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CHS boys basketball program striving for a major turnaround
Verlis Smith and Samar Singh
Verlis Smith and Samar Singh will fill bigger roles on Ceres High School’s varsity boys basketball team this winter. - photo by Dale Butler

Third-year head coach T.J. Walker Jr. believes Ceres High’s varsity boys basketball program is headed in the right direction.

The Bulldogs will try to secure their first postseason berth under Walker’s guidance during the 2019-20 campaign.

“Every year, our goals are the same,” he said. “We want to win league and make it to playoffs. You always have to have that mindset. We’re going to take that next step this year.”

Ceres High’s top returning players are Malakhi Shimon (Sr.), Josh Pernetti (Sr.), Samar Singh (Jr.) and Verlis Smith (So.).

Shimon averaged 4.1 points and 2.1 rebounds as a junior.

Pernetti averaged 2.9 points and 1.8 rebounds.

Singh averaged 4.3 points and 3.9 rebounds.

Smith averaged 4.8 points and 2.2 rebounds.

“Malakhi and Josh are our leaders,” Walker said.

The Bulldogs’ top newcomers are Ryan Ashby (Jr.), Inderraj Dhillon (Jr.) and Sam Garcia (Jr.).

Ashby, Dhillon and Garcia all contributed at the junior-varsity level last season.

“They’re a very high IQ team,” Walker said. “I can throw a lot of stuff at them and they’ll pick up on it quickly. They work hard. The majority of the kids have grown up playing together. The biggest strength is they like each other. That makes a huge difference.”

The Bulldogs went 12-14 and placed fifth in the Western Athletic Conference standings (5-9) a year ago.

Mountain House (21-7, 14-0) claimed the WAC title.

Beyer (21-9, 12-2), Lathrop (17-10, 9-5) and Los Banos (20-8, 8-6) finished second, third and fourth, respectively.

“We played a strong preseason schedule,” Walker said. “There’s nothing we haven’t seen. That will help us come league time. I think it’s wide-open. There are four teams that have the possibility of winning league. You have to take care of business every night.”