Ask Hector Nava what he likes about his Merced boys basketball this year and he doesn't hesitate with his answer.
"I like that I have seniors this year," the Bears coach said. "Anytime you have seniors it's a good thing, especially when you're in close games. They've been there and done that in those close-game situations."
Nava had just three seniors on his roster last year in his first season as the Bears coach and Merced struggled to a 6-20 season.
Experience won't be a problem this year with players such as Jeremy Busko, Keith Bolden, Bradley Adamson, David Keys, Travante Richard and Brendan Yaley all returning.
The problem: All those players were busy playing football this fall. The question: How quickly can they transition from the gridiron to the hard court?
"Watching this group in practice and in the foundation game, we have a chance to be very successful," Nava said. "This year if you win 15 games, you're in the playoffs. Fifteen wins is manageable for us.
"I think, looking at our league, Buhach Colony is going to be one of the top teams. Golden Valley is going to be tough. Turlock will be tough, but I think we can be right there with those teams."
Richard was the leading scorer last year as a sophomore at 10.8 points per game and spent a lot of time this offseason working on his game.
There's no question the Bears will be the most athletic team in the CCC.
"Any time you have athletes you can't be conservative with them," Nava said. "You've got to put them to work and I love running fullcourt defense.
"I think last year we learned how valuable fundamentals are. Your athleticism is only going to take you so far. I think we finally understood how important it is to be fundamentally sound at the end of the year. We hit that hard in the offseason."