The training wheels are off.
The System — Davis High’s breakneck-pace basketball — returns for a second boys season, albeit modified this winter.
“Yes, there’s a little bit of adjustment,” DHS head coach Dan Gonzalez explains. “We’re going to try and use Kevin Sorensen and his strength a little more inside. And then Daniel Bonetti seems to be moving a lot better … so we’re going to try and go in there, do a little bit of an inside-out kind of game.”
Fans will recall a Blue Devil team that saw the locals put up almost 75 shots a game in 2011-12 while averaging 82 points per game — the fifth-best scoring output in California. Five times, DHS went over 100 points.
Good numbers all, but there’s a dark side to this shoot-shoot-shoot style (brought to Davis by longtime University of Redlands coach Gary Smith).
The Devils’ statistics for shooting percentage were woeful. DHS hit just over 30 percent of their mostly long-range launches, while going 14-12 overall and 5-5 in Delta Valley Conference play.
A final, two-game meltdown — loses to Franklin and Elk Grove — saw Davis shoot under 30 percent each night and miss the playoffs by one game.
On five occasions, DHS allowed 80 or more points and twice coughed up over 100, including a 109-101 loss at Grant on Jan. 11. The contest turned out to be the highest-scoring, non-overtime game in 2011-12 state prep play.
Gonzalez, entering his 15th year, knows the concerns about that sieve-like defense and promises that a renewed defensive effort is at hand.
But right now — a week after solidifying his varsity roster — Gonzalez’s attention is on getting everyone on the same page.
First, there are big changes in the coaching staff …
Former Blue Devil Josh Reese replaces George Sousa as assistant coach. Gone, too, is Smith but Gonzalez remains in touch with both and says Smith has promised to help when he can.
Sousa continues with the Davis Wildcats and the extra time off will come in handy with his twin offspring Sara and Tyler in their first semesters in college.
Ex-DHS team manager Justin Cho — now a UC Davis student — will help out as a bench assistant, according to Gonzalez.
As the coaches mesh, the Devils will be led on the floor by guard Hayden Russell.
“We want to keep the tempo up,” Gonzalez says. “Hayden Russell clearly is our top point guard and energy-giver out there.”
With returners like bombardier Brandon Strong and Grant Dickerson back in the fold, Davis also has some newcomers that should bring the depth required by an offense that needs quick substitutions.
Up from junior varsity are Ben Crook and C.K. Hicks, while lacrosse superstar Mikie Schlosser tries his hand with a bigger ball and basket.
Baseball catcher Hayden Duer will add some board and shooting punch.
While Gonzalez is excited about his team’s eclectic mix, he didn’t minimize how much the loss of Sousa and Smith mean to him and the squad.
“They’re going to be sorely missed,” the DHS math teacher explained. “The wealth of knowledge and what they brought to the team … (George) has meant so much to the program over the years. Even off the court.
“Then there’s Gary Smith … Boy, what I learned from coach Smith last year was just tremendous. I felt like a kid again, just learning the game all over again from a different perspective. His passion, you just felt it. The kids felt it and hopefully we can carry some of that with us.”
Davis opens with a CIF Foundation game on Nov. 26 in a boys-girls doubleheader against visiting Vacaville. The Les Curry Invitational runs Dec. 13-15.
— Reach Bruce Gallaudet at email@example.com or 530-747-8047.