Derek Sprecksel’s challenge is to guide his West High boys basketball teams to success even as players bring a completely different set of skills each year.
This year, Sprecksel aims for a repeat trip to the playoffs after competing in a reorganized Tri-City Athletic League. The Wolf Pack, which went 20-9, 8-2 in the TCAL last year, will face defending TCAL champion St. Mary, 2013 San Joaquin Athletic Association champ Lincoln and crosstown rival Tracy, with Tokay and Lodi thrown in for good measure.
Returning seniors Elijah Tuando, Austin Torma and Maxwell Aduako and junior Isaiah Grady will be team leaders. Also back is 6-foot-3 sophomore forward Ephraim Estell. New players include five juniors and two sophomores.
Sprecksel doesn’t plan to depend on one or two leading scorers.
“I anticipate us being a very balanced, hardworking team that’s going to defend really well, that’s also going to move the ball well offensively,” he said.
Tuando expects the Wolf Pack to be competitive through their will to win.
“This year, we’ve just been putting in a lot of work on the court,” he said. “We’re a hustle team and will put in a lot of defense, try to make sure we play hard for 32 minutes.”
The Wolf Pack will see how they hold up against strong competition during three tournaments, including the Tracy/West Winter Holiday Classic, where West is the four-time defending tournament champion.
Estell, who was a freshman on the varsity team last year, said his team’s strengths are hunger, intensity, hustle and heart, just what the Pack will need when it gets to TCAL play .
“There are not going to be any games where we can lay back and relax,” Estell said. “Every game is going to be a tough game every game is going to be close.”
The West High girls went through the school of hard knocks last year, finishing with a 2-23 record, 0-10 in the Tri-City Athletic League. Coach Emilio Guzman figures it made the girls tougher, and the work they’ve put in on the court since then has made them better.
The Wolf Pack has nine returning players on its 15-player roster, including seniors Sandy Barbosa and Taylor Herrera, both with two years of varsity experience, and junior Brittney Reyes, also with two years on varsity.
Guzman sees Barbosa as a leader at guard.
“I expect a lot of good things from her. She’s gotten better at her shooting and ball handling,” he said. He added that Reyes had become an outstanding outside shooter.
Junior Brittany Bem returns as the team’s center.
“She has gained a lot of experience this past summer,” Guzman said.
Guzman said the biggest difference from last year would be more substitute players on the bench.
“If you look at all of our games last year, we were winning at least 12 of our games going into the fourth quarter,” he said. “Depth might give me more breathing space with our starters.”
He anticipates 2014 being another year of growth for the Wolf Pack, with stronger continuity from the freshman team to the varsity team.
“I see that coming to fruition now, and going into the coming season I see it blooming.”