The goal for the Douglas High School boys' basketball team heading into the 2007-08 campaign is simple.
"They want to return to where they were last year," first-year coach Corey Thacker said.
Getting there, however, won't be as simple.
The Tigers finished as Northern 4A Regional runners-up, leading eventual state champion Galena High School throughout before losing 56-55 on a late shot.
"They want to get back there and go from there," Thacker said. "They want to step up to the next level. Obviously, it's a lofty goal, but right now they are just preparing for the season. We want to take it game by game and see where we can get."
The Tigers will get a slight preview of how realistic that goal is within the first month as they'll play two of their three playoff opponents (Reed and Galena) from last season within the first month.
Much has changed, though, between that regional final and Wednesday night's season-opener against Reed.
Gone are 6-10 all-region center Keith Olson (currently playing for Northern Arizona and all-region point guard Mike Gransbery, along with four others from the Tigers' experienced core last season.
But Douglas does have a number of experienced standouts stepping up in their place.
"All of our seniors this year, they will be our core," Thacker said. "We have two returning starters, but we're a little inexperienced in terms of guys coming off the bench.
"They'll be ready to go though. They're a good group."
Douglas gets its No. 3, 4 and 5 scorers back in the form of 6-7 senior post player Jeff Nady (second-team All-Sierra League, 7.75 points per game), junior off guard James McLaughlin, 6-2 (6.25 ppg) and senior guard/forward Kevin Emm, 6-4 (6.06 ppg).
"We're expecting big things out of Jeff," Thacker said. "James is in line for a big year too."
Emm and McLaughlin were second and third on the team in three-pointers as well.
Senior forward David Laird (6-2), has had a number of starts in his career and was key for the Tigers off the bench last year, scoring an average of 4.9 ppg.
Ryan McPeek, a 6-4 senior, Ross Bertolone, a 6-1 junior guard, and senior guard Herman Fillmore round out Douglas' talented returning class.
A number of new faces will be expected to play key roles for the Tigers this season, including junior center Parker Robertson (6-4, 257 pounds), forward Drew Hamlett, forward Nick Hales and guards Tyler Hoelzen, Tim Rudnick and CJ Marcotte.
Rudnick is expected to battle with Bertolone for the starting point guard position.
Bertelone was impressive early on last year during some limited playing time and could wind up being one of Douglas' best defensive players. Rudnick is coming off strong varsity baseball and football seasons and has made a name for himself as a playmaker.
"We'll just have to wait and see," Thacker said. "Timmy could turn some things on for us and Ross in an excellent defender."
Defense will be the key to the Tigers having any success this year, according to Thacker.
"We have to play defense first, there's no secret," Thacker said. "We aren't going to win many games otherwise. We have to play defense and make sure we block out."
Along those lines, Thacker said Nady, Fillmore and Hales have all shown a lot of promise on the defensive end.
"We definitely have some guys that can step up at times," Thacker said. "Hales is a hustler and Nady can get in there and make some things happen. Herman Fillmore has shown a lot of progress on defense as well."
Thacker will replace Rob Streeter, who left to coach Clovis North in California early in the summer. Thacker spent the last six years coaching at Spring Creek, leading the Spartans to the regional semifinals last year and the state tournament the year before.
He brings in a similar system to what Streeter ran during his two years at Douglas.
"What we're doing isn't too different from what Rob did," Thacker said. "I think that has helped a lot with the transition.
"We're getting better every day in practice and that's exactly what you want to see at this point."
Douglas opens the season Wednesday night at home against Reed at 7 p.m. The Tigers will host the Carson Valley Classic Dec. 6 through 8 with Fallon, Laguna Creek, Dayton, Manogue, Faith Lutheran, Carson and Merced coming to town.
After that, Douglas will play in the George Maldonado Tournament at Galena High, open league play at home against Wooster Dec. 18 and then get a rematch of the regional championship game at Galena Dec. 21.