There was a lot of optimism at the recent season opening practice of the Yosemite High boys basketball team in the Harry S. Baker gym. There is good reason. The program and the attitude of the players is on the upswing.
“Last year was kind of a transition year,” 6-foot-1 senior shooting guard Aaron Bausch said. “But just after a couple of practices, we are way ahead of where we were this time last season.”
The 2013-14 campaign was tough, with the Badgers posting a 5-20 overall record, and and 3-7 in North Sequoia League play. Third year Coach Stephen Lopez has reason to share Bausch’s optimism.
“We feel great about this season,” Lopez said. “Our seniors will be a key part of our success. They are coaches on the court and leaders. We also have a solid core of underclassmen who will be integral to our success this year.”
Last season saw changes at point guard. Bausch started at point but moved to shooting guard after freshman Tristan Eames was brought up to varsity from the JV team. This season there is stability at the point from day one, as Eames, now a sophomore, has good command of the offense. Eames is transitioning from football and nursing a sore ankle but will be ready by season opener. He averaged 5.5 points per game and 2.4 assists. Look for those numbers and leadership to dramatically improve.
Bausch moves to shooting guard, a position he relishes. Maybe the biggest weakness last season was outside shooting. The Badgers as a team only averaged 40 points per game on 33% shooting. The three-point shots were virtually non-existent. Bausch knows that has to change.
“I know we will be improved in our scoring this season,” Bausch said. “I’m ready for my scoring opportunities. I worked a lot on my 3-point and mid-range jumpers in the summer. Fall basketball was huge for us too. I think we are in a good rhythm early.”
The strength of last year’s squad was the inside game and this season it will be no different. YHS lost center Jared Wood to graduation but 6-foot-7 junior Kade Cross. who teamed with Wood to form one of the best inside tandems in the NSL, is back. Cross had a breakout season as a sophomore averaging a team high in points per game (8.6) and rebounds (7.1). Cross is bigger and stronger this season after putting in a lot of work over the summer, and is expected to have his share of double/doubles this season.
“I worked a lot with Coach Lopez on my inside moves,” Cross said. “I also worked on shooting with my left hand to give myself more options in the paint. The team has a good feel. We are really close and guys are working hard to get better.”
Cross will get help on the inside from 6-foot-4 senior Chase Lassos and 6-foot-4 sophomore Peter McLean. Lassos can get it done inside and out. Last season he averaged 4.1 points and three rebounds per game, and he knows those number have to go up.
“I’m definitely more confident this year compared to last year,” Lassos said. “I took my sophomore season off and it took a while to catch up. I will play a lot on the wing, and with Peter playing power forward I can play on the wing so we will have a tall line up, and we can run too. Having our point (Eames) set from day one will really make a difference. I see the team improvement already in just a few practices.”
McLean is just a sophomore but he will make his presence felt inside.
“Peter will help in the paint,” said Lopez. “He loves to rebound, plays solid defense, and has a great attitude. He’s very coachable.”
The other forward spot will be occupied by newcomer Jordan Matoud, a 5-foot-11 senior who transferred to Yosemite from Mariposa where he played one year of basketball.
“Jordan is going to help us a lot,” Lopez said. “He is a great defender and can score inside and out. Jordan has a great work ethic that is contagious. We are excited to have him on our team.”
Matoud is just getting into basketball shape after a successful season on the gridiron. Despite not winning a game, Matoud was one of the Badgers best defenders who never quit. He brings that attitude to the hard court.
“I love defense,” Matoud said. “Defense wins titles. I want to start our offense by making great defensive plays. Basketball is in my blood. My dad named me after Michael Jordan and my dad really helped my game. I want to help anyway I can to help our team win. I’m really glad to be at YHS.”
Rounding out the team will be 5-foot-7 junior forward Dylan Rounsivill, who was also a member of the football team. Senior Sam Williams will play alongside his sophomore brother Alex. Overall, the Badgers will field a solid eight or nine man rotation.
Yosemite has moved down to D-IV from D-III this season.
“Our schedule will still be challenging, but the teams we will face will be more in-line with our new division,” Lopez said.
Lopez will be assisted by Reg Turner, and Aaron Eames will guide the JV squad.
The team opens season play at Fresno Christian on Dec. 1. The team will participate in the Kingsburg Classic Tournament Dec. 10-13, and will play its first home game at 5 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 20, hosting Selma High. League play opens at Sierra on Friday, Jan. 16.