Region’s prep basketball teams all see Palma as the team to beat
Although play in the Tri County Athletic League won’t get
underway until Jan. 5, the local high school boys’ basketball teams
kicked off the nonleague portion of its schedules this week.
Even though it’s early, the overall consensus is that Palma will
be the team to beat in the race to a TCAL title. With its added
height and a core of players that have been together since they
were in the third grade, Gilroy High should also be a serious
contender for the title.
Region’s prep basketball teams all see Palma as the team to beat this year
Although play in the Tri County Athletic League won’t get underway until Jan. 5, the local high school boys’ basketball teams kicked off the nonleague portion of its schedules this week.
Even though it’s early, the overall consensus is that Palma will be the team to beat in the race to a TCAL title. With its added height and a core of players that have been together since they were in the third grade, Gilroy High should also be a serious contender for the title.
And Live Oak, with a core of seniors that can hit from long range, should also be a solid competitor while perennial powerhouse San Benito High will have a familiar face guiding them in John Becerra.
San Benito High
From 1979 to 1997 Becerra was the Balers head varsity coach. After leaving the program, he coached for three seasons at Gavilan College and had been the head coach for the Balers freshman team the past three years.
The Balers are expected to use more of a full-court, man-to-man style of defense that has proved effective with Becerra’s past teams, including last year’s freshman team that went 21-3 during the regular season.
This year the Balers will take the court with a relatively small squad, but they do have height in 6-foot-7 backup center Sterling Wilson, who should give the Balers a big advantage in the paint when he’s on the floor.
Wilson will be playing behind 6-foot-4 senior Dean Wilkins, who is known best for his hustle and ability to run the court well. At guard the Balers will look to another senior in Daryl Baladad, a 6-footer who adds speed to the lineup.
“He’s very quick and has a quick first step,” Becerra said. “He’s jumps extremely well and is a good ball handler.”
At the point guard position, 5-foot-6 senior Vince Bautista is expected to get the nod over up-and-coming sophomore Marty Bueno.
“He has a calming affect on the court,” Becerra said. “He sees things well and does positive things with the ball. He’s also unselfish and has a decent outside shot.”
Last season the Balers posted a record of 24-6 and finished second in league behind North Salinas. The Balers also advanced to the Central Coast Section playoffs before losing in the semifinals. This year, Becerra knows that it’s going to be tough to repeat that feat.
“Gilroy and Palma have experience and a lot of tall kids,” he said. “Palma’s got a guard that’s 6-foot-5, so my 5-foot-6 guy has to guard him. But we’ll do it somehow.”
This year Gilroy High will have one of its biggest teams in years – not a single starter on the Mustangs’ team is under 6-feet.
But it may be the team chemistry that will bode well down the stretch. Seniors Ryan Chisolm, Dominick Wilkins, Jeremy Teschera and Vinny DeLorenzo have all been playing basketball together since they were in grade school.
Chisolm is the tallest of the group at 6-foot-5 and will play both the small and power forward positions this year. In addition to his height, Chisolm also has the advantage of being ambidextrous and can land the hook shot with either hand.
“He’s got a good perimeter game too,” said Gilroy Coach Bud Ogden. “He can hit the 15- to 18-foot jumper with regularity.”
Wilkins, who is 6-feet, is the team’s starting point guard. He and Chisolm are also the team’s co-captains.
“[Wilkins] is a hard-nosed player,” Ogden said, “and he can hit the three with regularity.”
Another player with a hot hand is Teschera. At 6-foot-1, he is expected to play the bulk of his time at the wing position.
“He’s a natural shooter,” said Ogden of his left-handed player. “He’s very clever with the ball. He figures a way to put the ball in the basket.”
DeLorenzo’s skills as a good passer and wing player has earned him a reputation as a playmaker, Ogden said.
Although he hasn’t played with the aforementioned players since grade school, center Jason Conrad is expected to make a big impact this year for the Mustangs in the paint and on the boards.
“He’s very versatile for a 6-foot-8 sophomore,” said Ogden. “He can shoot pretty well and he’s getting better everyday. I think he’ll turn some heads this year.”
Another player to watch this year is 6-foot-2 guard Kameron Handy. Ogden likes his ability to drive the lane.
“He’s a slasher and can get to the hoop,” he said. “He could tell you he’s going to the hole and the guy would still get there.”
This year Ogden believes that his team has the tools to contend for the league title and advance deep in the playoffs.
Last season the Mustangs finished with a record of 16-13 overall and were 5-5 in league. Gilroy advanced to the CCS playoffs before being knocked off by San Jose’s Piedmont Hills High School in the opening round.
“Certainly 20 (wins) is a viable goal,” said the third-year coach. “I think we’ll be in the running for a league title. I think it will be between us and Palma, but I don’t want to overlook anybody either.”
One of those teams that Ogden doesn’t want to overlook is Live Oak. Although they lost five starters to graduation, the Acorns have a slew of seniors this year with enough experience to put Live Oak into the playoffs again.
Last season the Acorns finished a disappointing 13-13 overall and 3-7 in league but surprised some people by beating Mount Pleasant High School in the opening round of the playoffs before falling to Woodside in the quarterfinals.
“We have more size this year than last year. We’re not overwhelming, but I think we’ll have a better post presence this year,” said Live Oak coach Brett Paolucci. “We don’t have as much speed at the guard positions but our outside shooting has much improved.”
One player to watch this season is senior Micah Jones. A year ago he didn’t play because of an injury, but he rejoined the team over the summer and has looked impressive -especially from long range.
“He can also play perimeter and post,” said Paolucci of his 6-foot-3 player.
Senior Dustin Bynum is expected to see the bulk of his time at small forward and brings a lot of experience to the lineup.
“He has the most post experience of anyone on the team,” said Paolucci, of his 6-foot-1 athlete. “He uses his body well and has great defense.”
Another player who didn’t see much playing time a year ago after breaking his arm in the early going is Eric Mutz. But this year the 5-foot-10 senior is expected to play a key role in the Acorns backcourt.
A year ago Ivan Silviera was playing basketball in Venezuela. This year, the 5-foot-9 senior foreign exchange student will be playing point guard for the Acorns.
“He has speed and knowledge of the game,” Paolucci said. “He can drive to the hoop and finish too, and he plays good defense.”
Senior Brandon Greene is also expected to see time this season at guard and forward.
Since this season will mark the final season in the TCAL for Live Oak, Paolucci would like to see his team go out with a bang.
“We’d like to go out as TCAL champs,” he said. “It’s going to be tough. This is a real competitive league. The ultimate would be to win league, make the playoffs and make a good run there.”
Even when the Acorns move north next season to compete in the San-Jose based Blossom Valley Athletic League; Paolucci plans to do his best to keep the old rivalries alive.
“We’ll still play Gilroy and San Benito in the Bob Hagen tournament at Gilroy High every year,” he said.