With the nonleague schedule in full swing, Nevada Union's boys basketball team is concentrating on putting together consistently strong, fundamentally sound efforts through four quarters and from game to game.
"We're right where we should be this time of year," said head coach Dale Latimer. "We've looked good in spots."
The 57-55 overtime win over Colfax late last month was a good experience with the team coming back and winning, Latimer said. However, NU lost some close games in the El Dorado Tournament because the team "got a little careless and sloppy," he added.
"We're learning how to manage our game and put four quarters together," Latimer said.
"Most of the emphasis is on fundamentals in the preseason," Latimer said.
With the season in its infancy, Latimer is looking around for the right combination of players to help lead his team on the floor.
Last season's leading scorer Colin Lee is back and he'll be supported by guard Chris Porter and big man center Cody Wilcox who stands 6 feet, 6 inches tall.
"It's a good time of year to be looking at different combinations," Latimer said. "I want eight or nine guys that can get the job done consistently."
Once the Jan. 13 home game against Roseville rolls around, kicking off Sierra Foothill League play, NU hopes the early season kinks are worked out.
"Every team in the league is a key matchup," Latimer said. "Every night out in the SFL it's a playoff atmosphere."
Rocklin has a new coach, but we know there are a lot of athletes there, Latimer said. Del Oro and Roseville will have good teams, and Woodcreek has a new coaching staff, he added.
"You have to be prepared every night out," Latimer said. "The team that executes the best and commits the least mistakes will win."
The Miners lost Dan Pettinato, Chris Biertuempfel, Austin Stout, Rob Correll, Cole Britton and Peter MacDonald to graduation.
Nevada Union (3-3) heads for the Les Curry Invitational at Davis High this weekend, starting Thursday against Vintage, followed by the Kendall Arnett Tournament Dec. 28-30 at Placer High School in Auburn.
Bear River expects big things from senior Zach Welz and still might get much of what they hoped for from him, but they likely have to wait until next month to get it.
Welz, a senior who averaged 9.4 points per game last year, injured his knee prior to the foundation game with Forest Lake Christian and although no surgery is needed, he's slated to miss most of preseason, said head coach Duwaine Ganskie.
Welz has a contusion between the two main bones on his knee, he said.
"We're shooting for January, the start of league play to have him back," Ganskie said.
"He's our senior leader - the captain of our team," Ganskie said. "It will be a challenge for the team."
Prior to learning the full extent of Welz's injury, Ganskie said his team needed to see more game action in order to "iron things out." So far, the challenge has proven as difficult as anticipated with the Bruins losing their first three games in nonleague games before getting on track in the Live Oak Tournament last weekend.
The Bruins only have nine players listed on their roster, but Ganskie is excited for the prospects of his relatively young team which includes three seniors, four juniors and two sophomores.
"Jonny Cassar's go button is always stuck on the 'on' position," Ganskie said. "He's fun to watch."
"Justin Beskeen is a fluid, natural-looking basketball player," Ganskie said. "He's fun to watch."
Brandon Wooner, coming off an all-league performance in football, has great hands, Ganskie said. "Hopefully, he can continue that success on the hardwood."
"Trevor McGhee is gifted at creating things offensively," Ganskie said.
Beskeen, Wooner and McGhee were well represented as early season statistical leaders for Bear River.
The Bruins lost Johnny Jewett, Jordan Beskeen, Tommy Goodman and Will Gray to graduation.
Bear River (2-5) is competing in the Otis Spunkmeyer Classic this weekend at Piedmont High School in the Bay Area.
Forest Lake Christian
It's too early to tell how the Falcons will fare in the Central Valley California League with much of the nonleague early schedule including larger school opponents Forest Lake won't have to contend with next month and beyond.
"We're basically playing Division III and Division IV teams," said head coach Dave Thomas. His team is in Division V and only will play Division V teams, if it's able to reach the playoffs.
All seven years Thomas has been a coach, the preseason records have usually been below .500, he said.
"You don't get better by playing teams not as good as you are," Thomas said.
Forest Lake doesn't have the size that they had last year with Josh Ritchart, a 6-foot-7 power forward who averaged 25.6 points per game, having graduated and now playing at UC Davis. Last year's team finished 13-12 overall.
This year's tallest player is 6 feet, 2 inches (Cameron Beste) but that doesn't discourage Thomas. The team can make up for its small size by being quick and playing good solid defense, he said.
"If we can avoid injuries and ineligibility, we'll be competitive with all league opponents," Thomas said.
"There's not any team that we can't beat in this league," Thomas said. "And there isn't any team that can't beat us if we're not on our game. It should be exciting."
Thomas is expecting big things from Randy Van Winkle, Cameron Beste, Taylor Phillips, Josh Knapp, John McDonald, Nathan Burnett and Michael Sparling. Yet, he said, he isn't sure who will step up to be No. 8 and No. 9 players on the roster.
In addition to Ritchart, the Falcons also lost Dimitri Masumbuko and Jason Camacho to graduation.
FLC (0-5) competes in the Golden Sierra Tournament this weekend.
Contact Sports Writer Greg Moberly via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 477-4234.