Tracy High coach Junior Cueva is confident that this year’s Bulldog basketball team can have its best season since he took over as head coach three years ago.
“For the first time in three years, we’ve got a good group of seniors coming back,” he said.
Senior guards Kharyem Watson and Druce Asah will be leaders on the court again.
“We have more chemistry and we have a lot more experience,” Asah said. “Last year, we had only a few seniors that were leaders on our team.”
Watson added that his job would be to bring the new juniors up to speed.
“We have a lot of returning players, and they’ll step up and do what they need to do. Me and Druce will step up and lead more,” he said.
Cueva also expects returning seniors Jake Serrato, Nate Brown and Josh Clarke to give the team some size once they finish their football season.
Tracy went 12-12 last year, 4-6 in the San Joaquin Athletic Association. The team expects to be better, but the new Tri-City Athletic League will also be a more competitive league, including the former TCAL’s top three teams — St. Mary’s, West and Tokay — and last year’s SJAA champion, Lincoln.
“We just need to work on conditioning, make sure we don’t get tired,” Watson said. “We’re probably not going to be as big as other teams, so we’ll have to make sure we can run the court.”
Cueva added that most of Tracy’s league losses last year were close.
“Every game, we’re within reach, so hopefully having an experienced back court will get us over the hump.”
Girls hope to build on last year’s experience
Tracy High’s girls hope to start where they left off, having graduated only two seniors from last year.
“We had a very young team last year,” senior team captain Jessi Johnson said. “A lot of girls were sophomores or freshmen. I think that gives us a real advantage coming up.”
Johnson is one of four seniors, and the team also returns three juniors and a sophomore. Coach Derek Solano said that the returners included most of last year’s starters, so the team will have depth this year.
“Once it all gets settled, it will look even more different than what I anticipated to begin with,” Solano said. “It’s nice to have that flexibility to be able to move girls around.”
Among the returning seniors is Toni Harrison, who was a first-team all-San Joaquin Athletic Association selection last year and a consistent scorer as the Bulldogs went 12-16 and 5-6 in the SJAA, just missing a chance at the playoffs. Harrison said she expected balanced scoring from across the roster.
“I feel like we’re going to help each other throughout the season,” she said. “We’ll be all level and work together.”
Johnson added that the Bulldogs’ tournament schedule, including the Tom Hawkins-Tracy Breakfast Lions tournament at the end of December, would get the team ready for the new Tri-City Athletic League.
“It gives us a lot of experience playing a lot of different teams, because it’s four days and we get to watch what other teams do and learn from them,” she said.