After taking the Las Positas men's basketball team to the playoffs in his first three seasons, Hawks head coach James Giacomazzi looks to make it 4-for-4 with a guard-oriented roster and some exciting newcomers.
Las Positas is thrilled to have 6-foot-4 freshman guard Michael Hayes, a West High-Tracy graduate.
"He's one of the most highly touted players in California. He's a very talented player," Giacomazzi says.
Las Positas, ranked 14th in the CCCMBCA Preseason State Poll, tipped off the season in rousing style with a 3-0 record in the Tony Costello Memorial tournament at Las Positas. Hayes was tournament MVP and Decaurey Brown and John Ketchel were all-tournament picks.
Last year's Las Positas team was built around 6-foot-10 power brokers Anand Hundal and Peter Hewitt, in a program known for developing big men. Now Hundal is with Seattle University and Hewitt is at Tulsa.
These Hawks will have a different look, running out four guards and one interior player. They're quicker in the open court and can spread teams out more.
"I like our club," says Giacomazzi, in his 22nd season coaching community college basketball. "Man, we were banged up early, though. We went to a Los Angeles Showcase and played San Diego City and San Bernardino in very close games, one-possession games on both sides when we at full strength, and boy, did we get dinged up."
With eight injuries down south, the Hawks didn't even play the next weekend in San Francisco due to a manpower shortage.
"We took another week or so to get healthy and kind of get back in the gym, slowly but surely, and now we're kind of getting at full strength," the coach says. "It'd be nice to see us play at full strength. I've only seen it in glimpses."
TONY COSTELLO MEMORIAL: The six-team tournament honored Costello, the much-admired former Las Positas and Chabot coach who died in 2013 after battling pancreatic cancer. The Costello family is a basketball institution in the Tri-Valley area.
"No. 1 it gets us back to thinking of Tony Costello and the work that he did here and the success that he had here," Giacomazzi says of the tourney. "His family still supports and comes out and is a part of this tournament, so we're very excited about that and kind of reminiscing on the history that he did here."
LOOK AT THE HAWKS: A big key is the returning backcourt of John Ketchel (Freedom) and Alvon Marshall (San Leandro), along with guard Goose Persin (Piedmont Hills), a shooter off the bench last season who has taken his game up a notch. Marc Starling (Tracy), a redshirt freshman, also looks ready to roll.
"He is solid as a rock," Giacomazzi says of Langkowski. "He makes great decisions, he shoots the ball. He's a nice addition."
Another big guard, Nana Appiah (6-5, 200) of Patterson, has transferred in from Western New England.
"I like our depth at those positions, Giacomazzi says of his guards. "We have different guys that have different skill sets, we have bigger guards and smaller guards, some guys that can shoot it, guys that can really handle it. Now we're working on polishing the overall game, so that way they're all interchangeable."
The Hawks will rotate three forwards in emerging returner Alafia Oluwosogo (American HS), freshman Wesley Burse (Enochs-Modesto), one of the best prep rebounders in the area last season, and 6-10 redshirt sophomore Elan Spencer (Lincoln-Stockton).
TOUGH SLEDDING: The Hawks finished 18-11 overall last season and 6-6 in conference, tying for third place in the powerful Coast-North.
"We always want to try to compete for a league championship," Giacomazzi says. "And knowing that our league is usually No. 1 in Northern California and probably No. 1 or No. 2 in the state year in, year out, that bodes very well for our conference and seeding. We've gotten second and third in conference before and we've gotten a top four seed (in the playoffs). So, our conference is very, very strong."