New-look Warriors want to turn things around
December 1, 2003
The Whittell High boys’ basketball team will be starting nearly from scratch this season and that might not be a bad thing.
With a brand-new coach and just one returning starter from last year’s 4-19 squad, this season’s Warriors hope to overcome a lack of size to improve their standing.
With no player standing taller than 6-foot-1, the Warriors will be at a disadvantage inside against most opponents. But with hard work and a quicker pace, they could surprise some teams.
Head coach Dennis Young has coached for 23 years, including seasons at Bay Area powerhouses St. Joseph-Notre Dame High and Encinal High. While he admits the talent level at Whittell (230 students) is considerably lower, he praised his current team’s work ethic.
“The kids are working really hard so far,” Young said. “This is one of the hardest-working teams I’ve ever had. If they work this hard in the games, we’ll do really well.”
Young hasn’t made any dramatic changes to the Warriors’ offensive system, although he said he will “change a couple of things here and there.” He plans to spread the ball around on offense, but the leader will likely be junior forward Chris Shapiro, the lone returning starter. Young’s players will have to knock down outside shots for the team’s offense to produce points.
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Shapiro said this year’s team has more overall talent than last year’s, which featured four senior starters who took most of the shots.
“We’re a little smaller than last year, but we have a lot of good athletes,” he said. “We can get out and run more this year.”
The lack of size may hurt the Warriors more on defense, where teams will look to pound the ball inside. Young will try to counteract that deficit by throwing lots of different looks at opponents on the defensive end, switching from man to a variety of zones during games.
The Warriors open preseason play tonight with a road game at Quincy. It will be Young’s first look at his team in the heat of battle, but he’s cautiously optimistic he can forge them into a winner by the time league play starts against Incline.
“We all came in here blind, because they didn’t know me and I didn’t know them,” he said. “But hopefully by Jan. 6, we’ll have it all figured out.”
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