Nick Perez has been building the Junction City men’s basketball team since he took over as the head coach five years ago.

The head coach believes this year is one of the best – if not the best – team he has had.

Perez said the team includes a strong senior class, which will have seven or eight seniors to lead the team. He said he is also excited for the inaugural season in a new basketball venue at the school.

Perez said having strong leadership from a goal-driven senior class will take some ease off his coaching.

“I have got a senior led group,” Perez said. “We are going to have probably 12-15 seniors try out. We will probably keep seven or eight of them. Very experienced driven kids. … Maybe I can sit down and enjoy the game instead of having to tell kids what to do every second. I have really enjoyed the leadership over the summer that I had with the junior guards.”

There are a few seniors that stand out that Perez says will be key for the Blue Jays this season.

Howard Johnson, a 6-foot, 2-inch point guard/shooting guard, who averaged 14 points per game last season and Terrance Tetter, 6 foot, 2 inches, point guard.

“(Johnson) is really going to be our best shooter I would say, and best player,” Perez said. “(Tetter) will stretch the floor, and he is capable of driving it.”

Alongside Johnson and Tetter, there are a few other seniors: Seth Clark, David Rowell and a transfer from Lawrence High School, Alex Watts.

Perez said Clark can shoot the ball from just about anywhere and said he has never seen Seth take a shot he did not like.

Rowell, 6 foot, 4 inches, is a senior Perez knows can make an impact.

“(Rowell) doesn’t get much press time but he really battles on the boards and has to guard to the other team’s best post player,” Perez said.

Watts, at 6 foot, 1 inch, as well as juniors Sheldon Butler-Lawson and Devonte Baker can also shoot well, Perez said.

“I feel like this could be our best season at Junction City since I have been here,” Perez said. “I know people will be gunning for us because they know that. We will have a target on our back, and we got to be ready for anything every day, especially in our league.”

As a loss to Lawrence Free State in the second round of the playoffs ended the season last year, Perez said the key to making the next step in the program is to improve the defense.

“I got some guys that want to play at the next level, and like I told them, if you want to play at the next level you got to find ways to win,” Perez said. “I am excited for our kids – especially our seniors. Hopefully they lead our younger group, because we got some young kids coming up that I think will be very valuable down the line.”

Perez is excited that his players get to play in what could be the best high school basketball venue in Kansas. It should draw more attention to the team and home games, he said, which can help with the team’s success.

“I think this is a blessing for our kids to be a part of something special with the new school being built,” he said. “We want to get fans in the stands, and we got to win early to do that.”

As Perez has worked for a goal-driven roster, he has high expectations this season and hopes to bring accountability and higher standards to the program.

“I think when you start holding kids to a standard, they will do what they are supposed to do in life, education and sports,” Perez said. “Since day one, I have just seen growth as far as trusting in each other, belief in each other and moving the ball without having to dribble it a lot to get a shot off. We are starting to play more team-oriented stuff. I just like where we are going.”

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