Boys' basketball looks toward season with smaller roster

Aaron Chum, Author

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Junior Israel Hakim tries to make a shot despite tight Los Altos defense. The Vikings beat the Eagles 65-45.

– Marc Havlik

The Palo Alto High School boys’ basketball team looks to build on last season’s success with a smaller roster of nine players compared to 15 players.

The team fell short of a championship last year, losing to Archbishop Mitty in the semifinals of the CCS playoffs. The Vikings finished the season with a 19-7 record.

Head coach Adam Sax said that the team was originally supposed to be larger.

“We had three guys that couldn’t do academics and basketball practice,” Sax said. “Sophomore Keller Chryst got hurt, he would have been our 10th guy.”

The Vikings lost guard Bill Gray, forward Charlie Jones, forward Davante Adams, guard Max Schmarzo and center T.J Braff to graduation.

Returning players include senior guard Alec Wong, junior guard Kenny Jones, junior guard Aldis Petriceks, junior guard Mathias Schmutz, senior center Tory Prati, senior forward Israel Hakim, junior forward E.J. Floreal and senior center Michael Augustine.

Junior guard and forward Aubrey Dawkins will join the team for the first time, having transferred to Paly this year from St. Francis. Dawkins’ father, Johnny Dawkins, is the head coach of the Stanford mens’ basketball team.

“Dawkins is a great addition to our team,” Wong said. “Because we are so close to each other on the team, we all embraced Dawkins and he is contributing well to the team.”

Although Wong concedes there are problems with a smaller squad, he thinks it may prove an advantage in the season to come.

“The smaller team gives us more of a sense of family,” Wong said. “Everyone on the team is very close to each other. It is definitely more of a challenge in the games because we must be well conditioned and in good shape.”

Sax does not believe that the smaller roster will adversely affect the team in games.

“In games, playing eight or nine guys, they’re ready to go,” Sax said. “That’s not really an issue. It’s more of a practice issue. It’s hard to scrimmage when you only have nine guys — can’t do five on fives.”

After the Vikings’ 46-20 victory over Homestead High School on Jan. 4, Sax continued to look for areas of improvement.

“We would like to be able to share the basketball more, make the extra pass and get the ball inside more,” Sax said. “Defensively, we would like to step up the pressure in a full court situation. Full court pressure.”

The Vikings will play their next home game against cross town rival Gunn at 7 p.m. on Jan. 11.

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