There is nobody hungrier for the start of the season and no other team in the Trans Valley League with more upside than the Hilmar High varsity boys basketball team.
Ending the season 3-7 a year ago in the TVL wasn’t what head coach Paul Willis expected in his first year at the helm but he also didn’t anticipate buzzer-beater losses in league to last place Escalon amongst other close games.
A year makes many wiser and that seems to be the case for this year’s Yellowjackets, although the team just welcomed back six players on to the squad this week after the group made a deep run in the playoffs for football.
It slowed the process for Willis but he couldn’t be happier with the team that is out on the court.
They are bigger, faster and experienced, but although the humble Willis doesn’t like to look ahead his team is more than ready for the challenge.
“The kids are up for the challenge and we are going to compete, we just need to find time to come together and practice as a team since we've got a shorter period due to football,” said Willis.
Willis has a solid number of playmakers that should provide stability and effectiveness throughout the season, providing a deeper bench than Hilmar has seen over the last few years.
Nino Ta’a, Alec Cano, Brock Tate, Jarrod Willis, Nick Olvera, Colton Dutey and Kole Gaglio are just a few names that will contribute to the team, but with the football guys still not completely in basketball shape it will take a little time.
Also look for 6-foot-5 Jonas Tate to get some minutes for Hilmar to provide some stability with their size differences.
“We are just looking to have a good year and we will try to get to that level and that is what December is for since league starts in January,” said Willis. “Luckily we're not small, we’re not big, we are kind of a balance of big and small, we can go with a bigger lineup or small so we have those options this year.”
The goal, of course, is to make the postseason.
The last time Hilmar boys basketball made the playoffs was during the 2009-10 season.
“The kids know what lies ahead and they want to make playoffs that is their goal, but if we can be top three in our league that would be huge accomplishments for us and anybody else I'm sure,” said Willis. “Not sure what we will get till probably after that Pacific Grove tournament.”
Hilmar will continue with preseason play as they host Denair High at 7 p.m. Tuesday.