It has been a short offseason for the Del Norte High boys basketball team.
Del Norte junior guard Stevie Maready returns to the varsity as one of the most experienced players. Del Norte Triplicate file/ Bryant Anderson
Nearly half of the Warriors varsity roster has been tied up after school on the gridiron as the football team made a run to the North Coast Section semifinals.
“It is very difficult because the football team did so well,” head coach Blaine Lopez said before practice Tuesday. “That is great. I am happy for them for sure, but at the same time it was nice to have everybody (at practice) for once on Monday.”
Lopez said he held an optional practice Saturday and nearly everyone showed up. That still leaves the Warriors with just four practices before they head to Yreka for the first tournament of the year today.
“Obviously, it is going to be a slow start to the season,” Lopez said. “The hard part for the coaches is trying to at least introduce everything we might see, but we probably won’t be very good at anything yet just because we haven’t practiced much.”
Even with less than a week of practice, the players are confident that their basketball skills will return quickly.
“It has been a pretty easy turnaround for us because most of us have all played basketball since we were really young,” said senior David Sathe.
The Warriors will have to make a few adjustments to how the team has operated in the past. Del Norte loses its tallest player and leading scorer from last season, the 6-foot-4 Sean DeArman.
It is left with just one true forward on the roster, junior Brandon Japp. The 6-foot-3 Japp was called up to the varsity as a sophomore, but struggled with a nagging injury for most of last season. He will be called upon a lot in the paint this year.
“He really came on early in the season last year and probably would have been a starter before he tweaked his back,” Lopez said. “Then he was hurt through Christmas break and the first part of league before he started getting healthy. He is going to have to play a lot of minutes and he is going to do the bulk of the post defending, the post rebounding; he is really our only true post player.”
The Warriors have plenty of guards however. Del Norte returns juniors Stevie Maready and Josh Gruden, who both started on the varsity last year as sophomores. With a year of playing experience, Lopez is hoping they can step up in their junior seasons.
“They are not sophomores anymore,” Lopez said. “Last year we probably lived with some things that we are not going to live with anymore. They are going to have to be much better. We expect a lot out of them. Their role this year is a lot different then what it was last year.”
For one thing, the junior tandem will be looked to on offense more.
“They are going to have to score more than they did last year,” Lopez said. “They are going to have to be able to do a little bit of everything though. We are not very big, so they are going to have to rebound, they are both going to have to defend and they are going to have to take on a leadership role. They have a year of varsity experience.”
Lopez expects many other Warrior guards to be in the rotation this season as well.
“Especially this year, everybody is really going to have to contribute,” Lopez said. “We don’t have that one guy that we can go to. Everybody is going to have to step up, we have some seniors that have been on the varsity team before that we expect a lot out of, we have some new faces with the juniors coming up to join the varsity.”
Lopez also mentioned that some sophomore players may stay up with the varsity this season as well.
“It is going to take a total team effort if we are going to have any chance in the league,” Lopez said. “It is going to be tough for us. Our league is really good.”
As always, the Del Norte team hopes to be able to lean on a strong defense. Lopez said that this year’s defense may feature a little higher pressure than normal, as the team attempts to overcome its size deficit.
“We are going to have to dive for every loose ball and get hard on defense,” Maready said. “Defense is going to win us games.”
On offense, “We are going to have to live and die by the three-point shot,” junior Napooi Shorty said. “We don’t have a lot of height, so we are going to have to be able to shoot.”
Sathe and senior Dylan Pease also mentioned that the team will look for more fast break opportunities.
“Hopefully we can find a strength and then play to that strength,” Lopez said. “We don’t know what that is right now.”
Boys basketball schedule
Dec. 5-7 Yreka Tournament (Varsity)
Dec. 6-7 Hoopa Tournament (JV)
Dec. 12-14 Phoenix Tournament (Varsity)
Dec. 12-14 St. Bernard’s Tournament (JV)
Dec. 17 at Eagle Point
Dec. 20-21 Brookings Tournament (Varsity)
De. 21 Del Note Freshman Jamboree
Dec. 26-27 Foothill Tournament (JV & Freshman)
Jan. 3-4 Bandon Tournament (Varsity)
Jan. 9 at Arcata
Jan. 14 at McKinleyville
Jan. 16 Eureka at home
Jan. 21 at Hoopa
Jan. 23 Fortuna at home
Jan. 31 Arcata at home
Feb. 5 McKinleyville at home
Feb. 7 at Eureka
Feb. 12 St. Bernard’s at home
Feb. 14 at Fortuna