Brownwood visits De Leon in opener

The Brownwood Lions basketball program made its first postseason appearance since the 2011-12 campaign last year, and in order to repeat that achievement second-year head coach Nadir Dalleh’s squad will have to overcome significant losses to graduation.

“The Texas Association of Basketball Coaches has us picked third behind Wylie and Big Spring, but I think we lost the most players and the other teams have most of their starters returning,” said Dalleh, who guided the Lions to an 18-14 record a year ago. “The seniors we lost will be tough to replace, but we have a strong core coming back. Along with the returners, there will be some younger players added to the mix. It may take some time to gel together, so playing a lot of games early on will be important.”

The Lions’ first test comes at 6 p.m. Tuesday at De Leon, as both teams will be playing without a large portion of their roster with the football teams of both schools preparing for the first round of the playoffs.

Following Tuesday’s game, Brownwood’s pre-district slate includes Lampasas (Nov. 20), Early (Nov. 25), Jim Ned (Nov. 28), Eastland (Dec. 5), Colorado City (Dec. 12), Gatesville (Dec. 15), Comanche (Dec. 19), Graham (Jan. 2), Dublin (Jan. 4) and Brady (Jan. 9). The Lions will also compete in the Dublin (Nov. 30-Dec. 2) and Hamilton (Dec. 7-9) tournaments, along with hosting the TexasBank Holiday Classic (Dec. 28-30).

“We will be playing a lot of teams that have had success and are well-run programs,” Dalleh said. “We need this experience to prepare us for our district. Last season, we didn’t gel together until after Christmas. Hopefully this year, that will happen sooner and prepare us for the district run.”

When the Lions will be at full strength is still unknown, but Dalleh has a good idea what to expect when he adds the football holdovers to the roster.

“Our biggest strength will be our quickness,” Dalleh said. “These kids play hard, they want to compete and want to win. The returners will have to be leaders for the others because we’ll have a lot of new players. The area we need to improve on is taking care of the basketball. We’ve talked since day one about turnovers and second-chance points. Early on last season we lost a lot of games because we gave the other team more chances to score. Hopefully that has set in and we minimize the turnovers.”

Key returnees include seniors Sean Yoder, Blake Bronniman, Xavier Porter, Blaize Infinger and Tristan Revada, along with sophomore A.J. McCarty.

“Sean and Blake are the only two returning starters,” Dalleh said. “They will provide a lot of experience and leadership for the others. Xavier, Blaize, Tristin and A.J. are the only other returning lettermen.”

Newcomers to watch include junior Gavon Clemons and sophomore Zach Strong.

“Zach will play a key role for us along with Gavon,” Dalleh said. “We are not very tall so these guys will have to lead the way in protecting the paint. There will be a lot of guards fighting for playing time, which will benefit us and make us better as a team as well.”

The District 5-4A slate begins at Big Spring (Jan. 16) followed by back-to-back home games with Snyder (Jan. 19) and Abilene Wylie (Jan. 23), before closing the first half on the road at Sweetwater (Jan. 26). The second half begins at home with Big Spring (Feb. 2) followed by road trips to Snyder (Feb. 6) and Wylie (Feb. 9) and the regular-season and home finale against Sweetwater (Feb. 13).

“District will be tough again this year,” Dalleh said. “Wylie lost a few key seniors but they always reload. Everybody else was very young, playing freshmen and sophomores. Protecting your home court will be key in making the playoffs this year.

“I believe we have the ability to compete for a playoff spot and hopefully the kids believe that as well. But our young players are going to have to grow up in a hurry. For that to happen, we are going to have to do the little things right. Taking care of the basketball, rebounding and playing strong defense will be the keys.”