Grand Junction High School head coach Sam Provenza likes what he sees in his senior-laden team this year.
The veteran coach is always upbeat and optimistic, but he's also a realist.
"This is going to be a good team, but there's a lot of good teams around, he said. "You can never let your guard down or you're in trouble."
Leading the way this season for the Tigers is Kenzie Younker, who averaged more than 10 points and nearly seven rebounds per game last year.
Provenza thinks the 6-foot senior is going to be a special player on the Western Slope this year.
An all-around athlete, Younker also plays volleyball and is on the Tigers' track and field team.
"That's what makes her such a good basketball player, is her athleticism," Provenza said. "She's a three-sport kid. She's always in condition. She can play any place on the floor, too. She can play in the post and she can bring up the ball up the floor against the press too if we need her to.
"She's so versatile, and those kind of kids don't come along very often."
Younker showed her versatility last season, when she also led the team in assists and averaged more than two steals a game.
The Tigers will have five seniors that started or played extensively last season, so they will be one of the most experienced teams in the Southwestern League this season.
Younker brings the most experience — having played on the varsity all four seasons for Grand Junction.
The Tigers also played well this summer.
"It's a good group that really worked hard this summer and I think we got better," Provenza said. "They're playing together, and that's always important."
Younker is only one of several players who bring athleticism to the floor.
Provenza said it's that athletic ability that has him excited.
"I like our team speed. I think I say that every year, but I really really like it this year," he said with a smile. "We've shown a knack to fast break and get ahead of people. We also can run our half-court offense at a very high pace and our kids are handling it really well."
Angelo Paradisio is one of the speedy athletic seniors who will be key in the fast-break game, as well as handling the ball.
She averaged 2.3 points and 2.7 rebounds last year.
Gabby Deters averaged 2.8 points and 2.5 rebounds, and Taylor Rubalcaba averaged 3.7 points and 2.3 rebounds per game last year. They are both seniors.
Faith Buckley, a 6-1 junior, provides size in the post for the Tigers. She averaged 3.5 points and 4 rebounds per game last year.
Grand Junction will be without two key starters from last year's team after Gracie Olkowski and Hannah Hutto moved out of the area.
Provenza likes his team this year, but he also believes the SWL will be the usual tough grind with every team challenging for the league title.