While most high school students kick back and relax, for Patterson’s varsity boys basketball players, the season represents a to-do list filled with weekly practices and games.
In fact, the Tigers competed over the weekend in the three-day St. Mary’s High School Summer Basketball Camps from Friday, June 29, to Sunday, July 1, in Stockton.
“I made it clear to the players that our summer program serves two purposes,” said varsity head coach Agustin Arreola, whose Tigers began their offseason training June 1. “First, I want players who can contribute from day one. Second, I’m looking at players’ character. Who can represent the school in a positive light?”
Although Patterson has several strong athletic programs, it has not traditionally been known as a boys basketball school.
Under second-year head coach Arreola, however, the Tigers emerged as one of the region’s promising programs in 2011-12. Patterson returned to the Sac-Joaquin Section Division III playoffs after a three-year hiatus and finished in third place in the Western Athletic Conference.
But with most area teams operating on year-round schedules as they seek to reach the upper echelons of the sport, there is no chance to rest on reputation.
“Last year would be classified as a success, but more than anything, it raises expectations,” Arreola said. “That’s a good thing. We’re not going to be complacent. We believe we have the talent to be league champions.”
Even though the team isn’t required to train during the summer, all eight returning members — Keegan Sanchez, Cariun Williams, Skylar Job, John Minton, Drake Vatuvei, Fernando Sanchez, James Shugan and J.T. Aguilar — and several newcomers are doing just that.
“We grade attendance,” Arreola said. “And we have a total of 15 athletes putting in the time and effort for us.”
Offseason workouts include two practices a week, leading up to weekly doubleheaders against other area programs at Livingston High School’s gymnasium.
The returning Tigers see the summer as a prime opportunity to develop the tools to succeed next season, Arreola said.
“I’ve already seen some real glimpses as to the type of team we can be,” Arreola said. “I’ve been really pleased with the way that we’ve battled (during scrimmages). These guys are the type of players who can not only fill minutes, but also make contributions.”
Though the loss of Adan Cortez, Brian Lemmon, Glody Mapanda, Zack Dinu and Austin Pressley to graduation presents a challenge, the squad boasts many promising players, according to Arreola.
“The competition to make the team is going to make my job difficult,” Arreola said. “I want athletes who have the ability to play solid defense, who can withstand pressure situations and who display character under all circumstances.”
Many Patterson High basketball players also compete on the Amateur Athletic Union club circuit in the spring and late summer, so they can be seen by college recruiters. As a result, June and July are the primary offseason times coaches have to work with their teams.
“AAU teams allow athletes the chance to play at several spots on the court (outside of their usual positions) and develop other aspects of their game,” Arreola said. “These guys are kept busy during the summer, but they are contributing 100 percent effort to both teams.”
For Arreola, the biggest benefit of summer play is seeing how last year’s reserves and this year’s rising players will fare.
“My priority is to make sure that we continue to improve,” Arreola said.
High school athletes are increasingly encouraged to stay active in the summer. The theory is that dedication to a sport allows athletes to reach their greatest potential, rather than diluting their athletic development with a lengthy layover.
“Everyone understands that they need to be here (at workouts), or someone might jump them (for a roster spot),” Arreola said. “We don’t hold it against the guys who can’t be here. But it’s like a test — you either study and prepare or you’ll be at a disadvantage.”
In addition to playing in the Livingston High summer league, the Tigers have traveled to Modesto Junior College for team workouts.
Arreola has taken those opportunities to watch his athletes play extended minutes as they try to improve their chances of making the varsity squad.
“We have eight or nine guys who would start on most teams in the WAC,” Arreola said. “But there’s only one basketball, and there’s only 32 minutes (in each game). Some of our guys are going to have to accept other roles, but we’re going to make it work.”
Playing sports in the summer requires a unique blend of energy, drive and determination to maintain a taxing schedule, Arreola said. He described his players as individuals who possess those traits.
“We want to develop into the type of program that is competitive year in and year out,” Arreola said. “I’m looking forward to seeing how these athletes come together, but also to seeing how we do against the elite competition we’ll face this summer.”