In his first season as Clovis High boys basketball coach, Matt King led the Wildcats to last spring's Class 5A state semifinals.
With six of their top eight players back, the Cats will be disappointed if they don't get beyond that this time.
"I think the expectations are high, but they're always going to be high," said King, whose team finished 18-10 in 2011-12 and lost to Eldorado in the state tourney. "Really, we're just trying to get better.
"If you focus on what's going to happen two or three months from now, you won't take care of today. We're enjoying the journey — because it's a long journey."
The Cats open the season tonight with a 5:30 p.m. tipoff at Rio Rancho.
King, an Albuquerque native and La Cueva graduate, said he's already sensing a change from the start of his first campaign.
"It's a natural progression; it's just a lot more stable," he said. "The kids know what we expect better, and the coaches know the kids better."
The team is also adjusting to having a full squad after Clovis was eliminated from the 5A football playoffs on Nov. 23. Four players have since joined the workouts.
"We're fortunate here to have quality athletes all the way around," King said. "We know the football team is usually going to play deep into the playoffs, and we're fine with that."
Now comes the time, though, to change gears, but senior post Marshall Winn said the footballers are ready to do that.
"We know all the plays," said Winn, who averaged four points and 4.3 rebounds last season. "The toughest transition is running up and down. It's just trying to get into shape and get used to playing with the guys like we did this summer."
Two players recently signed to play in college next season — senior guard John Dawson with Division I Marquette and senior guard-forward Drew Cole with Eastern New Mexico University. Dawson was second on the team in scoring as a junior (13.7 ppg) and averaged more than five assists, while Cole averaged 9.5 points and 5.5 rebound per outing.
Another senior guard, D.J. Blackmon, led the team in scoring (15.3) and rebounding (7.5). Blackmon is expected to sign for college in the spring.
Junior guard Kamal Cass (5.5 ppg) and senior forward Dijon Ford (5.5 ppg, 5.4 rpg) also bring in plenty of experience.
"We feel like our team this year has legitimate depth," King said. "We feel like we can play 10 or 11 kids."
Winn said the Cats are comfortable with the pressure of trying to win a state title.
"Everybody has pretty high goals," he said. "We all want it real bad. The players want it, the coaches want it, our town wants it, everyone wants it.
"We'll always get everybody's best game. We just try to come to work every day and get better."
He acknowledged that the football players could probably use a little more time to get ready for tonight's opener, but noted their teammates are anxious to get going.
"The other guys are tired of just practicing," he said. "They're ready to play somebody else."
The Cats will have to battle the likes of Las Cruces High, Eldorado, La Cueva and Volcano Vista, among others, at the state level. Little figures to come easily, King said.
"There's no doubt there's a little extra pressure, but this is a veteran group," he said. "They've been through this before."
CHS ROSTER, SCHEDULE
No. Name Ht. Yr. Pos.
2 John Dawson 6-2 Sr. G
3 Kamal Cass 5-10 Jr. G
4 Drew Cole 6-7 Sr. G
10 Willie McCray 5-11 Jr. G
12 Donnie Davis 6-0 Sr. G
14 Andrew Anaya 5-10 Sr. G
20 Dijon Ford 6-3 Sr. F
22 D.D. Egbert 5-9 Sr. G
24 D.J. Blackmon 6-2 Sr. G
30 Marshall Winn 6-5 Sr. F
32 Damien Paulter 6-1 Sr. F
40 Traivon Sopila 6-1 Jr. G/F
44 Dustin Smith 6-3 Sr. F
Head coach: Matt King (2nd year, 18-10). Assistant coaches: Corey Pickett, Scott Robinson, Casey Pack, Scott Schumpert.
1 — at Rio Rancho, 5:30 p.m.; 6-8 — Chris Bosh Hoopfest at Dallas; 14 — at Manzano, 7 p.m.; 15 — at Sandia, 7 p.m.; 21 — Portales, 7 p.m. 27-29 — Southwest Dairy Farmers Classic.
5 — Las Cruces High, 5:30 p.m.; 8 — Espanola Valley, 7 p.m.; 11 — at Santa Teresa, 7 p.m.; 12 — at Onate, 7 p.m.; 15 — Roswell Goddard, 7 p.m.; 18 — at Rio Rancho Cleveland, 7 p.m.; 19 — at Valley, 7 p.m.; 25 — La Cueva, 7 p.m.; 26 — Eldorado, 7 p.m.
1 — Hope Christian, 7 p.m.; 5 — at Lovington, 7 p.m.; 8 — at Hobbs, 7 p.m.-x; 12 — Carlsbad, 7 p.m.-x; 15 — vs. Wichita Falls Hirschi at Lubbock Christian, 5:30 p.m.; 19 — at Carlsbad, 7 p.m.-x; 22 — Hobbs, 7 p.m.-x.
All Times MST. x-Denotes District 4-5A games.