Winning its first 14 games last season en route to compiling a 25-5 record behind Kenny Obendorf, the Upstate Eight Valley Player of the Year, and Ryan Solomon, Metea Valley made it all the way to the title game of the Class 4A East Aurora Sectional.
Finding itself just a victory shy of winning a sectional title after losing 69-61 to West Aurora back in March, high expectations won’t change heading into the 2012-13 season, despite the graduation of Obendorf and Solomon and with just one starter returning from that 25-win team.
“It’s a good class, this year’s seniors. They obviously were stuck behind some pretty good players last year that we had,” coach Bob Vozza said. “Sean (Davis) is the only returning starter. We do have some guys that got some experience with Vin Patel at guard and Shiv Desai at center. Hayden Barnard has made some huge steps over the summer. He’s a 6-9 center for us. So it’s just a matter of getting those guys experience.”
Much attention will be paid to Davis, who averaged 7.8 points a game while pulling down 5.7 rebounds a game last year.
Davis’ position as the team’s only returning starter and the team’s leading returning scorer automatically puts him into a leadership role. Vozza believes Davis will be ready for the added responsibility.
“I can tell you one thing: it’s a really close senior class. They get along, they hang out with each other, they’ve worked hard at the offseason,” Vozza said. “You know, Sean tried to do the things necessary on the court.
“(Davis) is a little different player than a lot of those guys were last year, so he’ll have to fit in that role in terms of being a leader but also not trying to do so much. We got other people that can fill those roles. But so far, so good with his leadership, with (expressing himself) vocally and with his play throughout the summer.”
With Obendorf and Solomon (17.4 and 12.7 points per game) both gone off the perimeter, the Mustangs likely won’t be able to shoot as proficiently from the outside as they did throughout last year.
Centers Shiv Desai and Hayden Barnard, along with the undersized Davis, should provide a meaningful presence along the block for Metea Valley.
Playing behind Davis and Milan Bojanic last year, Desai and Barnard each averaged no more than two points a game.
“I don’t think we’ll shoot as well as we shot last year. I do think our mid-range will be a strength and inside will be a strength for us,” Vozza said. “We do have some guys that can shoot pretty well, but I don’t think we’ll be at the high level that Kenny was and then Ryan, obviously, had potential of getting those spurts where he was pretty darn hot. So I think we gotta be awfully good defensively and I think we gotta get out and score in transition a lot.”
Having to replace players due to graduation for the first time entering its third year on the varsity level, Metea Valley is officially now on the same playing field every other program in the state.
But given all the success the program and the long postseason run enjoyed a year ago, the standard for future Metea Valley outfits has been laid down.
“I think the expectations are there. The guys believe and know they’re gonna be successful,” Vozza said. “I think they enjoy the fact that it’s kind of their turn, their senior turn.”
Metea Valley opens Nov. 19 at the Hoops for Healing Tournament in Oswego.