By Bill Choy
Triplicate Sports Editor
It's going to be a quick turnaround for Del Norte High boys varsity head coach Blaine Lopez and six of his basketball players.
Today, the squad opens the 2007-08 campaign against Pierce High of Arbuckle at a three-day tournament in Yreka.
Wednesday was only the third practice with the entire team in attendance due to the football playoffs.
The Warrior football team made it all the way to the North Coast Section Redwood Empire 2A semifinals before falling to Novato on Saturday.
Because of this, Lopez, the offensive coordinator for the football squad and the six members of both the football and basketball teams could not practice for basketball.
Lopez commended assistant coaches Dave Brous and Greg Yeager for running practices in his absence and getting the players not on the gridiron ready for the start of the season.
The lack of practice time for the football players and trying to get them from football shape to basketball shape will take time, Lopez said.
"We're just getting our feet wet right now," he said.
Because of the extended football season, Lopez said it will take time to figure out who can do what for the team this season and exactly what the team's strengths and weaknesses are.
So, these first three games will be a vital way for the coaching staff to see the dynamics of the team.
"We'll go out and play hard," Lopez said, adding that having a number of returning players back will help make the adjustment go smoother.
"They have an idea of what we're doing and hopefully that will help," he said.
Key returners include seniors Cliff Van Hook and Andrew Fallman, as well as seniors Chad Freeman, Trevor Rook and Saxon Schultz and junior Cody Hoffman, who all played football this season.
Lopez said the early games will give the new players game experience and give the coaching staff an idea as to what the newcomers can do in a live game situation.
Last season, Del Norte had a decent year, finishing with a 15-10 overall mark and placing second in the Big 5 conference behind Eureka.
The team graduated several key seniors, including starters Scott Redmond and Bryce Lund.
Lopez said he expects the Warriors to play its normally aggressive defense and be efficient shooting the ball, emphasizing teamwork and the system in place. The squad has been successful for a number of years, with Del Norte consistently being an elite team in the Big 5.
Lopez said his squad is full of great athletics and hopes to use their speed and strength to great effect this season, especially with pushing the ball down the court and attacking the basket.
The Warriors play their first home games at the annual Warrior Classic on Dec. 13,14 and 15. Del Norte opens the Big 5 season on Jan. 11 on the road against Fortuna.