With another state appearance, of course.
“They take pride. They don’t want to lose. They have that strut,” Kodiak coach David Anderson said of his players.
“They set goals, maybe some unrealistic, but our goal is to be in that championship game (Northern Lights Conference) again and go to state.”
The Bears begin their 2011-2012 campaign at 7:30 tonight against Lathrop at Kodiak High School. The two teams play again at 4:45 p.m. Saturday in an endowment game.
Most know the incredible story of last season.
Despite losing nine of its 10 regular-season conference games, Kodiak caught fire and placed second in the NLC tournament, qualifying for the state tournament for the first time since 2006.
“With the C team and junior varsity team having such a tremendous year last year and the way some of these kids finished on the varsity, it is just a positive influence the whole time here,” Anderson said.
The core of last year’s 9-17 varsity team — Raphael Matautia, Austin Cowley and Brian Fangonilo — is gone. The trio accounted for 66 percent of Kodiak’s points last season (35.5 points per game).
Anderson, entering his second season, is not worried about replacing the three.
“It is a whole different makeup this year,” he said. “With this group we can look at different guys to score. We depended pretty much on one or two guys last year. But I have seven guys right now who can score fairly evenly.”
Those seven players make up Kodiak’s full-time varsity roster. Just like last year, the remainder of the roster will be composed of junior varsity players.
Six of the seven saw varsity time last season: seniors Jesse Swearingin and Tony Will, juniors Josh Obas, Jemuel Medina and Elijah Hiner, and sophomore Austin Frick.
Senior Andrew Gregory rounds out the roster.
Swearingin is the top scorer, coming back with a 6.5 average in eight games.
“This is one of the best chemistry teams I have ever had, even when I coached back in the ’90s. This group of guys is pretty tight and they play well together.”
Anderson credits that to the summer camp the team went to in Spokane, Wash.
“The playing time is going to make a tremendous difference,” he said. “When you play 21 games, you almost play a whole season in these camps. It is a lot of basketball. These kids get used to playing with each other. We are probably two months ahead of where we were last year at this time.”
Anderson considers this group to be the speediest he has ever had — boys or girls.
Speed will be in integral part of the offense as Anderson looks to push the ball with guards Obas and Medina. However, when needed, Kodiak has the ability to morph into a team from the 1960s and run the four-corner offense.
The stalling offense, installed late last season, ignited Kodiak to last year’s NLC title game — a game won by Wasilla despite the Bears leading for the majority of the contest.
“We have the luxury of running five or six different sets,” Anderson said.
Anderson said the North Division of the NLC will be Kodiak’s toughest competition this season. Kodiak went 1-7 against Wasilla, Colony and Palmer last season.
“If we can finish at .500 for the season, I will be happy,” Anderson said, “just because of the youth of the team. We are playing quality teams this year. The more better talent we play, the better we should get by the end of the year.”