Men’s hoops team takes on Chabot in late 7 p.m. game.
GILROY – When the Gavilan Rams take the court in their first game of the season Friday night at home against Chabot College, the team will look to the leadership of several Gilroy High and Live Oak High graduates.
The men will play at 7:30 p.m., while the women play at 5:30 p.m.
“Four of the Gilroy/Live Oak kids will probably crack the starting lineup” said Gavilan head coach Chris Shoemaker.
Live Oak’s Jody McAlpine, Stephen Silacci and Jimmy Herrera, Gilroy’s Erik Nelson and LJ Nickleson and Hollister’s Drew Brandon and Tommy Sondgroth, will play a big roll, Shoemaker said.
Herrera, a point guard, is one of the two returning players for the Rams. He will also see some time at wing, Shoemaker said.
“He has probably been our most solid player,” Shoemaker said. “He has been doing a great job on the floor and has been serving as a roll model for our younger guys.”
Herrera will be backed up by Sondgroth.
“He’s a guy that is really fundamentally sound and has done everything I’ve asked of him,” Shoemaker said about Sondgroth.
Jody McAlpine, who led the Acorns in scoring last season, will be a big part of the offense.
“He has the chance to be one of our top players,” Shoemaker said. “He’s the guy that is going to play the wing position and the forward spot for us. He can match up with some of the other players in the league athletically. I am looking for some big things out of Jody.”
Nelson and Nickleson have been battling for the starting wing positions.
“They have both been playing really hard on defense and shooting the ball well too,” Shoemaker said. “So it will be hard to keep those guys out.”
Sillaci and Brandon will also be two candidates for the wing position.
“Steve is quite possibly our toughest kid,” Shoemaker said. “Drew has been improving every day. Those guys are going to get some playing time as well.”
Brian Jones, a point guard, is the other returning player besides Herrera.
Other potential impact players are Morey Davis from Skyline High in Oakland, Chestin Turner and Jimmy Chetum from Los Banos High.
At the start of practice this summer, the Rams looked to have a definite height advantage. But that advantage has since dissappeared.
The Rams lost Carlos Santana to eligibility. BJ Goodley from Los Banos will be readshirting this year. Both players are 6-foot-5.
“We will be one of the smaller teams,” Shoemaker said. “We will have to rely on team defense and all out hustle to compete because most the teams we play will be significantly bigger than we are.”
The Rams may not have the size, but they have guys who can make up for it with their speed and accuracy to create some matchup problems.
“We are going to have to give a maximum effort every night,” Shoemaker said. “There will definitely be no nights off for this group.”
“I am not comfortable giving a number as to how many games we can win,” Shoemaker added. “But I think we can definitely compete in each game. And I think we can get to the point where we will be able to leave each gym feeling good about the effort we have given regardless of what it says on the scoreboard. If we can do that, I will be happy.”
Shoemaker said he plans to start the season off with a man-to-man defense and alternate with a matchup zone. He wants to start pressing more later on.
Offensively, the Rams are starting with a motion offense and five or six options off the break and secondary break, Shoemaker said.
“I’ve been really pleased with their attitudes and efforts,” Shoemaker said. “They’ve been a joy to coach for the most part. My assistant coach
Abrem Estorga (a former Ram) and myself, almost on a daily basis, leave the gym feeling better than when we did when we walked in.”
The Gavilan offense, at least early on, will be a free-firing team.
“Right now I put no restrictions on them other than they take a good shot,” Shoemaker said. “That differs for each player. Right now I just want them to get comfortably with the offense. We just want to get the best possible shot we can get each time down the floor whether that is a layup or a three-point shot.”
Friday’s match will be a challenge for the Rams playing Chabot College, the school that finished in the top eight in state last year.
“This the first game for both teams so there is no tape, and we haven’t been able to scout them,” Shoemaker said. “They are very athletic, and typically they press for the entire game. They’re a team that is capable of scoring a hundred points if we are not solid on defense and do not transition well.”