DAYTON — One thing is certain, there is nowhere to go but up for the Dayton High boys basketball team.
The Dust Devils are coming off a 4-19 season, a year which saw them lose senior Jake Turner and junior Austin Fletcher to early season-ending injuries. It was also a season that saw coach Jason Santos play a lot of sophomores and inexperienced juniors.
“We look a lot better, at least in practice,” said Santos, whose team opens the 2013-14 season with a home game against Wooster on Nov. 30 at 1 p.m. “We had a really young team last year, and we played with a lot of sophomores who only had freshman team experience. We had a really good JV team two years ago, but they (some of the players) fell apart or moved. A lot of them didn’t move up.
“I think we’re better in every area. Steve Thompson looks a lot better at point guard, Bernardo (Macias) is a year older and hopefully a year better. We lost Austin in the third game of the season,and he’ll give us scoring and toughness inside. He’s physical.”
Fletcher averaged 20 points a game before suffering a season-ending injury. He’ll start the season at power forward alongside Macias, who needs to put up better numbers this year.
“He will play some backup point guard,” Santos said. “When we move him out to guard, he will cause some matchup problems if we decide to post him up inside. Bernardo wasn’t a secret last year. People knew they had to guard him in the paint. He drew a lot of defensive attention last year; he mostly saw the other team’s best defensive front-line player. He needs to average double-digits in points and rebounds this season. We had some injuries last year, and Steve stepped up and showed most of his game. He showed a lot of improvement over the last part of the league season.”
Also returning this year are Jeff Brooks, junior guard Davis Winebarger, Jon Joyner, Dallon Mendoza, Marcos Saylor, Ty Pearson and Julio Meza. Santos rotated several players between varsity and junior varsity this season. Newcomers are sophomore Blake Blocker and junior Dillon Monroe, both of whom spent the entire season on the JV squad a year ago.
Santos said if he had to play a game tomorrow, Meza and Winebarger would join Macias, Fletcher and Thompson in the starting lineup, but he expects his bench to be very productive.
Santos got an early look at his team during last weekend’s alumni game, and as expected, he saw some good things and bad things.
“The kids work extremely hard,” Santos said. “One through 12 we’re strong. The kids are similar in strengths and weaknesses. We’ll be moving guys around trying to give everybody as many minutes as we can.
“Our shot selection wasn’t good. I think they were excited to be out there, and we took a lot of low percentage shots; a lot of jump shots. Our man-to-man defense needs a lot of work.”
Whether the Dust Devils can return to playoff form this year remains to be seen.
“Elko, Lowry and Fallon are all pretty good,” Santos said. “Everybody else will be battling to get into the playoffs.”