Carlos Mendeguia's first season as Carson High's varsity basketball coach didn't go as expected.
He lost two starters to grades at the semester break, and then watched the Senators stumble to a 6-20 season. They had several close losses, but showed an inability to finish.
It's a new season, and the Senators have a strong returning core on their 13-man roster, which gives Mendeguia an optimistic outlook on the 2012-13 season.
"We had a great summer," said Mendeguia, whose team opens at Reno on Tuesday. "We lost several games in overtime (or late fourth quarter). We were right there. We faced a lot of adversity last year. We had kids that had to play out of position."
Mendeguia's team is a blend of young and old, experienced and inexperienced. It will be scrappy, which has become a trademark of Carson basketball, and it should be improved.
Point guard Matt Nolan and shooting guard Rafe King, who was an all-league selection last year and led the team in scoring, lead the senior class.
Forward Sage Smith, center-forward Charlie Banfield, guard-forward Chris Lopez and forward Bruce McIntosh also are seniors. The junior class is solid with Austin Shaffer and Kyle Denning, both of whom were called up from the JV last year, plus forward-center Andy Cooper and forward-center Alan Cohen.
Mendeguia is keeping three sophomores this year - guards Dylin Rooker and Kyle Steele, and center Cameron Price.
Much of the success could hinge on the play of Nolan and King, the two best players on the team. They will be one of he best backcourts in the league.
"Getting Matt back is huge," Mendeguia said. "Having that senior leadership at point guard is key. We may move him to a wing at times.
"Having the football team miss the playoffs for the first time in four years gave us the chance to have two weeks of open gym. Matt has been shooting on his own."
Mendeguia said King is a more confident player this year.
"He is more confident with the ball," Mendeguia said. "He's been a spot-up shooter in the past. He's been working on attacking the basket with his left hand and getting to the glass. He's been working out in the weightroom to get stronger. His weakness has been his lateral movement, and he's been doing a lot of plyometrics to get better lateral speed."
King may be the most prolific 3-point shooter in Northern Nevada. Give him an inch and the scoreboard will blink quickly.
Rooker and Steele give Mendeguia different things as back-ups.
"Dylin is very athletic," Mendeguia said. "He's willing to do whatever is needed. He's blue-collar. He'll dive on the floor and do other things that some guys don't like to do. He will compete against the other team's best offensive player.
"Kyle is more skilled on offense. He can be a good defensive player when he decides he wants to be."
Mendeguia has stressed versatility, asking all his guards to learn the point and both wing positions.
Denning, Shaffer, Lopez and McIntosh are likely slated for small forward. Price, Cohen, Banfield, Smith and Cooper will handle the power forward and center spots.
Lopez had some key moments last season, and he could play both guard spots and even move inside as needed.
"He (Lopez) is not very big, but he has a nose for the ball," Mendeguia said. "He's one of our better rebounders. He could play the three or four. Price can play on the perimeter or inside. Cohen can shoot it from the outside."
Mendeguia said he's concerned most about his team's post play. It's not a tall group to be sure, but then again height has always been scarce at CHS.
"Our post players being able to defend down low and scoring in the post," Mendeguia said. "We've got some guys off the JV and freshman team in there." Conversely, the Senators have plenty of depth at the point and both wing spots.
"Our guard play concerns me the least," Mendeguia said. "We'll be fine at guard. Teams aren't going to be able to pressure us. We have some good perimeter shooters."