Local girls basketball teams have plenty of talent in the younger classes to support the returning varsity players from last year. Three teams also have new coaches leading their programs’ transitions into the 2013-14 season.
Kimball High Jaguars
Two years ago, Kimball High girls basketball coach Mike Granillo faced the task of building a varsity team with mostly freshman players on the starting lineup.
The Jaguars keep building on what they’ve learned in tough seasons. Last year, the team went 17-11, 8-6 in the Valley Oak League, and made the Sac-Joaquin Section Division II playoffs for the second year in a row.
“I have the majority of the core coming back, which is nice,” Granillo said.
Juniors starting their third year on varsity are point guard Allison Schmidt, forwards Sarah Nunes and Alexis Clark and center Ayida Peters. Guard Isabella Lawrence played her freshman year but was out last year.
“We’ve grown a lot and have gotten more experienced since freshman year, so we know what to expect,” Clark said.
Peters added that the team also understands where it needs to improve the most.
“I think we’ve gotten tremendously better with our defense. We just need to work more on our offense, and then we’ll be able to go further into playoffs,” Peters said.
Seniors who joined the varsity team last year as juniors include Noni Kuumba, Andrea Barajas and Brittany Lee.
Tracy High Bulldogs
Tracy High’s girls basketball team brings back only a few players from the 2012-13 team, but coach Derek Solano is confident that upcoming players will fill the places left open by last year’s graduating seniors.
The varsity team is out to improve on a 16-11 record, including a 7-3 second-place finish in the San Joaquin Athletic Association and a trip to the SJS Division II playoffs. Some of the new players come from last year’s junior varsity team, which went 10-0 in league play.
“I really think that having those players who won a championship is always a benefit,” Solano said. “They’re hungry. They like winning and they know how to win.”
Returning seniors Sarah Rodriguez, Kimberly Paschal and Kennedy Scheckla will be joined by sophomores Natalie Johnson and Jazmyn Gonzalez and freshman Caitlin Bowman.
Scheckla sees big potential in the team.
“Everyone we’ve moved up, they’re all really great athletes,” she said. “They have that innate ability to work hard and instantly know what they should be doing.”
Rodriguez said last year’s team leaders gave her a foundation to lead a new team.
“We can move on and start the fresh people completely new and have them exactly how we want them,” Rodriguez said.
West High Wolf Pack
West High’s new girls basketball coach, Emilio Guzman, said the challenge of his first year was making sure he had a full roster of motivated players.
Last year, the Wolf Pack went 10-17, 1-9 in the Tri-City Athletic League, and this year, Guzman pulled in new players to fill the varsity, sophomore and freshman teams.
“It’s about keeping them motivated so that they enjoy the program and want to play,” he said, adding that the girls who enjoy the game the most are the best ambassadors to recruit new players.
Returning seniors include Angelica Nava-Perez and Aajani “Nini” Woodward. Woodward said the players are already bonding as a team.
“We played over the summer, too, so we have a feel for each other. We connect a lot better,” she said. “Everybody is stepping their game up.”
Juniors include Imani McAlister and Sandy Barbosa, and Brittney Reyes and Taylor Herrera return as sophomores.
Guzman coached basketball during
his 26-year U.S. Air Force career. He coached high school basketball in Florida, and since coming to California 15 years ago, he has coached at Patterson High and at Freiler School and Bella Vista Christian Academy. Guzman has been with the West program as an assistant coach for two years.
Millennium High Falcons
Joe Reyes, the new girls basketball coach at Millennium High, hopes his 31 years of coaching basketball will translate to a strong foundation for the Falcon girls for years to come.
A new league lineup — minus defending Sac-Joaquin Section Division V champion Brookside Christian — and a group of seasoned players give Reyes and the Falcons hope to improve on last year’s 6-15 record, including an 0-8 showing in the Central California Athletic Alliance.
“Some of them have big hearts, and some of them have a lot of smarts up top, and that goes hand in hand,” Reyes said. “Chemistry is probably going to be our biggest asset, because they all get along so well.”
Returning players include seniors Dejah Barney and Madison Carroll.
“Our coach this year is teaching us to work together, rather than focus on ourselves,” Barney said. “We’ll be more of a team this year.”
Reyes said a full roster with strong players means the Falcons will transition in and off of the court with little if any change in tempo.
“I’m looking for a deep, deep team this year with everybody playing hard,” Reyes said.
Returning players include junior Reina Perales and sophomore Anekha Birdi. Reyes said new players Amaya Salas, a freshman, and Julia Pagliaro, a sophomore, show potential.
Delta Charter High Dragons
Delta Charter High’s new coach, Johnny Aguilar, came to the rural campus last week with 25 years of basketball experience, including as a coach at Ripon High and as a referee for local games.
Aguilar, who also teaches history and math at Delta Charter, is eager to see the team grow.
“I’m going to try to build a program here, something that’s going to be here in the future,” Aguilar said. “I’ve got some girls who will be back with me next year, so it’s all about fundamentals now.”
Junior Samantha Lillak said the team has changed from two years ago, when she started playing as a freshman.
“I see a lot of willingness for teamwork. A lot of people want to work to win a lot of games this year,” she said, adding that the Dragons expect to improve on last year’s 6-16 record, 5-10 in the Mountain Valley League.
“During my freshman year, we had only seven girls on the team. Now, having 14, we have a lot of backup and support.”
Returning players include senior Asia Harris, an all-MVL first-team player in 2012-13; junior Emma Richardson, in her third year on varsity; juniors Victoria Homen, Haley Anderson and Mia Gomez; and sophomore Katlin Good.
n Contact Bob Brownne at 830-4227 or email@example.com.