By Ray Hamill — A new beginning for the Loggers is off to a good start.
The Eureka boys are one of four Big 5 teams to welcome a new head coach this season with former assistant coach Jimmy Rodgers taking over the program, and because of his familiarity with the players the adjustment has been a smooth one with the team off to a productive start.
The Loggers opened the new season on Friday night with a 66-64 win at Piner and followed that a day later with a 63-51 loss at Santa Rosa, a Division-II program.
“And they played like a Division-II school,” Rodgers said.
But tough early season games are exactly what Rodgers wants for his team, and the players have responded to the early challenges enthusiastically.
“What impressed me was their energy,” Rodgers said of his players after the opening weekend. “They didn’t quit and the energy level on the court and on the bench was amazing. They fought and fought to the very end.”
Early in the season, the new head coach is still playing around with the lineup and his options, but a handful of players are expected to lead the way on a roster of 13 that features just three seniors and a loaded junior class of 10.
The seniors include Makai Boults and Kayro Jimenez, each of whom is expected to play a big role for the team, as well as Ezekial Rudin, whose hard work has paid off.
After trying out for the team in each of the past three years, Rudin made the roster for the first time this season and Rodgers will be looking for that work ethic and dedication to rub off on his teammates and for the senior to play a role off the bench.
Caden Vance is also expected to play a big role after stepping up his game at the varsity level last season.
“We’re looking for him to definitely be a factor,” Rodgers said of Vance.
Likewise with fellow juniors Donovan Millender and Payton Harbin, who was MVP of the JV team last season and is coming off a breakout season in football.
Athletic point guard Hans Chalmers is another junior expected to play a major role.
“These guys have all been together since the fourth grade and over time they’ve just gotten more mature playing the game of basketball,” the head coach said. “And having Hans as our quarterback and our floor leader is going to be huge.
“We’re deep. We’re definitely deep.”
Overall, it’s a group of players that has been embracing the hard work and the challenge of competing in what is expected to be a tough Big 5 this season.
The practices, according to the coach, have been pretty intense, and with the school’s football team not making the playoffs this fall, Rodgers has had a full roster to work with at practices, which he says has significantly helped their preparation.
The adjustment to his new role also has been going well for Rodgers.
“It has its challenges,” he said. “There’s a lot of management stuff and things to do outside of coaching, but I love my team.
“I know this group of kids. We’ve all been together for a while.”
Rodgers also is expecting the Big 5 to be very competitive this season and all four opponents to present a challenge.
“But I think all of them are beatable for us,” he added. “It should be an interesting season as long as everyone stays healthy and doesn’t get sick.”
The varsity boys aren’t the only Loggers team to impress early in the season.
The JVs, coached by former Humboldt State player Nathan Hentley, are off to a 2-0 start, while the freshmen won their own tournament last weekend and are 3-0.