Getting ready

Sophomores Alex Burns, left, Chris Pacheco and Josh Herne and Junior Donavin Barrett warm up for Twentynine Palms High School boys basketball practice.

TWENTYNINE PALMS — A peak inside Richard A. Casey Gym on the Twentynine Palms High School Wildcat campus Monday afternoon, Nov. 5, found boys basketball player doing something fundamental to the game.

They were moving up and down the court while dribbling, working under the watchful gaze of first year varsity coach Michael Usher.

The new coach, who replaced Antoine Gilgore, explained that the dribbling exercises are one of several warm ups the team performs before beginning each practice, preparing for the new season.

Usher said he wants his team to master the fundamentals of ball handling and defense.

“Fundamentals are going to be a big focus,” he said, noting that the team hopes to dominate local competition before diving deep into postseason play. “We have to be fundamentally sound.”

As a first year coach with a new philosophy, Usher said, his biggest challenge will be selling the cultural change to his players.

If he can do that, he added, the team will be able to accomplish a lot.

“I think we can compete for a CIF championship this year,” he said. “Own the Morongo Basin.”

He said he hopes a tough pre-conference schedule will toughen his team up for play in the newly-formed Desert Valley League.

“We want to make sure that we beat Yucca Valley pretty handily,” he said.

Senior Tarion Napoleon , a point guard, will likely be a standout on the Wildcat squad this year, as will fellow senior Cezar Hueso, another point guard.

Junior Troy Tuivaiti, who played for the junior varsity Wildcats last year, will also be a highlight of the varsity Wildcat team this year, as will fellow junior Jaylan Bradberry.

“I think we are going to be a very deep team this year,” Usher said, predicting that nine or ten players will make contributions every game.

Another change this year will be the addition of a new team, with a frosh/soph team supplementing the junior varsity and varsity squads.

Usher explained that by dividing the junior varsity squad into two teams he can create two nine member teams rather than one 18 member squad, meaning that more developing players will see game time.

The Wildcats will begin play on the road, scrimmaging with Palm Desert on Tuesday, Nov. 13 before taking part in the Showdown at The Snake Pit from Nov. 27 to Dec. 1, before coming home to play host to Banning on Tuesday, Dec. 4, with a frosh/soph game starting at 3 p.m., a junior varsity match following at 4:30 and the varsity contest beginning at 6.

Home games are played in the Richard A. Casey gym on the Wildcat campus, 72750 Wildcat Way.

Tickets are $5 for adults, $3 for children under 12 and free for ASB card holders. Season passes, for immediate family only, are $75.

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