Sunday, Nov. 29, 2015 | 2 a.m.
The Desert Pines High basketball team walked off the court last February at Orleans Arena with their heads down after losing to Clark in the Division I-A state championship game.
For months the Jaguars’ players have thought about that loss, and they will get a chance to redeem themselves in 2015-16 with one of the best rosters in all of Las Vegas, regardless of division.
“These guys have been playing together for a long time, and it’s been fun watching them grow and develop over the years,” Desert Pines coach Mike Uzan said. “We would like to return to where we were last year, and finish the job this time.”
Desert Pines returns 10 lettermen from last year’s squad, which finished 22-10.
“Most of us grew up together and played on the same AAU team, so that’s part of it,” said junior guard Capri Uzan, who led the team in scoring last year. “We have a lot of returners, so our chemistry is going to be solid this year.”
Along with Uzan, the Jaguars are returning their leading rebounder in junior Trevon Abdullah, who is verbally committed to UNR.
“It’s fun. It’s easier to play with each other,” Abdullah said. “It’s like I know the next move for each player, so it’s a lot easier.”
Jordan Simon, Curtis Stewart and Sierra Vista transfer Randal Grimes give the Jags plenty of athletic players on the wing.
“They are all very instrumental and key components to our team,” coach Uzan said. “Every one of them brings something special to the table, whether it be shooting, defending or ball control.”
But even with all of the returning talent, the most exciting thing for Desert Pines heading into this season is its newest edition: Greg Floyd Jr..
The 6-7 junior forward transferred to Desert Pines after playing on the freshman team at Clark and has more than 20 scholarship offers — including UNLV, Memphis, Washington and Baylor — despite barely seeing the court at the varsity level.
His potential is limitless, and his presence inside could be what it takes to allow the Panthers to finally get past Clark.
Mike Uzan’s job will be meshing all of this talent in such a short time period, especially after an offseason in which the team was rarely together.
“Our offseason was kind of tough because we were never all together because we have a lot of athletes that do dual sports. We always had one or two guys missing due to injury or another sport,” Mike Uzan said. “But once we get everyone together and get some more experience, we will be all right.”
One thing the team doesn’t lack is big game experience. The Jaguars have played in three straight state tournaments and plan on qualifying for a fourth.
“These guys have matured and have played at very high levels at big stages, and now as juniors they are ready to take the next step forward,” coach Uzan said.