By Andrea Camarena

Four days.

Amidst the holidays, the scrimmages and the weekend, the Exeter boys basketball team was left with a total of four days to prepare for their season opener against Monache on Monday.

The underconditioned Monarchs stepped on to the court for their first official practice on Nov. 23 and head coach Jim Mitchell reminded his team of their abilities.

Last year, the team went 7-3 in league taking 2nd place in the East Sequoia League. The Monarchs lost in the second round of playoffs (the semi-final game) to Washington Union.

As for this year: "Generally, I don't make any long term goals," Mitchell said. "As a coach my goal is to win the next game we play no matter who our opponent is. In preparation, we try hard to not look past our next opponent."

The Monarchs lost six seniors from last year's squad, two of which were starters.

One of the biggest benefits for this year's team may be the return of assistant coach Bob Vasilovich. A legendary coach at Redwood High School, Vasilovich assisted the Monarchs from '99-'02 and will once again bring his seasoned coaching technique to Exeter's gym.

With the upcoming four day tournament in Kerman, Mitchell won't be able to run double days and hard conditioning practices for another two weeks putting a lot of pressure on the boys.

Players to watch

Towering 6'6" center Wyatt Bloetscher is only a sophomore but is "very athletic, very agile and has a lot of experience beyond what his age would suggest."

"He should be very much a scoring weapon from inside. We like to work our offense inside out so he's going to be one of our main targets," said Mitchell.

Returning senior Drew Branch at 6'2" stands as the team's strongest player physically. With incredible leaping ability Branch should once again be the team's strongest rebounder. Last year, Mitchell was pleased to discover that Branch can hit the basket from three point range also making him one of the team's strongest scoring threats. In his second year on varsity Branch is set to play swingman.

Mitchell boasts senior Morgan Munger as his best all around player. "He literally can play all five positions on the floor." When the team entered the second half of league last season, Mitchell put Munger in at point guard. In his first time playing the position, 6'2" Munger scored 30 points in the game that opened a six game winning streak.

Mitchell anticipates seniors Luis Balderas and Paul Gonzales to step in as guards to take some of the pressure off of Munger.

Senior center Nick Simmons is currently out with a torn meniscus but should return to the court after Christmas for the Polly Wilhelmsen Tournament in Visalia. "He's a 6'6" senior center who I expected to have big season this year."

Scouting the competition

This season, local coaches are at an agreement that this season is a toss up. Mitchell is right there with them. "ESL could be the most well-balanced league in our area. Any team could win it. Orosi won it last year but everyone is going to be improved."

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