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KINGSBURG - Even though Kingsburg have will only four returners on the basketball court this season, fourth-year head coach Todd Brown is excited about the group of players he’ll have on the 2018-19 roster.

“The group that we have is working really hard,” Brown said. “We have a new team basically. We have four guys that came back from last year’s team. Our JV [junior varsity] team won league last year, but they’re ready to come in and make some noise.”

With several newcomers joining the team this season, Brown said there’s been a competitiveness between the news guys and returners.

“The young guys are competing with the old guys,” Brown said. “These guys are having fun competing together, they’re doing what I ask them to do, so I’m excited. I’m really looking forward to this season.”

Three of the four returning players started for Kingsburg last year, those players are are C.J. Laita, Logan Byrum, and Jason Gunn. All three are most likely to start again or receive significant minutes this year.

“They know what it’s like,” Brown said. “They’ve been waiting for this. They’ve been waiting for this, they’ve been working hard all summer.”

Laita was the team’s starting point guard last season and his expectations as a senior is to contend in the Division IV playoffs.

“I think our team this year could compete with anyone that we play, no matter who it is” Laita said. “Rather than last year when we just stay content with what we’re doing, I think we could win a lot of ball games.”

Byrum, the team’s starting center, said this year’s team has more cohesiveness and chemistry than last year’s squad.

“I feel like this team is a lot more together,” Byrum said. “Like last year, we were together, but this year it feels more like a family. We’re playing for each other with each other and that’s something nice to see and feel.”

As for the newcomers, Brown said the entire group that moved up from the junior varsity is a “solid” core of players. Newcomers Nathan Townsley, Joey Sanchez and Jose Martinez are some of the new players Brown expects to make a impact this season.

Brown said Townsley and Sanchez provide athleticism on the team while Martinez is a post player that could make a front court tandem with Byrum.

“I think we have probably the most athletic team we’ve had probably since I’ve been here,” Brown said. “Just top to bottom as far as quickness, being able to put the ball in the hole, just top to bottom.”

The Vikings will look improve from its 9-19 overall and 1-9 Central Sequoia League records from a year ago. For the past three seasons, Kingsburg has gone 33-48 overall and 8-22 in league play under Brown while missing the playoffs in each of the last three years.

With two of the top teams in the CSL - Selma and Immanuel - losing key players, Brown said the league is more “wide open,” but it still features good teams.

“I think we’ll be competitive,” Brown said. “I just want to be in the mix. I just want to be whatever that group is at the top of the league. I have confidence in these guys, I think they have confidence too. If we do what we're supposed to be doing, we could be in that mix.”

“The past couple of years, we’ve been a little more down in the standings. Just to compete with the top teams and be in the mix, I think that’s a big step for our program and anything could happen. We’ll see what happens.”

Kingsburg will start its season at home in a non-league game against Mt. Whitney on Nov. 26 and will play on the road at Firebaugh two days later. The Vikings will host the 68th annual Kingsburg Lions Club tournament on

Dec. 5-8 and will start CSL play against Immanuel on Dec. 11.

“We need to be above .500 going into league because league is just a gauntlet,” Brown said. “Really good coaches, really good teams and players, we could play a really good game and get some some night because teams are really that good.”

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Jeremiah Martinez can be reached at 559-583-2413 or jmartinez@hanfordsentinel.com

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