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New head coach, tempo for Hilmar basketball
Hilmar basketball 3
Alec Cano of Hilmar looks to shake off a Denair defender during the first half of Tuesdays win at Denair. - photo by EDDIE RUIZ / The Journal

With football being such a rich and successful tradition at Hilmar High, it seems like the basketball program takes the back seat — especially after coming away with only one winning season since 2007.

In steps Paul Willis as the new head coach for the boys basketball team.

Willis has already brought on a very aggressive and fast tempo to this year’s squad, which has 10 juniors on the roster.

The ‘Jackets are already off to a better start at 3-3 after amassing only seven wins last year.

 “We have a long ways to go and we are making improvements, but we need to continue the stride and it should pay off at the end,” Willis said.

Another positive for this year’s team is the obvious change in size from top to bottom.

Sophomore Kole Gaglio has been brought on as the only underclassman to add some size behind a deep lineup for Willis.

“I brought up Kole [Gaglio] to give us a big presence,” said Willis. “We are a little more athletic this year. We are a little bigger and got some height as opposed to last year’s team.”

Led by seniors Jacob Ahid and Hudson Harris, the team also welcomes many newcomers who have seen large minutes played at the junior varsity level.

 Alec Cano, Nino Ta-a, Brock Tate and Alex Chavez are only a handful of the ‘Jackets players who will see a lot of playing time for coach Willis this upcoming year.

“The difference is we got some guys that have played basketball for a long period of time,” said Willis. “Last year we had some smart kids, but this year we are more athletic. We got some experience with what we are trying to accomplish.”

With such a talented team this year coach Willis has been able to change the style of play to something that clicks well with this group.

“We can play at a faster paced game because we are deeper as opposed to last year,” Willis said of his team. “With our style of game play, we need to have as many bodies as we can, just to create the tempo of game that we want to have. We changed our offense a little bit to cater to our guys.”

Hilmar has only won two league games over the last two seasons, having gone 2-22 during that span. While taking the top spot in the Trans Valley League would be great, Willis is realistic and knows that in such a tough and competitive league that task will not be accomplished easily.

 “We are on the upside. This will be a different mentality. I think we will come out with the tough that we will compete every night. We may not win but we are going to compete and we will have a chance to win and hopefully get a nice crowd to come out and support our team.”

Hilmar’s next game will be at Pacific Grove High at 8 p.m. Friday.