Shoemaker made school history a season ago.
The Grey Wolves rolled to a 34-3 overall record, including a spotless 12-0 run through District 12-6A to capture the league crown.
They also went four rounds deep in the playoffs, where they were defeated by top-ranked Humble Atascocita in the Region II-6A semifinals. Their postseason spurt was a milestone in program history, eclipsing the regional quarterfinal berth accomplished by the 2002-03 team.
Shoemaker lost all but three players to graduation from the 2015-16 squad, but expectations remain high for its upcoming campaign. The Navy Blue and Silver enter the season ranked No. 16.
Head coach Emund Prichett, beginning his fourth season at the helm of the Wolves, believes the success past graduates helped build for the Shoemaker boys basketball program can be sustained for years to come.
“The goal is always to be better than what you were or be the best the school has ever had,” he said. “We challenge every graduating class to propel our team to do that. We graduated seven or eight guys, but hard work shouldn’t have graduated, and dedication to the program shouldn’t have graduated.”
Only three players – Javon Levi, Antoine James and Devyn Brewton, all seniors – are returning this season. But all three were integral in the team’s success a season ago, and Prichett expects them to lead the 2016-17 unit.
The 5-foot-10 Levi, last winter’s league offensive MVP, is the Wolves’ commander at point guard. James (5-10) and Brewton (6-6), both second-team all-district honorees, are also high-impact players.
“Those guys are great kids with great families,” Prichett said of the trio. “They have a great background, and they have been to war with me. I’ll take them to war with me anytime, and they’ve constantly gotten better.
“This summer, they went to work and got better, and they created a buzz for themselves.”
The hype they generated helped Levi and Brewton make verbal commitments to play at the collegiate level. Levi pledged to Texas Rio Grande Valley, and Brewton committed to Tarleton State.
All three athletes offer Shoemaker unique skills offensively. But their primary duty – something Prichett has insinuated since taking over the program – is to play strong defense.
The Wolves have made a name for themselves in recent years as being one of the most tenacious defensive teams to take the floor, and Prichett is making sure the young wave moving up to the varsity level are aware of that.
“That is everybody’s role,” he said. “Everybody’s role is to get out there and play defense. Ultimately, you’ve got to keep your guy in front of you, and that’s an absolute that they have to do in order to be on varsity.
“I think those guys are starting to understand those things, and I think if they continue to excel at those things, our team will keep getting better.”
Some newcomers Shoemaker will rely on this year will be 6-7 sophomore post J'wan Roberts, 6-foot junior guard Duwain Thomas, 5-8 junior guard Maurice Berry, 5-10 sophomore guard Taveon Sevaaetasi, 6-foot senior guard Carlos Vasquez and 6-4 sophomore post Romeo Postell.
Others to keep tabs on will be senior guard Christopher Barnett (5-8), senior post Te’Ayveon Hill (6-5) and 6-foot junior guard Quinton Clark.
Right now, Prichett’s focus is to get the entire team up to varsity speed. After that, the team will turn their attention to gearing up to “Shoemaker speed.”
And while he knows people will look at last season’s record and use it to compare to the current unit, Prichett is only concerned about the team taking another step in the right direction this winter.
“I think, at the end of the day, we can be as good as if not better than what we were last year,” Prichett said. “I’m not looking for a 34-3 record. It would be nice, but I’m not looking for that.
“I’m looking for the end result.”
The Wolves are scheduled to play their season opener Friday at No. 7-ranked Austin Westlake (0-1) at 7:30 p.m.