Photo by David Nurse
LANCASTER – Sweet 16, of course. Elite Eight, no problem. Final Four, why not. State championship, it's certainly possible.
At least that's how the Marauder men's basketball team views its chances this season.
And why wouldn't they.
Forget about the fact that AVC returns only two players from last year's Elite Eight run. The Marauders, which are ranked No. 11 in the state and No. 6 in Southern California, are simply loaded.
"We've got guys that have played at this level before," AVC head coach John Taylor said. "I really like our team. It might take a little longer for us, but we have a team that likes to compete."
Start with returner Cory Dollarhide, who was the Marauders sixth man last season and the team's second leading scorer at more than 10 points per game. The sharpshooter has interest from many schools, including Cal-State, Bakersfield.
"We have a chance (to go all the way). We have size this year, which was a problem for us last year," said Dollarhide, who provided a spark off the bench in several games last season. "I really want this to be the year. I know we will have our ups and downs, but we have to stay together. I just can't wait to get started."
One of the major problems the Marauders had last season was rebounding. AVC was undersized in nearly game last season and only in three games had a player in double figure rebounds all season, two of those by one player.
Not this season.
The Marauders brought in Antone Warren, a 6'10", 265-pound inside presence who Taylor calls "Baby Shaq". A native of Chicago, Warren had to redshirt last season due to an injury but will bring the force that the Marauders lacked last season. At the power forward position, Missouri product 6'8" Jailen Gill will assist on the boards. Jesse Burns and William Harold, Jr., both listed at 6'8", will also provide additional size down low.
"I think we should have a pretty good season. Everyone is unselfish on the team and we have a lot of young talent," Warren said. "I feel like we should make it all the way. Our guards look to pass first. I saw a little selfishness last season and we have no problem going five in and five out. Most teams don't have that."
"I feel with comfortable with all the kids out there," he said. "We have a huge advantage that we are so deep. One thing I've learned is the teams with depth usually win. The deeper you are, the better you are."
With the departure of point guards Jalen Etienne and Chris Martin, the Marauders have more than solidified that position. Charles Hall, IV, a transfer from Pierce College last season provides size at that position while Reggie Byers, another native of Missouri, is a littler smaller but quicker.
"Reggie is super quick and very under control," Taylor said. "He definitely can play."
Both guards complement each other. Hall was the Brahmas' leading scorer last season averaging nearly 14 points per game and five assists per game.
"Championship or bust pretty much. We have a really good team," Hall said. "I think we will do better than expected. This year I'm learning not to force anything. (Having these great players around me) opens up my game more. I just have to learn how to play with this type of talent."
Nevell Lenard returns for another season. Lenard was offered a scholarship by Cal-State, Dominguez Hills following the season, but opted to return for his encore season with the Marauders. Lenard is a gifted , athletic presence, who at many time during the season had to guard the opposing team's biggest player last season, and he's only 6'4". Lenard will play his natural position, the 3-guard and should make an impact.
Additional newcomers Include D'Mauria Jones, a freshman from Narbonne High School, in which he led the Gauchos with an average of 27 points per game while being named to the LA City First-Team.
And if Dollarhide was bad enough for opposing teams, Christian Solis can shoot the ball just like Dollarhide. Taylor raves about the freshman from Las Vegas, who can, "really shoot the ball."
The Marauders open their season in the Ventura Tournament, which AVC has owned over the past several seasons, against Orange Coast College on Thursday at 3pm.
A huge test will come early in the season when AVC hosts Saddleback College, ranked No. 2 in the state on Nov. 12.
"It comes really fast. You always want an extra week or two (of practice), but the guys are ready," Taylor said. "I like this team. You really never know how good a team is until you get behind (in a game)."
Let's hope that doesn't happen.