A year removed from making program history by qualifying for the Sac-Joaquin Section playoffs for the first time, Central Valley High School's varsity boys basketball team expects to do even better during the 2014-15 season.
"There's a buzz on the campus," said Hawks leader Darryl Dickson, 2013-14 Western Athletic Conference co-head coach of the year. "There's a lot of excitement. We're good enough to compete for a Western Athletic Conference title. Our goal is to win a section title. The kids have expectations."
Daevon Brown (Sr.) and Jaron Dickson (Sr.) will fill starring roles once again while leading Central Valley.
Fellow returners Parker Griffin (Sr.), Nimrat Chahal (Sr.), Devon Bolivar (Jr.), Manuel Garcia (Sr.), Alexis Villa (Sr.), Edward Calderon (Sr.) and Andres Calderon (Sr.), and newcomers Inayat Sahota (Sr.), Moses Ghiorso (Jr.), Reuben Rodriguez (Jr.), Simeron Singh (Jr.), Nathan Perine (Jr.) and Larenz Johnson (So.) will be counted upon as well.
Brown (guard), Dickson (guard), Chahal (guard), Bolivar (forward) and Griffin (center) start.
The Hawks have one of the best backcourts in the Stanislaus District in Brown and Dickson.
Daevon was selected to the WAC First Team as a junior. Brown averaged 15.1 points and 3.1 rebounds per game. He buried 28 3-pointers.
Jaron earned second-team all-league honors. He averaged 15.1 points, 7.4 rebounds, 5.8 assists and 2.2 steals per game. Dickson made a team-leading 67 3-pointers. He scored in double figures 20 times.
Parker and Nimrat averaged 6.0 and 3.2 points, respectively.
"I'm really excited about it," coach Dickson said while talking about the tandem of Daevon and Jaron. "They do a really good job of being consistent, helping each other out and leading the group. They're capable of putting up big numbers. They can also find the open man. They make their teammates better. We have a goal for them every game. If they can score 38 points between them, we'll be awfully tough to beat."
Central Valley compiled a program-best 22-7 overall record last season. The Hawks placed second overall in the WAC standings (9-3).
Central Valley finished in the top eight in the Division-III playoffs.
Seeded 11th, the Hawks battled back from a 14-point deficit before losing 61-58 to No. 3 Fairfield in the quarterfinals.
Central Valley knocked off No. 6 Sierra 60-43 in the opening round.
"We had many years when we struggled," said coach Dickson, leader of the Hawks' basketball program since the school opened in 2005-06. "Now, we're competitive. I'm satisfied from the standpoint we're doing the best with the talent we have. It's been rewarding. I don't do it (coach) for me."
Central Valley's WAC schedule includes 12 games. The Hawks play Ceres High, Patterson, Pacheco, Los Banos, Livingston and El Capitan twice.
Central Catholic, 2013-14 WAC champion, moved to the Valley Oak League as part of conference realignment. Patterson (8-4), placed third last year, followed by Ceres High (5-7), Pacheco (5-7), Los Banos (2-10) and Livingston (1-11).
El Capitan will be fielding its first-ever varsity boys hoops squad this season.
The Hawks topped the crosstown Bulldogs twice (75-52, 66-54) last season.
"There are no gimme games in the WAC," Darryl Dickson said. "There's a lot of parody. If we stay healthy and do what we're supposed to do, we'll make playoffs. That's what we're practicing and playing for."