Carson High basketball coach Carlos Mendeguia was eagerly waiting the beginning of basketball season when school got started in late August, and with good reason.
Mendeguia had three starters returning from last year — Jayden DeJoseph, Tez Allen and Jace Keema — back in the fold along with reserves Geraet Rauh, Taylor Saarem and Sevon Mandoki.
He also had Jon Cromer, a transfer from Incline, who averaged 10 points a game last year. He also had hopes of getting Greg Wallace, who didn’t play his junior season, back in the fold.
Then disaster struck.
Keema suffered a lisfranc fracture, and won’t return until February, if at all. Cromer’s family moved to Salt Lake and Wallace wasn’t cleared medically from a preseason football injury.
And, DeJoseph and Rauh will miss the first five games of the season for violating team rules.
Certainly not a great way to start your league and regional title defense. Carson finished 25-6 last year, losing in the state semifinals to Coronado, 53-43, at Lawlor Events Center.
“It’s been tough,” Mendeguia said. “We had three returning starters plus I was hoping to get Greg back and all the athleticism he brings. I was a little disappointed. It hurts the dynamic of the team.
“Jon (Cromer) shot the 3 ball well. I still have high expectations, though.”
Allen said losing Keema was a big blow.
“We will miss his leadership on the floor, and we’ll especially miss his defense,” the senior said.
Allen and DeJoseph will feel the losses the most. The two seniors will have to shoulder a much heavier load. Both were consistent double-figure scorers last year, Allen doing most of his damage 15 feet in, while DeJoseph scored inside and outside.
“They are going to have to step up on both ends of the floor,” Mendeguia said. “We are going to go as far as they can carry us.
“Tez has gotten bigger and stronger which I think will help him because he’s going to have to play a lot of minutes. He has a nice 15-footer. We’ve been working with Jayden on putting the ball on the floor and working in the post (more). He is good with his back to the basket. He made 10 3s in a summer league game.”
The loss of the aforementioned players puts more pressure on returnees — Mandoki, Saarem and Rauh — who played lesser roles last season, and newcomer Brandon Gagnon.
Rauh will assume the starting role once he returns which means Saarem figures to see a ton of action against the alumni, at the Riordan Classic (Dec. 1-3) and against Sparks. Ditto for Mandoki.
“A lot of guys are going to have to grow up quickly because they are playing bigger roles than we expected,” Mendeguia said. “Geraet put a lot of time in during the off-season, but he hasn’t been battle tested yet.
“Sevon is a high energy guy and a physical player. I think he can be a shutdown defender. He’s a blue-collar guy.”
Saarem has a point guard mentality who has 3-point capabilities. He will be tested in San Francisco where the Senators will play some athletic teams.
Gagnon has been a pleasant surprise, returning to the team after taking a year off.
“He has really looked good,” Mendeguia said. “He’s athletic and is getting better everyday. He has been like a sponge out there, soaking up everything we’ve been telling him.”
Trenten Robison has a good chance to earn a starting spot as does Gagnon.
Jon Randall, Kahle Good, Dawson Lamb, Jordan Torres and Kyle Glanzmann round out the roster.
One thing is certain, without Rauh and DeJoseph playing in the opening tournament, Mendeguia will get a good look at his back-ups in that three-day stretch.
Carson kicks off its season Friday at 5 p.m. against an alumni squad featuring former basketball stars Matt Nolan, Will Holbert, Tony Allec, Dylan Rooker, Desi Navarro, Matt Mullen, Ryan Buttner, Adam Houghton, Conrad Burt, Jeremiah Teeter, Matt Morgan and Dave Saarem, father of current CHS point guard, Taylor.