Huge turnout for LB basketball

By David Witte / sports@losbanosenterprise.comNovember 23, 2012 

Los Banos High's boys basketball team will have a lot of new faces this season after losing 12 seniors from last year's playoff team.

But the number that impresses head coach Mike Bonillas is 57 -- the number of underclassmen that showed up at tryouts.

"Having almost one-tenth of your student population -- 8 percent of your school population is great," Bonillas said. "I really appreciate the administration, teachers whole staff all the way to the janitors, they've all really bought in to what we're trying to do as a program. It's just been great."

This year's varsity may have a lot of growing up to do though, with only a few players returning with varsity experience. Joel Marshall, Issac Samaniego and Jourdan Grissom are a few that came off the bench during last year's Western Athletic Conference co-championship run. A couple of players are expected to join the team after the football team's playoff run is complete.

The same situation occurred in 2009 when the football team made the Division I semifinals, leaving LB with eight players for the first few weeks of play. That team ended up with a 5-20 record.

"I'm not really too worried. We have a talented group of young guys we can bring up to fill in the gaps," Bonillas said. "We'll probably be playing the first week of competition play with five or six sophomores and one freshman. But I'm excited about that. You learn as you go, and this is an exciting time to teach the kids that want to learn."

Though Bonillas said he wants to keep the core of his sophomores and freshmen together, the experience gained playing with the varsity squad those first few weeks will be valuable.

"Last year was my first year playing organized basketball," said sophomore shooting guard Justin Delgado, one of those working with varsity. "I think it's helped me a lot. I enjoy working with the varsity team -- they're a good bunch of guys. I feel a lot more fluidness to the game."

Last year's playoff run produced one scholarship offer -- Joey Bennett is now a freshman at NCAA Division II Notre Dame de Namur in Belmont. Three other players from that team are playing other sports in junior college -- Tommy Wright III on the Modesto JC track and field team, Tramane Moore at Merced College for baseball, and Javier Garcia at Monterey Peninsula College, also for baseball.

With that class went the big men for Los Banos.

"We don't have the size advantage, so we're going to have to be up and down the court a lot," said senior guard Issac Samaniego. "I mean, we have some size, but not a lot. We have to be more conditioned than them, keep the tempo up and play pressure defense."

Another guard, Daniel Aguirre, who was expected to run the point, came up with a broken wrist unrelated to basketball. Bonillas expects him to be out 6 to 12 weeks.

"He had all the experience from last year, that would have helped us a lot," Bonillas said. "He was a big feeder. Everybody looks up to him. He kind of changes how the game goes. But we'll adjust to that."

Enterprise reporter David Witte can be reached by phone at 388-6565 or by e-mail at sports@losbanosenterprise.com

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