Porterville plays tonight at Victor Valley, 5 p.m.

College basketball all around the nation tipped off earlier this week, and getting to action tonight is the Porterville College men’s basketball team.

After a rough, disappointing end to the 2017-18 season where the Pirates went 2-12 in the Central Valley Conference and 7-18 on the overall season, PC has left the past in the past, and are focused on making this go-around one of their best seasons in years.

Porterville opens the season on the road with a 5 p.m.game in Victorville at Victor Valley College. They’ll return home on Tuesday, Nov. 13 for a 6 p.m. game against De Anza. All fans wearing red get free admission for games.

“I think we got good potential to be a dangerous team,” PC head coach Rob Haynes said. “We have a good mixture of talent. We can play small, we can play big. We can play fast, we can play slow. Very kind of similar ways from last year’s team, the team that started off last year before we lost all those guys. Very similar in that area. That we can mix it up a little bit.”

The Pirates have five sophomores listed this season but only one true returner in sophomore Elijah Cardenas, a 5-foot-11 guard. Last season, Cardenas averaged 10.5 points a game and shot 88.5 percent from the free throw line. He also scored a team-high 20 points in PC’s 76-75 win over the state’s fourth-ranked Merced.

“Eli is the one we’re going to have to rely heavily on,” Haynes said. “When things get a little bit crazy and all the stuff like that, he’s going to have to be not just the vocal leader, but he’s also going to have to (lead) by example. I see with him he brings a sense of calmness because he’s been through it. He’s been through the worst of the worst and the goods of the goods.”

The four other sophomores back for PC are: 6-foot-5 forward Da’Morea Green, 6-foot-4 forward Alonso Valle, 6-foot-2 guard Darion “DJ” Wilson and 6-foot-2 point guard Germaine Caldwell Jr. Green was a starter during the 2016-17 season before suffering a season-ending injury.

Another returner for the Pirates is former Porterville High star Treager Wallace. One of the best, most reliable shooters during his senior year of high school, the 6-foot-4 freshman guard greyshirted last season after being injured.

“Treager, Damorea and DJ -- those guys I think will bring experience” Haynes said. “They’re going to have to catch back up to the speed because they’ve been out for a year. But I think they’ll bring experience, I think they’ll bring confidence. They’ll bring some knowledge to the game for the incoming guys.”

Haynes said this season will be different than others with a somewhat small-sized team where only 6-foot-10 center Mario Dawson is above 6-foot-5. Without as many long-range shooters as last year, the Pirates’ focus comes down to what they can do inside, both on offense and defense.

“They play bigger,” Haynes said about his defensive players. “They have their strengths in other areas. What they lack in height, they’re going to be able to take bigs out and take them off the dribble...Inside we’re going to surprise teams.”

On Dawson, Haynes said, “He’s an interior defensive anchor. He’s going to alternate shots and block shots. He’s going to rebound and catch it at times, finish high around the rim.” He added that Green provides a scoring presence, as does Valles and 6-foot-4 freshman Andres Solis.

Cardenas and Wallace should be the team’s top shooters, but don’t expect the Pirates to just feed the ball to those two. They’ll be working to get the ball inside more.

“We’re more of a grittier team,” Haynes said. “We’re athletic. We have multiple guards that can handle the ball. We got guys inside that can score. So again, we’ve got a good mixture.”

Moving away from multiple tournaments in the preseason, PC is playing in just two tournaments, including their own that is named after Mayor Milt Stowe, who continues to battle cancer. It’ll be the first tournament at the Pirates’ gym since around the early 2000’s.

“It’s all for a good cause,” Haynes said. “We named it after our mayor, Milt Stowe. The strength and the integrity that man has. And the fight that he has. Every time I talk to him I give him the utmost respect. So thankful for what he’s doing, what he’s done for the town and what he’s done for me, and just the fight that he’s continued to put up. His mental fortitude is above and beyond. So it’s only right that I felt that we can honor him by making this tournament in his honor.”

Porterville begins conference play, Jan. 3, 2019, in a 6 p.m. game at Reedley College.

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