COACH: Agustin Arreola, second season
LAST YEAR: 19-8 overall, 8-4 Western Athletic Conference (third place)
KEY RETURNERS: Keegan Sanchez, Cariun Williams, Skylar Job
KEY LOSSES: Adan Cortez, Zack Dinu, Brian Lemon, Austin Pressley
KEY ADDITIONS: Jordan Levu, Justin Rodriguez
With more athletes, better shooters and increased depth on this season’s Patterson High varsity boys basketball team, Agustin Arreola thinks the current roster is deep and talented enough to contend in the Western Athletic Conference.
The second-year coach and his staff are working to develop first-year players and returners as they prepare for scrimmages against Escalon High and Kimball High of Tracy on Saturday, Nov. 17, at the Patterson High gymnasium.
“Our coaching staff is focused on developing complete players,” Arreola said. “The success of our team will come down to our ability to defend, limit turnovers and rebound. We are identifying players that can do those things.”
The offseason had a full schedule of weekly practices and games, including numerous summer tournaments and the three-day St. Mary’s High School Summer Basketball Camps in Stockton.
“We had a core group of 10 players who participated in our offseason program,” Arreola said. “The players who participated gained valuable experience against some of the area’s top programs.”
An influx of promising players means Patterson should have much more flexibility, in terms of both game personnel and how the Tigers implement offensive and defensive strategies.
The most important element at this point is making sure all the players appreciate the consistent effort required to succeed at the varsity level, Arreola said.
“We want to make sure our players will be some of the best conditioned athletes on the court,” Arreola said. “Games are decided in the fourth quarter, and usually the best conditioned team wins.”
Guard Keegan Sanchez and center Skylar Job, both seniors, and junior wing Cariun Williams are three veterans who are expected to lead the team this year with their experience.
“Keegan has put in a lot of work in the offseason and has improved every aspect of his game,” Arreola said. “Skylar has extended his shooting range and is finishing better around the rim. I expect both to have great seasons.”
Arreola believes his returning players made significant strides last season in terms of their toughness and resolve, along with physicality and consistent effort on the defensive end.
Though the loss of Adan Cortez, Brian Lemmon, Zack Dinu and Austin Pressley to graduation presents a challenge, the squad boasts many promising players, according to Arreola.
The coach expects junior newcomer Jordan Levu to play a big role in the rotation this year. “Jordan might end up being the key to our season,” Arreola said. “Being an undersized team, rebounding will be key, and Jordan has the ability to be a top-three rebounder in the league. He can be a match-up nightmare for opponents.”
Despite adding several new players in the mix — including junior guards Jordan Dinu and Justin Rodriguez — the Tigers have high goals for the season.
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.
“We expect to be competitive,” Arreola said. “We expect to contend for a WAC title. I would like for us to be able to host a playoff game.”
Arreola explained that the Tigers have plenty of versatility and offense at guard.
“We have a lot of offensive firepower on the team. Scoring should not be a problem,” Arreola said. “Our strength should be our ability to stretch defenses with our 3-point shooting. We have five to six players who can shoot 3’s at a high percentage.”
The defense will rely on speed and athleticism, rather than height.
“We will need to overcome a lack of height with tough-discipline defense on the perimeter,” Arreola said. “We have talent on the team but understand that our lack of size will be an issue.”
The team will work on overall development and chemistry during a formidable nonleague schedule that includes road games against Valley High of Sacramento and Hollister’s San Benito High.
“I’m excited about how much our offense has progressed,” Arreola said. “Last year’s squad was among the highest-scoring teams in the county, and already in the first week of practice, these kids are doing things that we weren’t doing at the end of last season.”
Patterson will tip off the season at home at 7:30 p.m. Nov. 26 against Modesto High.
Contact Marc Aceves at 892-6187, ext. 28, or email@example.com.