The Stephenville Yellow Jackets have three basketball players returning from last year’s team that finished third in district but went on to capture their first postseason victory in five seasons.

Bill Brooks, now starting his fourth season as the head coach of the Yellow Jackets, was an assistant on that previous playoff team, which reached the Class 4A regional final.

Among the seniors who graduated last spring was Blake Aragon, who provided a significant presence around the basket with his 6-5 height and excellent mobility — and sometimes electrified the crowd with his dunks.

“We won’t have as much height as we’ve had in the past,” said Brooks, whose Yellow Jackets are opening their regular-season schedule on Saturday, Nov. 10, at 2 p.m. (varsity start) at home against Class 5A Abilene Cooper. “But we’ll try and continue to play fast, and aggressive defense.”

In their first two preseason scrimmages, both on Nov. 3, the Jackets outscored both Weatherford and Benbrook, playing only two quarters against each squad. SHS then defeated De Leon 54-32 in a four-quarter scrimmage on Nov. 6.

Last season the Yellow Jackets were the third-place team out of District 8-4A, and won their bi-district playoff game. They were eliminated in the area round by seventh-ranked Wichita Falls Hirschi. SHS finished with a 14-15 season record.

KEY RETURNEES

The three players returning are junior Skylar Stilwell and senior Cody Storrs, both 5-10 guards, and 6-3 junior guard Mason Castleberry.

The others on the current varsity roster are Grayson Traweek, a 5-11 sophomore guard; Kaeland Dijulio, a 5-9 junior point guard; Chase Griffin, a 6-3 senior post; Landon Sweet, a 6-3, junior guard/post; Calvin Darby, a 6-3 junior post; Kendal Storrs, a 6-3 junior guard/post; Krece Nowak, a 5-9 senior guard; and Payton Kimple, a 5-11 senior guard.

“They had success in the (junior varsity), and they played a lot together in the spring, summer and fall. They’re fun to be around, and they enjoy the game.

“Playing great team defense will be important, and having confidence in their shooting because they can all score. They were pretty quick up and down the floor.”

Brooks said the group seems to have chemistry, and that can translate into victories.

Stilwell led the Jackets in scoring last season as a sophomore, averaging 14.2 points per game. He was voted as the district’s Newcomer of the Year.

“He puts in the work to be one of our best players — in the gym, all the time, shooting the basketball and it shows,” Brooks said of Stilwell.

Brooks said Cody Storrs is a great team leader at point guard, where he earned second-team all-district honors last season.

“He has a good IQ for the game,” Brooks said. “He knows the game well, and he knows how to play the game the right way.”

Brooks said Traweek is a great shooter, a good defensive player and loves the game.

Dijulio was one of the top leaders on the JV last season.

Cody Storrs, Nowak, Traweek and Kimple won’t be available until after football season concludes. Coach Greg Winder’s football Yellow Jackets are idle this week, but their bi-district playoff game will be next week. They had to wait to find out their first-round opponent, which will be either Fort Worth Dunbar or Lake Worth.

MOTIVATION

The Jackets are now in the five-team District 7-4A alignment with Brownwood, Glen Rose, Godley and Mineral Wells.

Brooks said that SHS was predicted to be the fifth-best team in that district in the preseason picks posted by the Texas Association of Basketball Coaches. He indicated that should provide motivation to prove the prediction wrong.

“It’s going to be tight,” Brooks said. “The district, I feel, is pretty even. It’s going to come down to whoever’s playing the best that night. Anybody can win it.”