Warriors senior David Wheeler knew he had some big shoes to fill this season on the basketball team. He also knew he didn't have to do it alone.
Wheeler, who saw a lot of playing time last year off the bench, was the logical successor to point guard Johnny Saavedra, who graduated after leading the Warriors in scoring and earning all-league honors a year ago.
"I knew what was going to be asked of me," Wheeler said. "I knew it wouldn't be easy, but we have some great guys on the team and some great captains" in Jesus Sanchez and Carson Bethany.
"So far, I think we've done a pretty good job getting back into the flow."
The Warriors went into the holiday break 5-5 after some mixed success in the Kern County Shootout, where they won just one of four games while losing some heartbreakingly close ones.
"David's done a great job, and he's been our most consistent scorer," coach Louie Saavedra said at practice Thursday, Dec. 15.
That doesn't mean he is without flaws, and he knows it.
While he's quick of foot and has an ability to see the plays unfolding in front of him, he said he needs to work on "finishing my open shots and not getting so many ticky-tack fouls."
Then, there's the leadership aspect, something expected on the floor from a point guard and off the floor from a senior.
"He's definitely a scorer, but he does need to become a stronger leader on and off the court," Saavedra said. "I know he's got it in him to do that, and I know that he knows the areas that he needs to improve in."
The expectations come with the territory. Saavedra said he expects all his seniors, Wheeler among them, to be leaders.
"This team has a lot of potential, and it showed spurts of that in the Kern County Shootout," Saavedra said, "but I think our best game all season might have been against Paraclete."
Again, that was a losing effort that could easily have been a victory, a 68-63 loss to powerhouse Paraclete in the championship game of Rosamond's Roadrunner Classic on Dec. 3.
Wheeler scored 26 points in that game and has continued to be a potent offensive weapon for the Warriors, both from the outside and the inside. He had 24 points in another game at Rosamond, and senior Jesus Sanchez also has scored in the 20s this season for the Warriors.
"Our problem this year has been that we start slow," Saavedra said, "and by the end of the first quarter, we start to focus and get our communication going.
"I think we need to learn to shake off the nerves and learn how to deal with the pressure early. Once we find our rhythm and get our minds set, we start to execute, break the press, run the offense and focus on defense."
The Warriors come out of their winter break on Tuesday, Dec. 27 in the Garces Holiday Hoops Challenge. They follow that with three more preseason games — against Rosamond, Garces and Highland — before starting their South Yosemite League season on Jan. 13 at home against Independence.
"I think we've got a lot of potential to get far in the CIF playoffs," Wheeler said, adding that a league title "is not at all out of reach."