California Pintos boys basketball is set to tip-off a new season filled with adjustments on chemistry building.
A season ago, under head coach Brad Conway, the Pintos were one of the top teams in the Tri-County Conference. Holding a 19-6 record, California was the favorite going into the Class 4 District 10 tournament, however, the Pintos were upset by the Versailles Tigers 82-80 in the district semifinals. It was a bitter end to the season for the Pintos team.
Now California is set for another season and with a different look. The team lost basketball stars Calen Kruger, Trevor Myers and Jaden Trachsel after graduation. Kruger and Myers joined California's 1,000 career point club last year.
This will give the Pintos a new look for the 2023 season.
Conway said that his players have had a very productive off-season. Conway hopes that the events his players have participated in over the summer will help with both their skills and their team chemistry.
"We had a good turnout this off-season with open gyms and we participated in a shootout developing team chemistry. I believe this year's team is going to need to find success with both transition offense and defense. We are going to have to use our quickness and play together to have success," Conway said. "We lost three really important seniors last year so we are working to develop chemistry with our returning players and newcomers. I like the work ethic I've seen and I think we could have a balanced offensive attack. We will need to rebound as one unit and just getting everyone on the same page with our execution and will have to defend together."
Conway has been coaching basketball for over three decades. Throughout his career, he has coached several teams that have had to recover from losing great players after graduation.
Conway knows that great coaches pick up the pieces after a season where key players leave and adjust their rosters and playbooks accordingly. Conway said he does have some help because he has several players who have become accustomed to his system, but he also says that the Pintos will have to rebound collectively for the playing system to work at its peak.
"Most of our players have been in the system now for two years and are more comfortable with what we have been implementing. We should have balance on offense and will need to create offense with our defense," Conway said. "Rebounding will be a challenge as we do not have a lot of size so we will need to be fundamentally sound blocking out and limiting second chance opportunities for our opponents."
In addition to the grind that is their conference schedule, the Pintos have added some new teams to their 2023 schedule. Among those teams are Camdenton, Eugene, Smith-Cotton, and Warrensburg. Conway says that these new opponents are going to challenge this young California team. Overall, Conway wants his team to improve from game to game as the season goes on. When the stakes get high in the late stages of the season, California will be at their best.
"Our goal is to get better each day, game to game and be playing our best come the end of the season," Conway said. "I really like the way this group has approached practices, coming in and working and giving really good effort. I think we will continue to grow as the season progresses and we learn to play and compete together."
The Pintos tip-off their 2022-2023 season on Tuesday, Nov. 22 in Moberly.