Hired to coach varsity girls basketball at Ceres High, Mike Turpin got a chance to work with and evaluate returning and prospective Bulldog players this summer.
"Every girl improved," Turpin said. "It's amazing what they did. They worked hard. I'm just so proud of them."
The Bulldogs played more than a dozen games.
"It didn't matter who they put in front of us," Turpin said. "We held our own."
Ceres High closed out its summer campaign with a respectable showing at a July 1-2 tournament in Roseville.
The Bulldogs compiled a 2-2 record.
"We were playing against Division-I schools," Turpin said. "We were competitive and didn't even have a full squad."
Ceres High also competed in leagues in Turlock and Escalon.
The Bulldogs opened Turlock summer league play with a blowout loss to Pitman at Stanislaus State.
Ceres High had memorable wins against Beyer and Grace Davis.
The Bulldogs allowed just 28 points in losing to tradition-rich Modesto Christian.
"Our improvement was immense," Turpin said. "They're just starting to get the defense I'm running. We apply pressure nonstop. We don't let anybody breathe. We swarm like mosquitos."
Ceres High's 2016-17 starting lineup could feature Rayohna Sagapolu (forward/guard), Camryn Silva (guard), Kaylee Holloway (forward/guard), Leena Bassi (center) and Natalia Cortez (point guard).
Sagapolu didn't play basketball last season.
She helped lead Ceres High's softball team to the Sac-Joaquin Section Division-III title during the springtime.
"Ray can play every position," Turpin said. "She's a beast. She has an engine that never stops."
Silva was a major contributor at the junior-varsity level a year ago. The JV Bulldogs posted a 9-3 record on their way to a runner-up finish in the Western Athletic Conference standings.
"She'll be the best player on the floor by the time she's a senior," Turpin said. "She's improving every day. She eats, sleeps and breathes basketball."
Bassi, Holloway and Cortez are returning varsity players.
Bassi played sparingly her junior year.
"She's going to be a force in the WAC," Turpin said. "That's how good she is. I'm so excited."
Harmen Bahia (forward), Shelby Veuve (forward/guard), Andrea Duran (guard) and Angelina Ursua (guard) also chipped in during the summertime.
Bahia, Veuve, Duran and Ursua teamed up with Silva at the JV level as sophomores.
Turpin brings a wealth of experience to Ceres High as his coaching career spans four decades.
He most recently served as head coach of Denair High's girls basketball program during the 2014-15 school year. The Coyotes went 7-14 overall and placed fifth in the Southern League (3-9).
"I attack every part of the game," Turpin said. "That's what I was taught at Bishop O'Dowd. I was trained by Mike Phelps. He taught me everything about basketball. He was the winningest high-school coach in California up until a couple years ago."
Turpin takes over a program that last participated in the Sac-Joaquin Section playoffs under Vanessa Morris' guidance in 2012-13.
Morris directed the Bulldogs for two seasons (2011-13). Ceres High amassed a 20-24 overall record.
Ceres High doubled its overall win total from the previous season this past winter. The Bulldogs (14-11, 6-6) placed fourth behind playoff-qualifiers Central Valley (11-1), Livingston (11-1) and Patterson (7-5).
"The girls are fired up," Turpin said. "They can't wait for the season to start. They're hungry."