Yorktown head boys basketball coach Rich Avila played the role of pessimist while he swept the gym floor prior to Monday’s practice. The Patriots, one year removed from reaching the regional final four for the third time in school history, return plenty of athletes for the 2010-11 season, but only Jack Earley is a seasoned varsity starter.
"I like to always think the glass is half empty right now," the eighth-year Yorktown head coach said, "and later in the season the glass is half full."
A lot of unknowns need to be answered for Avila to reach optimist status. Earley, a junior guard, enters his third season as a starter. The rest of the starting lineup will be composed of athletes who came off the bench last year. Can they make the transition from reserve to starter? How deep is the bench? Can Yorktown overcome preseason injuries?
With questions lingering, Avila said he won’t know how he feels about this year’s team until after Christmas. Between now and then, Yorktown will play seven games, including three National District contests. During that time, Avila will find out what he has.
"You could talk about last year [or] we’ve got all these guys returning, but we’re just a few injuries away from [being in trouble]," Avila said. "Right now, I’ve got two possible starters that are hurt. I thought I was going to have nine [varsity-ready athletes], but I’m only five- or six-deep to start the season."
Earley is Yorktown’s best player and will need to help fill the void left by the graduation of leading scorer Mike Veith.
"I think he’ll be the guy who has a bull’s eye on his back because he’s supposed to be our marquee player," Avila said. "His role’s going to change. As a freshman, he was just expected to be another part [of the team]. As a sophomore, he was expected [to play his role]. Now, his role’s picked up. He’ll handle the ball more [and] he’s got to become more of a team leader."
After Earley, the questions begin. Senior Nicko Esherick is projected to start at the other guard position, seniors Daniel Pietropaoli and James Overbeek are the forwards and either sophomore Nick Yore or senior Devin Gaby will be the center. Overbeek and Gaby are each nursing ankle injuries.
Seniors Kyle Bailey and Kevin Bailey could eventually become starters as they transition from football.
"The other four [starters] need to learn how to play for 32 minutes — how to stay out of foul trouble [and] how to pace themselves," Avila said. "Last year, they could come in for three or four or five minutes and just play as hard as they could. They never had to pace themselves because they knew they would be in there four or five minutes and then they were going to come out."
Earley said he expects last year’s success to affect how Yorktown is viewed.
"I feel like our expectations are raised because of how we did in the postseason last year," he said, "but it’s a completely new season."
Senior Drew Nash and juniors JohnGates Sharp, Jake Kalkstein, Nick Fallon, Will McAllister and Matt Morris will complete for playing time.
Yorktown has qualified for the regional tournament six out of seven seasons under Avila, but last year’s trip to the final four was the first time his Patriots had advanced beyond the first round. The Patriots are confident they can make something happen.
"We all play well together — the guys that are returning — so we’ve got a lot of good chemistry," Pietropaoli said. "I think it should be a good year."
Yorktown opens its season at South Lakes at 7:30 p.m. on Dec. 3.