Because the nucleus of last season’s East Region championship boys basketball team graduated with the class of 2009, a trio of seniors must now shoulder the leadership load.
Ever Figueroa, Cody Waterman and Dakota Marshall appear well prepared for the responsibilities since all rejoin the Longhorn fold with loads of experience acquired in last year’s run into the second round of the state tournament.
First-year coach Jared Swanson also has a handful of others with limited varsity experience to call up this season.
They are Trae Dunman, Cameron Romance, Andrew Curiel and Cale Novak.
Former coach Kenny Hayes is high on Romance, only a sophomore, saying, “the kid is going to be a stud.”
At the conclusion of last year, Waterman and Marshall — who mostly came off the bench for Hayes — were named to the All-East first team and Figueroa was on the honorable mention list.
As a junior, Waterman average 7.7 ppg and was one of the team’s finest long-range threats, hitting 23 of 60 attempts. He also shined defensively becoming one of the East leaders in charges taken.
Among his finest performances was the 14 points he scored in a thrilling 73-62 overtime victory over Fountain Hills.
With Waterman on the floor, the Horns have a legitimate long-range threat who can sink the three-ball to begin a rout or rally the team from behind.
This season, he could play the three position which would give the Longhorns one of the taller players in the region at that slot.
Marshall, at 6 feet, 5 inches, was a solid rebounder especially on the defensive boards. Of his 148 retrieves last season, 101 were defensive.
He’s coming off a solid football season and the physical contact learned there could make him even more of a banger this year.
Fans can expect him to be the Horns’ “go to” player and be called to score much more often than last year when PHS relied mostly on the offense of Cody York.
Figueroa played point guard most of last season, prompting Hayes to often move all-region guard Sheldon Keith to the “two” position.
Mostly likely, Figueroa will be running the Longhorn show in 2009-2010 setting up teammates with assists and scoring off dribble drives to the hoop.
Among the other players who could contend for starting honors are Chamberlain Fitch and Andrew Curiel.
Fitch could be the second strong rebounder the Horns need and a player to score on put-backs.
Curiel has been described as a coachable, gym rat with a tremendous upside.
Swanson and assistant coach Byron Quinlan, a Longhorn basketball star in the mid 1990s, will have the opportunity to assess the players and decide on a starting lineup this evening in a controlled scrimmage at Desert Ridge High School. Start time is 7 p.m.
The season tips off in earnest Nov. 24 at Winslow.