In his second year as the head coach for Turlock Christian boys varsity basketball team, Eddie Sai led his team to their second consecutive postseason berth with an 18-10 record last year, but the Eagles unfortunately lost in the opening round of the playoffs.
Now, the team returns eight players from last year's team who are all seniors heading into this season and the expectations could not be any higher, especially as the team is competing in a new conference, the Central California Athletic Association.
With such a deep roster this year, it really seems like it is all or nothing for the Eagles, or as some may say, title or bust.
“This year there is more pressure than any other year because of the talent that we have and the size — we are big,” Sai said. “We can go with a starting lineup of everyone taller than 6-foot-5 and these guys deal with a lot of adversity, but they are up for the task.”
In order to prepare for the daunting task ahead, coach Sai brought in help with former William Jessup University basketball coach Tyler Brown.
Brown's understanding of conditioning has already prepared this team for lengthy games ahead of them and for a new type of defensive scheme—man-to-man press.
It was one of the new techniques that Sai implemented this season for the team and things are already looking good
The Eagles are led by their three big returners in Brady Turner, Jordan Riise and Kameron Vogt.
Each of these three stand above 6-foot-6 and should be a force in the paint for the Eagles defense this upcoming season as forwards—not to mention they can all score from anywhere on the court.
Egan Farrar will serve as point guard for this year's squad and Turlock High transfer Drake Dutra is looking like he will have a breakout year for the Eagles.
“We are hungry and we want it and these guys are out there working hard,” said Sai. “We are going to press through and get it done. We might be the biggest team in the entire area and we will play man-to-man in your face defense. Our guys know where they need to be this year since they were young last year but this year they are mature.”
With the season just underway, the Eagles know that it will be a tough year in a new conference but coach Sai is confident that they will be in the mix of it all by the time league play starts.
“We will make the postseason and where we go after that it is the cherry on top, but expectations are definitely high all over,” Sai said. “I am very confident and they know what I expect out of them this year. Our goal is to be in the top three but these teams all compete at a high level.”
TC will face off against Pacheco in their foundation game at Los Banos at 8 p.m. Monday.