COACH: Brian De La Porte, first season
LAST YEAR: 22-7 overall, 10-2 Western Athletic Conference (second place)
KEY RETURNERS: Jordan Dinu, Jordan Levu, Kevin Phelps, Justin Rodriguez, Michael Smith, Avion Warmsley, Cariaun Williams
KEY LOSSES: Skylar Job, Keegan Sanchez
KEY ADDITIONS: Gary Bonney, Robert Ekwueme, Damarrio Hammonds, Gurkirt Heerey, Daniel Kelepi and Spirit Ricks
A Patterson High boys basketball team that appears to be on the upswing will, nevertheless, be putting a lot of new players in uniform this season.
First-year coach Brian De La Porte and his staff are working to develop greenhorn athletes and returners as they prepare for the season-opener against Atwater High on Tuesday, Dec. 3.
"In our workouts, the players become more familiarized with our system and individually become better players," said De La Porte, who resigned after five seasons as varsity coach of the Ceres High boys basketball team to take the job with Patterson High. "The players all know and understand that there is a lot of depth on our team and they are constantly being evaluated every day in practice."
The Tigers took a shot at the Western Athletic Conference title a season ago.
After winning 13 games straight, including a 9-0 start in league play, the Tigers dropped their second consecutive WAC game to the eventual league champion Central Catholic Raiders 75-66 on Feb. 6.
Hungry for more this season, WAC title expectations are buzzing through the PHS gymnasium.
"Our No. 1 goal is to win the WAC and that will always be our No. 1 goal, followed by hosting two playoff games," De La Porte said. "We also want to compete well in our preseason tournaments and really improve every day in November and December to be at our best when WAC play starts in early January."
A squad that went on to win a first-round contest in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division III tournament said goodbye to senior starters Skylar Job and Keegan Sanchez, as well as, coach Agustin Arreola, who after guiding the Tigers to the D-III playoffs in both of his seasons at the helm, left to focus his attention on his new role as assistant principal of Creekside Middle School.
Patterson has proven players who made significant contributions a year ago, and returners have the potential to fill more prominent roles this season, De La Porte said.
Senior Cariaun Williams is one veteran who is expected to lead the Tigers this year with his three seasons of varsity experience.
Patterson will also be able to succeed around a nucleus of players that saw plenty of playing time last year. Seniors Jordan Dinu, Jordan Levu and Avion Warmsley are helping to lead the charge for the Tigers. Throw in juniors Kevin Phelps, Justin Rodriguez and Michael Smith, who each possess a year of varsity experience now. The local contingent is putting the pieces together.
The most important element at this point is making sure all the athletes appreciate the consistent effort required to succeed at the varsity level, De La Porte said.
"While we don't have an established leader on our team, (Smith) is really starting to become our overall leader on and off the court," De La Porte said. "(Rodriguez) also is a leader by example as far as someone who comes to practice every day and works hard."
Bringing in junior Gary Bonney from Inderkum High of Sacramento and senior Robert Ekwueme from West High of Tracy, Patterson suddenly became deeper and more talented than most teams in the region.
Despite adding other new players in the mix — including junior varsity athletes Damarrio Hammonds and Gurkirt Heerey — the Tigers have high goals for the campaign.
"As a competitor, I look forward to finding out how good we can become as a team," De La Porte said. "After getting to know and build relationships with the players over the past six months, all I want is for them to be champions."
If there is one thing that Patterson prides itself on, it is its defensive play. The Tigers will look to bring their scrappy in-your-face defense to the floor when it faces opponents in 2013-14, De La Porte said.
The team will work on overall development and chemistry during a formidable nonleague and preseason tournament schedule.
De La Porte thinks the current roster is deep and talented enough to contend in the WAC.
"I am trying to instill in the players that there must be individual sacrifice in order to become champions," De La Porte said. Hopefully, I can be a part of it and help guide them to a WAC championship."
Contact Marc Aceves at 892-6187, ext. 28, or firstname.lastname@example.org.