In their first season under coach Marcus Klingsick, the Sherman Bearcats reached the 20-win mark and earned a playoff berth.
With just four seniors gone from the 2016-17 team's 21-10 campaign, Klingsick expects even better results with 13 returning players.
The Bearcats tip off the 2017-18 season at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday when they host McKinney North.
“I thought we did a lot of good things last year,” Klingsick said. “We had some veteran leadership from some younger guys and we lost some seniors. The big one we lost was Daishawn Nelson, a good defender, a good shooter. But we've got four or five starters coming back, plus we've got the move-in from TCS (Blaise Bentsen).
“Hopefully, we're building and getting better every year, so I think this year's squad should be better than last year's. The younger guys who weren't seniors last year have stepped it up and we've got high expectations. We see that record and want it to be better. The big thing is we'd like to go a little bit longer in the playoffs.”
Sherman returns three players, all guards, who earned all-district honors last year after the Bearcats went 8-4 in District 5-5A, tying Wichita Falls Rider for third place. Senior Jaylyn Cleamons and junior Jeremy Norvell were both first-team picks, along with the departed Nelson, while senior Kemonte Dowdy was a second-team selection. Cleamons averaged 16.7 points per game and Norvell added 15.8.
Klingsick said making the playoffs in his first year with the program was a significant achievement.
“They hadn't been in a few years and you always want to get there,” he said. “The team that beat us (Justin Northwest) went all the way to the state tournament, so we were kind of thinking we were pretty good. We were that close to being where we're want to be.
“Coming back this year, we've got high goals. I think this year we're not going to be satisfied just to make the playoffs. We want to make a deep run. That's the mindset of everybody on our team and that's the mindset all the coaches have, so we're excited about that.”
Having a full year in Klingsick's system has the Bearcats further along than a year ago, when the players were still learning the new coach's way of doing things.
“At the beginning this year, we can (call a play) and not even have gone over it just because they know it already,” Klingsick said. “So we can go on to some other things we'd like to put in, and that's been good.
“The only thing — and it's a good thing — is the football team. There's three guys out there still playing football (Bentsen, Cleamons and Norvell). That'll put us back just a little bit, but once they get in there we'll be full steam ahead. We're looking forward to that.”
In the meantime, Klingsick said, the Bearcats have enough talent on hand to carry the load.
“Kemonte Dowdy and Rayvon Hester were part of the group last year,” Klingsick said. “Elijah Dick will step in for one of them. He's a great shooter and has worked on his defense. Tazorrion Smith started last year.
“We've got some guys that can fill in and do some good things. They're getting good minutes that will help out as we're waiting on those other guys.”
Klingsick said Bentsen (6-foot-5, 235 pounds) will give the Bearcats an added dimension once football season ends. Bentsen averaged 14.8 points and 7.4 rebounds rebounds last year at Texoma Christian, earning TAPPS District 2-2A MVP and all-state honors.
“That will be nice. We did not have that last year,” Klingsick said. “Tazorrion's tall (6-2), but he's skinny. That's going to be nice to have a kid (with Bentsen's size), and he can do so many different things. He can play outside, he can go inside and get rebounds.”