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Dawgs hopeful
CHS boys basketball team has new leader in Walker
Inder Sandhu and Ceres Highs varsity boys basketball program have high expectations for the 2017-18 season. The Bulldogs compiled a 15-12 overall record, placed second in the Western Athletic Conference standings (7-3) and qualified for the Sac-Joaquin Section Division-II playoffs last year. - photo by DALE BUTLER/The Courier

Ceres High's varsity boys basketball program will compete under the direction of a new head coach this season.

Former assistant T.J. Walker replaced Julio Marquez, who moved with his family to Temecula.

Marquez led the Bulldogs to 53 wins, three postseason appearances and one playoff victory in four seasons.

"I had three awesome years at Venture Academy in Stockton," Walker said. "I learned how to build a program from the ground up. I'm moving on to a bigger stage. I'm not scared to take on another challenge."

Ceres High will have one of the youngest team's in the Stanislaus District.

The Bulldogs' starting lineup features Inder Sandhu (senior guard/forward), Elijah Hughes (junior forward/center), Christian Murry (junior guard/forward), Dalton Durossette (sophomore forward) and Derrick O'Neal (freshman guard).
Other Ceres High players are Joshua Pernetti (sophomore forward), D'Angelo Vasquez (junior guard), Oscar Lopez (junior guard/forward) and Brock Moore (junior forward/center).

"Obviously, personnel changed," Walker said. "But we still have the same mentality. We want to win games and get better. The sky's the limit for this group."

Sandhu is Ceres High's top returner.

"He has an opportunity to be a really good player," Walker said. "He can shoot the ball. He's aggressive. He's competitive. I just want him to be a complete player."

"I have to be a leader now because there are a lot of young players on this team," Sandhu said. "I don't feel any additional pressure. I've been working on my game a lot. That boosted my confidence. I can do a lot more on the court now."

Durossette, a 6-foot-3 multi-sport standout, earned all-conference honors in football this fall and baseball last spring.

"The first day he came to practice, he took over our gym," Walker said. "He does it all. Being a quarterback, he's very intelligent."

O'Neal played basketball at the junior-high level last winter.

"Within a week, I knew he was the best point guard in the school," Walker said. "He's just young. It's going to be a learning process for him. The group that is here is accepting of him. He's earned his position."

"They (Durossette and O'Neal) are good athletes," Sandhu said. "They know how to play basketball. They'll improve our team."

Ceres High compiled a 15-12 overall record, placed second in the Western Athletic Conference (7-3) and lost 57-55 in overtime to Golden Valley in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division-II playoffs a year ago.

"I definitely think we can win league and get into playoffs," Walker said. "I firmly believe that. Our biggest strength is our defense. We'll get better offensively. We can shoot the ball. We just have to play hard every time we step on the floor."

"We still have the same goals," Sandhu said. "We have a good team. We're very versatile. We can do everything. We have a lot of strengths."

Walker was an assistant coach on Brian de la Porte's staff at Ceres High from 2010-12.

The Bulldogs made history by winning their first league title in 17 years in 2010-11.

Ceres High finished 17-9 and qualified for the playoffs that season.

"The first time I was here, I felt really comfortable," Walker said. "That was my first high-school gig. The head-coaching position became available and (Ceres High athletic director) Shawna Nunes asked if I was interested. It's just a good fit. It feels like home."