WINTER SPORTS PREVIEW: Basketball teams feeling confident going into rebuilding year
The Truckee High School varsity basketball teams will carry a burden of doubt into the 2003-2004 season, but both teams are confident they will improve.
For the boys, it is a matter of starting anew and learning an entirely new system on offense and defense in a short amount of time.
“They are learning brand new plays on both sides of the ball,” said Josh Jansen, the 24-year-old first-year coach for the boys’ team. “I consider it a rebuilding year because I’m introducing so many new concepts and philosophies.”
Jansen describes his style of basketball as hard-nosed and disciplined.
“I would say our strength lies in our work ethic,” he said. “For us to win we have to focus on our defense, and our offense will come.”
Michael Gray, the former boys’ coach for four seasons, said that the major problem was not enough attention paid to basketball in the offseason by the players.
“I couldn’t get those guys together over the summer,” he said. “I had that problem all four years. As a coach, it’s frustrating because you’re expected to teach the kids how to play basketball in just two weeks (before the first game). They want to succeed, but that’s not enough time.”
A disadvantage for the Wolverines going into this campaign is their lack of senior leadership. Brian McMullen, 17, is the lone senior standing on the team. In his opinion, it will not be a negative issue.
“It doesn’t hinder the team at all,” said McMullen, a third-year varsity starter at point guard. “Even though they’re all underclassmen, they’re friends to me just the same.
“It means nothing. Our players are extremely talented and extremely driven. We will do well this year,” he said.
McMullen said Jansen has brought a new attitude to Truckee basketball.
“Basically, what he’s brought to the team is a stronger focus – the desire to work hard and to do it with a positive attitude,” he said. “He pushes us. He’s a great motivater and a good coach.”
Surprisingly, Truckee’s 5-11 league record was just good enough to earn it a sixth-seed playoff birth last season. Gray said the Wolverines knocked off Winnemucca, then the defending state champions, to advance to the second round.
Truckee will have to beat front-runners Rite of Passage and Manogue, which tied for the conference lead last season, to earn respect in the Northern 3A.
Even if it does not happen this year, McMullen, one of four returning players, sees big things for Truckee in the future.
“I think we’re really going to make a run at (the state title) when our younger guys become juniors and seniors,” he said. “The newcomers have surpassed my expectations. With Josh’s guidance and the program he’s building, it will help their quest.”
McMullen, who plans to attend Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo as a journalism major, is not so much concerned with the offense as much as the defense in learning the new philosophies.
“The offense will come naturally,” he said. “The defense is the most challenging thing right now for us, but I perceive we’ll start mastering it and shutting people down.”
For the girls, improvement will define the 2003-2004 season – how a team consisting mostly of seniors will improve over a dismal year in which it won just two league games en route to a 2-12 conference record.
“To start the year we’ll have five seniors in the starting lineup,” said Angelo Tenorio, 40, also in his first year coaching at the varsity level. “We have some good senior leadership, and the girls practiced a lot in the offseason. Hopefully, they’ll be a little more ready to play this season.”
With seven seniors and seven returnees from last year’s squad, the girls should climb up the ladder in the Northern 3A standings.
One of those seven seniors, Deverie Hewitt, 17, will play wing this year for the Wolverines. She thinks Tenorio has also improved her team’s work ethic since he took over the head coaching duties.
“I think he’s more dedicated to the cause,” she said. “We’ve been playing since the end of last year. He signed us up for a lot of off-season tournaments. We had a spring league and a summer league.”
Hewitt said the team traveled to Monterey during the summer, and it also competed in many tournaments in Reno. The team saw action against teams from Oregon, Idaho and Southern California. The extra practice, combined with good team chemistry, should make for a more exciting season.
“A majority of our seniors have been playing together since seventh and eighth grade, some since elementary (school),” said Hewitt, a second-year varsity player.
The girls are also learning a new offense under Tenorio, hoping to utilize team speed and quality outside shooting. Tenorio has even influenced the girls to improve their shot selection.
“We’ve also done a lot of fund-raisers so that we could get new uniforms and new equipment,” Hewitt said. “He’s one of the best coaches I’ve had.”
Tuesday night (after the Sierra Sun’s deadline), the girls’ and boys’ varsity basketball teams opened the season against Loyalton, a rival that prides itself on its basketball program. The outlook is good that both teams will put up a better fight against opponents this season.
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Students frustrated at the cancellation of sports waved signs and delivered speeches at a Truckee High School protest in an attempt to return to the field this year.