The Valencia Vikings came in as the 19th ranked team in Southern California, according to preseason prep basketball rankings released by LA Times Writer Eric Sondheimer on Sunday.
Valencia enters the season coming off a historic year for the program in which they went 26-7, went to the final four in CIF and the final four at State.
With that sort of resume comes another level of expectations, but Head Coach Bill Bedgood believes his team is ready for the pressure.
“We have a nice nucleus of returning players,” said Bedgood. “I feel like the players from that team are ready for those expectations. They’ve been there, they understand, they welcome it, they’re excited about it, they’re not scared by it.”
— Valencia Basketball (@ValenciaHoops) November 17, 2019
Two of those returning starters include guards Jake Hlywiak and Noah Veluzat.
The pairing of Hlywiak, a lights out shooter, with Veluzat, who can initiate the offense and use his court vision to move the ball with the best of them, is expected to be potent.
“I’ve coached quite a few Division 1 players, and I feel like Jake and Noah are both Division 1 caliber players,” Bedgood said. “They’re just outstanding shooters, scorers, finishers — two of the best offensive players I think we’ve ever had at Valencia.”
That said, one of the overlooked strengths of this team coming into the season is the depth of the roster.
“There are two seniors I really love that we’re coming off of a more supporting role last year that are going to help us tremendously this year, and that’s Eli Brill and Grant Kim,” Bedgood said.
Kim, who moved in and out of the starting lineup last year, has now solidified his starting role and been named team captain coming into the season.
“Eli Brill I feel the same way. They were both kind of supporting guys, we were a little senior-heavy last year and we had some talented guys and they kind of played the role that was available to them,” Bedgood said. “I feel like now that they’re starting, they’ve just really matured into the role and done a great job.”
In addition to former role players blossoming into starting jobs, the Vikings bring two more weapons to their depth chart, youth and transfers.
“We have two transfer kids that are going to be a huge addition to our program: Junior Camacho is one and K.J. Jones is another,” Bedgood said. “They’re both seniors and they’ve played in good private school programs, so they understand expectations. They might not understand what it’s like to specifically be at Valencia, but they definitely understand what it’s like to play against great competition and have high expectations.”
Camacho joins the program after his transfer from Maranatha in Pasadena, where he led his team in scoring with 14.2 per game, while pulling in 6.5 rebounds per game.
Jones left Crespi to play for the Vikings and brings Valencia another option at point guard with defensive chops.
In the youth department, freshman point guard Kai Davis has the opportunity to pick up invaluable reps on varsity as he is groomed to lead the Vikings basketball teams of tomorrow.
Davis is somewhat of a known commodity in the youth basketball community, as he has had multiple videos from his youth basketball career go viral with as many as 12 million views.
“This is going to be my third year now at Valencia, and we’ve just really wanted to get our valley a little more exposure,” Bedgood said. “I felt like there’s some great basketball being played in this valley and some great players. I think it’s good for the whole valley to get some exposure and get some notoriety that kids are working hard out here and we have some kids that can play at the next level.”
KHTS Sports is your place for the 2019 Santa Clarita high school football season and your Santa Clarita Dodgers coverage. Find all the latest news and updates on your hometown schools here as they compete in the Foothill League, Heritage League, Western State Conference and GSAC.