The evaluation period during the non-district portion of Denison’s schedule shrunk to a level that isn’t too much of a concern for the Yellow Jackets.

The evaluation period during the non-district portion of Denison’s schedule shrunk to a level that isn’t too much of a concern for the Yellow Jackets.

But head coach Chet Byerly would have liked the extra practices and games to help him in his first year leading the program.

"We need time on the court against opponents. I don’t think we’re super behind," Byerly said. "When you take that away and you can’t practice, it was ugly that first game back against Melissa."

The Jackets are hoping to start looking better as Denison (1-4) hosts Royse City at 8 p.m. tonight to open District 13-4A action.

After facing the Bulldogs, the Jackets go on the road against Lovejoy on Friday before competing in the Sherman Holiday Invitational right after Christmas. Denison gets into 13-4A action full-time when Wylie visits on Jan. 3.

"A lot of problems are fixable," Byerly said. "It’s a lot of things we’re trying to take care of on a daily basis."

The winter weather that covered the area earlier this month wiped out Denison’s chance to pick up a couple of games at the Colbert Tournament.

"That was going to be big for us — get some wins, get some confidence," Byerly said. "At the very least work on some execution."

The Jackets opened the season against Sanger without those still in football and then have had just four games with a full roster since then. Denison earned a victory over Krum in that span but the Jackets’ have played only game since Thanksgiving.

"We’re still growing and learning to compete every possession," Byerly said. "Whether we’re 5-0 or 0-5, we want to play with the right mentality and intensity."

McShane Wyatt served as a sixth-man during his freshman season and has become Denison’s leading scoring this year, averaging 19.5 points per game. He has played either backcourt spot.

"He’s doing a good job," Byerly said. "It’s continually a learning process. He’s earned the opportunity to be a scorer."

The Jackets don’t have another double-digit scorer and several players seem to alternate being the next-highest point producer behind Wyatt.

Senior Will Parker is averaging eight points and four rebounds while sophomore Caleb Ross is at 7.7 points and 5.2 rebounds. Junior Jackson McBride averages 6.3 points per game.

Denison has settled on four of five starters — Wyatt, Parker, Ross and Khalil Brown, who is averaging nearly four steals per game — with the final spot rotating between McBride, seniors Jaleel Dade and Delwin Washington and sophomore Raylen Johnson.

"Caleb Ross has been a pleasant surprise. He’s got an aggressive mindset," Byerly said. "He gets to the line, does a good job on the boards at both ends of the floor."

On the other end of the court the Jackets have been inconsistent guarding their opponents.

"We’re being lazy with our feet and reaching a bunch," Byerly said. "We’re very talented with our athleticism. Once we get where we need to be, we can be pretty good defensively."

Denison finished last in the district standings a year ago, picking up just one 13-4A victory in 14 tries as part of a 5-26 season. The Jackets will be trying to return to the playoffs for the first time since 2011 but have a lot of teams to jump over.

Lovejoy is the defending district champ after a near perfect run through 13-4A and was followed by McKinney North, Wylie and Sherman, which beat Royse City in a tie-breaker for the fourth and final postseason slot.

All of the playoff teams won their bi-district match-up with Lovejoy advancing to the region quarterfinals.

"From what I’ve seen and heard, McKinney North and Lovejoy are two of the favorites," Byerly said in his first impression of new district foes. "Royse City is one that we need to get if we want to compete for a playoff spot. We’re going to have to get some splits along the way."