The 2016-17 prep basketball season didn't fare well for both Turlock and Pitman High's varsity boys teams as they struggled to finish in the top half of the standings in the Central California Conference in their penultimate year.
Merced took first at 11-1, El Capitan and Golden Valley tied for second at 8-4, while Turlock ended up in fourth at 5-7. Pitman followed in fifth at 4-8, tying Atwater.
Now with a multitude of talented players returning, each squad is hungry to best their outcome from a year ago heading into their last season in the CCC.
“I have seen some improvement with some of the guys who came out last year and they have improved as well and the camaraderie is good... very good,” said Pitman head coach Harvey Marable. “The effort is there and it's really nice. Nice to have that feel and there are different levels, this is a team is up there.”
“We are still young this year with a freshman, sophomore and six seniors and six juniors, still pretty young,” said Turlock head coach Doug Cornfoot. “It might not be an advantage at the beginning, but should be an advantage going into league and next year.”
Last year Turlock finished with a 9-17 overall record.
Turlock graduated just one senior and return a bulk of their starters, including seniors Arik Bains, Michael Patterson, Alden Norquist and Adrian Espinoza. Ryan Green, Cam Sherwood, Cameron Walker and 6-foot-8 sophomore Everett Johnson should also see a large number of minutes for coach Cornfoot.
“We are looking at it as last year, we gained experience moving into this year where the guys that were young now have a year of varsity under their belt,” said Cornfoot. “They should be able to accept the challenge that our league will bring. Our motto is high energy and competitiveness.”
This is what it will take for Turlock to return to playoff form after they missed the postseason last year for the first time in over a decade.
“We expect to make playoffs every year and last year we might have let our guard down so this year we are really focused on competing at practice because we don't not want to make the playoffs this year,” said Cornfoot.
The Pitman Pride finished last season with an overall record of 13-12, failing to make the postseason in the process, but the squad and coach Marable are hoping to have a different outcome for this new year.
“No matter what happens, I feel good we are going to enjoy the year,” said Marable in a calm and humble tone. “We are ready to compete every night. We will be ready, we will be there.”
The squad graduated over half a dozen players and return three.
Those three for the Pride include one of the best in the CCC in Dom Von Waaden. Marable will also have returners Jacob Staton and Christian Williams, who all should take the role as team captains he said.
Turlock's first game will be on the road at Stagg High in Stockton at 7 p.m. Tuesday.
Pitman will kick off the season on the road at Central Valley High in Ceres at 7 p.m. Monday.