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East Aurora looks for bounce-back season

Unanimous all-conference selectiDeJTalbert returns lead East Aurorthis season. | Corey R. Minkanic~for Sun-Times Media

Unanimous all-conference selection DeJon Talbert returns to lead East Aurora this season. | Corey R. Minkanic~for Sun-Times Media

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Coach: Wendell Jeffries

Last year: 3-23, 1-11 in Upstate Eight Valley

Key returnees: DeJon Talbert, Sr. G; Tyree Willis, Sr. F; Jonathan Villezcas, Jr. F; Steve Green, Sr. G; Desmond Gant, Jr. F; Ray Velazquez, Sr. G.

Top newcomers: KeJuan Davis, Jr. G; Fred Reynolds, Jr. F; Darren Warren, Jr. F; Darius Champion, Sr. C; Mikey Franklin Jr. G.

Updated: December 20, 2012 6:27AM

A series of events may have helped lead to the disastrous, perfect storm-type three-win season East Aurora had last year, but that didn’t make it any less humbling for coach Wendell Jeffries.

“It was tough,” he said. “Unfortunately, things like that happen. It was our first losing season in my 11 years and a lot of things went into it.”

It started when Tyrone Savage, who was expected to be an important contributor, went down the summer before with a knee injury that required surgery and would sideline him much of the season. Academic casualties and having another key player move out didn’t help either.

“We lost eight players from the year before and were very young and inexperienced,” Jeffries said.

While the cynics will say the only way to go is up, Jeffries points to six returnees who should be the foundation for a better season.

Unanimous all-conference selection DeJon Talbert, a 6-foot-1 shooting guard who averaged 15 points, will help lead the way.

“Being a unanimous pick as a junior was a pretty big feat, considering the season we had,” the coach said.

Figuring prominently in Tomcat plans are the other returnees: 6-2 senior forward Tyree Willis, 6-5 junior forward Jonathon Villezcas, 5-8 senior guard Steve Green, 6-4 junior wing Desmond Gant and 5-7 senior point guard Ray Velazquez.

“Villezcas started for us last year and has been working hard, he’s kind of a surprise guy,” Jeffries said. “We brought Gant up at Christmas last year and he started quite a few games, too. This is the second season for Velazquez, who has improved, Green gave us a lot of minutes off the bench and Willis will be important for us, too.”

The newcomer likely to have the biggest impact, at least early, will be 5-10 junior KeJuan “Peetie” Davis, a shooting guard who could soon work his way into the starting lineup or be the sixth man.

Other newcomers likely to figure into East’s usual rotation of 8-10 players include 6-2 junior forward Fred Reynolds, 6-1 junior forward Darren Warren, 5-10 junior guard Mikey Franklin and 6-7 senior Darius Champion.

“Champion came out for the first time last year and played mostly JV,” said Jeffries. “He’s still pretty raw, but we’ve been working with him. He can block a few shots and grab a few rebounds.”

The Tomcats open Monday against the hosts at the St. Charles East Tournament.

“Waubonsie Valley is the hands down favorite in our league,” Jeffries said. “After that, a lot of us are grouped together. Neuqua Valley is good every year and Bartlett and Metea Valley should be too.

“Just as long as we continue to work hard, this team could compete for the top (half) of the conference. We have bonded well so far.”

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