Battlin’ Billies face season with youth
Coach Tim Kaman’s heading into the 2017-18 basketball season with an open mind about what the Battlin’ Billies will look like on the court.
Fredericksburg High School’s varsity basketball team lost nine of its top 10 players from last season, including the reigning District 28-4A MVP (Levi Esensee), Newcomer of the Year (Langston James) and a trio of first and second-team all-district players (Tyler Kaman, Jonathan Cleland and Cole Jenschke).
“I don’t have a set vision of what we are,” Kaman said. “It’s more of as the year goes on, that’s the good thing about the season, it’s not until January that you have to see who you are as a team.
“I think we’re going to use all of that time in the preseason before district just to see who we are,” he said.
Senior Sean Majors, who finished the 2016-17 season as the district Defensive Player of the Year, is FHS’ lone returning starter from last season’s team that went 23-11, won the District 28-4A championship and advanced to the area round of the playoffs.
The mixture of new players to the Billies’ rotation means it might take some time for the team to come together.
“The hard part is going to be the chemistry,” Kaman said. “That’s what was so good about last year’s team. I still think that we weren’t that good last year, but we had good chemistry. They had one mind and so we played real well.
“This year it’s a different personality. I know I have good kids that will work real hard. I’m interested to see how we do this year, how we come together.”
The 2012-13 year was last time FHS entered a season after graduating a large group of seniors. The Billies had 10 players graduate from the previous team but managed to win 25 games and make the third round of the playoffs.
“It’s going to be different,” Kaman said. “The good thing is that our junior varsity did well and our freshmen did well last year. On paper, we should be okay, but playing at the JV and freshman level is a whole different level than playing on varsity.”
Along with Majors, Kaman expects juniors Hayden Ahrens and Gary Sorola, along with former junior varsity players JT Watson and Jesse Villa to play key roles this season.
Frankie Gonzalez played varsity last season and Kaman said he’s been a “gym rat” and trying to improve.
Kaman said sophomore Ryan Davis will get an opportunity to step in at the point guard position this season.
Replacing a reigning MVP hasn’t been too tall of a task for FHS in recent years.
The Billies have won the district’s top player honors four seasons in a row (Esensee in 2016-17, Kyle Reeh in 2015-16 and 2014-15, and Austin Rodriguez in 2013-14), three of which were won by seniors
“It’s a testament to how hard our kids work and the fact that our kids buy into what we do,” Kaman said. “Some of that doesn’t mean that you score the most. Do you do the most for your team? Whether it’s defensively, or shooting or rebounding the ball.
“People think it’s all about the scoring and it’s not.”
Kaman doesn’t think this team will have that MVP-type of ball-dominant player. Rather, FHS will ride the hot hand on any given night.
“It’s going to be who’s hot at the right time,” Kaman said. “It’s going to be who’s hot that night and who’s playing well, which can be a good thing because people will game plan you and say, ‘Hey, we need to stop this guy.’ It may be to our advantage that nobody’s going to know who to stop.”
Schedule, district outlook
The Billies have scrimmages Friday, Nov. 3, and next Thursday, Nov. 9, before starting the regular season with a road game against the Wimberley Texans on Nov. 14.
FHS will face at least one ranked team in the non-district portion of the schedule when the team plays San Antonio Cole, ranked No. 9 in the Texas Association of Basketball Coaches’ Class 3A poll.
The team also plays in three tournaments: The Canyon Lake Varsity Tournament on Dec. 8-9, the Somerset Tourney on Dec. 15-16 and the Fredericksburg Roundball Reunion Tournament on Dec. 27-28 at FHS.
“With the team that we have, this is a much tougher schedule,” Kaman said. “We’ll play Somerset and Boerne Champion in tournaments. We’ll play San Antonio Cole. We’re going to be tested, which is good and hopefully get us ready for district.”
Somerset is ranked No. 20 in Class 4A and Boerne Champion is No. 18 in Class 5A. Champions has 247 Sports’ No. 14 college prospect in Texas, forward Tristan Green.
As for District 28-4A, Kaman said last year’s runners-up, Boerne, brings back the majority of their players.
The Greyhounds are picked as the No. 17 team in Class 4A and the favorite to win the district, according to TABC. They return reigning Offensive Player of the Year Doak Stangle, along with all-district players Connor Fisher and Dalton Zoeller.
FHS is ranked No. 2 in the district. Hondo is third and Bandera is fourth.
“It’s going to be interesting,” Kaman said. “Interesting in many ways.”