FAIRFIELD — The 2012-13 boys basketball season was a good one for city high school teams – co-championships for Armijo and Rodriguez, and winning campaigns for Fairfield and Vanden – and figures to be a tough act to follow.
The Indians and Mustangs return a combined three starters between them. Meanwhile, Fairfield and Vanden have deep and experienced lineups. Here’s a look at each of the city teams.
Eddie Wilson is back to coach the Falcons after spending two seasons as an assistant at Solano Community College.
He returns to a roster that’s well stocked, though height is in short supply.
“Honestly, there isn’t much (beyond the players) that I would describe as ‘different,’” Wilson said of his return. “I’m, obviously, very comfortable in this position and have enjoyed being back in an official capacity. The guys have been very receptive to my coaching.”
Back as starters are seniors DeMoriaye Hart-Spikes, Maurice Trotter, John Jones, and Javon Adams, and junior Anthony Bryant, all guards.
Other returning players are senior guards Sean Gray, Raimauri Barron, Zechariah Orme and Asante Morris, and senior post Jordan Jackson and sophomore post Shawn Hill.
Hart-Spikes and Gray were all-Solano County Athletic Conference players last season.
New to the team are senior post Unree Johnson and guards Robert Harrison, Anthony Rose, Jr., and Uriah Benning, all sophomores.
Not surprisingly, as strengths of the team, Wilson lists depth, athleticism and experience.
“(We) could play as many as 14 on any given night,” he said. “We’re quick and explosive at every position (and) all significant statistical contributors return.”
The Falcons captured league titles in Wilson’s previous five seasons at the helm and won 20 games eight straight years.
“The goals always remain the same,” he said. “We want to maximize our abilities, get better everyday and play our best basketball during (the) championship season. Specifically, we want to win the SCAC title, compete for a (Sac-Joaquin) Section championship and play in the state tournament.”
Micheal Holloway enters his fourth season as the Vikings’ coach with a young, yet somewhat experienced team.
Back as starters are sophomore guard Thomas Avent, junior guard Demarre Walker and junior forward Jansen Smith.
Also returning are senior forward Joey Kuzbiski and junior forward Jihad Woods, though the former’s status is in doubt after suffering a knee injury in last week’s Honk Williams Memorial Tournament at Vacaville.
Key newcomers for Vanden are forward Tony Terry, guards Rashad Fisher and Ricky Garcia, and swingman Javin White.
“We are very long and athletic with the ability to apply pressure,” Holloway said. “Great guard play is something that will allow us to get up and down the floor.”
Yet the coach is concerned that those talents don’t include a wealth of experience.
“Besides our starters, there isn’t a lot of varsity experience on our team,” Holloway said, “so that will be an area we look at as we enter into the early parts of preseason.”
The Vikings finished fourth in a deep SCAC last season and are looking to improve on that.
“Our goals every year are to be (in) contention for the SCAC crown and make a deep playoff run,” Holloway said. “We understand what’s in front of us and the challenges we will face.”
Nate Rankin accomplished a lot in his first year as Mustangs coach last season, leading them to a piece of the MEL title and keeping all 27 players in the program academically eligible.
Another accomplishment is Rankin being back for a second campaign. Last year he was the fourth Mustangs coach in four years. His only healthy returning starter is senior combo guard Keanu Williams, while junior small forward Torian Varner is out with a football injury.
“His presence as a very athletic big definitely would have impacted some of the things we do in the lane this year,” Rankin said of Varner.
Also back for Rodriguez are senior combo guards Rishod Abraham and Tim Moore Jr., and junior point guard Kyle Williams.
“All three bring experience to their positions,” Rankin said.
Up from the JV team and expected to contribute are junior combo guards Jordan Badger and Courtlund McLean, and junior guard Kesean Graham.
Also on the squad are senior combo guards DeAndre Scott, Cory Brown and Armani Reed, and junior forward Jourdan Skillman.
“What they bring as role players will be invaluable in our run to repeat as MEL champs, which will be tough this year due to the other good MEL teams,” Rankin said.
The second-year coach sees the strengths of his team extending beyond physical talents.
“Our strengths are that our teams (varsity and JV) compete hard and do not quit, which is the same way they strive in the classroom,” Rankin said. “We have five student-athletes on varsity that have 3.5-4.5 GPAs in courses like AP calculus, pre-calculus and chemistry.”
Rankin’s concerned about a lack of height, especially when compared to Mustangs teams of the past.
“Our focus will be on what we do best,” he said. “Players know because of our philosophy of ’No Excuses,’ we find ourselves executing the game plan to the fullest, and holding ourselves accountable when we do not. The other part of the focus is to maintain reality that coaches coach and the players play the game.
“If we have done our job in preparing the players then they can compete and meet the challenge. So then it becomes less of a concern.”
Rankin is proud that the Mustangs lost no players to grades while finishing first in both the varsity and JV races.
“The goals for this year are much the same as last season,” Rankin said.
Senior forward Tyree Carrie is the lone returning starter for Carly Perales, who’s in his fourth season as coach.
Also back from last year’s team, which earned a piece of the MEL title, are senior guards Bryce Lumpkins, Abner Tena-Leal and Vinay Pal.
New to the team are senior guard Kevin Williamson, junior forwards Lorenzo Martinez and Victor Caldwell, and sophomore forward Jordan Allen.
“We have a willingness to play as a team and try to make each other better,” Perales said. “I think we have a high basketball IQ as well and that will work to our advantage the more we play together.”
Yet there are several areas of concern, most notably a lack of experience.
“We are a relatively inexperienced team as far as varsity level experience goes,” Perales said. “Also, we have a totally new group of guys who have not played a lot together, so it may take some time before we become consistent.”
The Indians finished strong last season with five straight MEL victories to claim their piece of the league title before topping West of Tracy in the playoffs and giving eventual state champ Pleasant Grove a tough test.
As for this season, “our first goal is always to win the league championship,” Perales said. “After that, we always have our sights set on the playoffs. From game to game, we want to compete and give ourselves the best chance we can to win the ball game.”
Reach Paul Farmer at 425-4646, ext. 264, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/pfarmerdr.