Charter boys basketball coach, said this year’s team has to live up to the Dragons’ three consecutive Mountain Valley League titles.
“I start telling these kids, ‘You’ve got a bull’s-eye on your back, day one when you walk in the door,’” Ragsdale said. “Everybody plays us tough every night, so we can’t take any time off.”
The Dragons went 17-8 last year, 13-1 in the MVL, and made the second round of the Sac-Joaquin Section Division V playoffs.
Third-year players include junior DeAndre Ragsdale and seniors Jeff Galloway, Andrew Silva and Jordan Thornton. Junior Dramell Pitts begins his second year on the team.
Thornton, an all-MVL first-team point guard last year, said the team is set to go deeper into playoffs this year.
“I think this year is the best team that we’ve had so far. Our depth is astounding,” he said.
Pitts added that he expects the Stockton Christian and Ben Holt Academy teams to be the challengers for the MVL title.
“I feel like this year it’s going to be really exciting, because of a lot of the other teams have gotten better, too, and there are new teams. I can’t wait until the season starts,” Pitts said.
Millennium High Falcons
This year’s Millennium boys team represents a strong transition from last year, when the Falcons went 15-13 and 5-5 in the Central California Athletic Alliance and went to the first round of the Sac-Joaquin Section Division V playoffs.
“We’ve got a lot of returners this year,” senior Marques Shanks said. “Everyone knows what they’re doing. We have a lot of good shooters this year.”
Coach Mike Woods said that experience and athleticism will translate to depth on the bench. Also returning as seniors are Derritt Scarver, Paul Cardenas and Alan Flores, and new to the team this year is junior Kirk Truehill.
“I don’t think there will be as much of a drop-off in play when we substitute as there was last year,” Woods said. “(Last year) we had some guys who weren’t so athletic but were intense and would demand the most out of themselves and their teammates. That’s what we’re missing right now. Hopefully we’ll get that as the season progresses.”
Contact Bob Brownne at 830-4227 or email@example.com.