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Practice starts in 15 minutes. Outside Ceres High's Phil de la Porte Gymnasium on Nov. 13, third-year varsity boys basketball starter Brett Sayad fields questions about the upcoming season.

The 6-foot-6-inch, 195-pound forward averaged 15.0 points, 8.4 rebounds, 2.9 assists and 2.0 blocks per game in leading the Bulldogs to a third-place finish in the Valley Oak League, second straight Sac-Joaquin Section Division II playoff berth and 21-7 overall record as a junior last year.

Sayad will be asked to do even more for the 2007-08 squad, which will compete with a new cast of players. Ceres High lost four starters to graduation in Kevin Dupree, Ray Green, Ross Tate and Andrew Chipponeri.

"Give us six to seven games to get used to it," Brett said.

The Bulldogs have three returners in Sayad, Thomas Vanderlaan (senior) and Edwin Hooten (senior).

They'll be joined by 10 newcomers in Marcus Hilgen (junior), Martino Bertolotti (junior), Tony Bradford (junior), Rajdeep Singh (junior), Brandon Avila (junior), Scott Meyer (junior), Balpreet Sandhu (junior), DeVaun McGregor (junior), Lance Hunter (sophomore) and Justin Canatsy (sophomore).

Hilgen, Bertolotti, Bradford, Singh, Avila, Meyer and Hunter guided a tenacious JV Bulldogs team to the Valley Oak League title (12-2) last season. Their head coach, Jim Pernetti, will be a full-time assistant on Jason Martin's varsity staff.

"I expect a lot out of this team," Sayad said. "We have talented players. We're quick. We have better shooters. We're going to be fun to watch. We're going to cause some havoc on defense. Everything is going to be fast-paced. I love playing like that."

Added Martin: "We just want to keep getting better."

The Bulldogs will try to improve on last season's third-place tie with Sonora (10-4). Sierra claimed the VOL crown (13-1), while Weston Ranch took second (12-3).

"We're going to be like the Sierra team of last year," Sayad said. "No one predicted them to win and look what happened."

Added Martin: "We want to battle for the championship."

Crosstown rivals Ceres High and Central Valley will face off on Jan. 18 and Feb. 15. The Bulldogs swept the Hawks in 2006-07.

"I can't wait," Sayad said. "It's going to be fun."

Ceres High must finish in the top 16 in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division III power ratings to qualify for the postseason.

"We've been to the playoffs two years in a row," Martin said. "We want to keep that streak going. It's not going to be a rebuilding year."

Added Sayad: "If we don't make playoffs, I'll be disappointed in the season."

Brett reached double figures in scoring in 12 of 13 league games last year. This season, he will encounter defenses designed to stop him.

"I'm looking forward to it," said Sayad, a third-year starter who will be in the running for VOL Most Valuable Player honors along with Weston Ranch's James Nunnally and Sierra's Adonis Brown.

"When the game is on the line, we want the ball in Brett's hands," Martin said. "He's very versatile. He's very unselfish. He makes everyone better."