Will Johnson

Will Johnson, the all-district offensive player of the year last season, is one of six returning lettermen for Alvarado basketball this year.

ALVARADO — The Indians bring back all five starters off last year’s 23-win team as Alvarado looks to improve on its third-place finish and first-round playoff exit from a year ago.

Last season, the Indians went 6-4 in District 17-4A play to finish third behind Waxahachie Life (10-0) and Midlothian Heritage (8-2). The third-place finish marked the Indians’ first playoff berth since the 2014-15 season as it was a big turnaround season for Alvarado, which went 12-20 overall and 2-10 in district in 2017-18.

It’s not often a varsity program returns all five starters, but even more impressive is four of those starters performed at all-district and all-county levels a year ago, and are back for another run at it.

The Indians bring back Jordan Caldwell, Will Johnson, Trent Keener, and Jake McCullough, all of whom were all-district and All-Johnson County selections last season, along with Kobe Webb and Waylon Carillo.

Unlike the last couple of seasons, Alvarado’s experience will be a huge team strength this year.

“We can play fast and have multiple shooters on the floor at all times,” Alvarado coach Francisco Islas said. “We have varsity experience, including a four-year letterman in Jake McCullough. We also have size and depth.”

Islas expects big things from Johnson, who was the all-district and All-Johnson County offensive player of the year last season as a sophomore. He averaged 18 points and 6.6 rebounds per last year.

McCullough was an all-district and All-Johnson County first-team selection last season after guiding the Indians’ offense to the tune of a stellar 7-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio to go along with nearly seven points per game. Keener, also a first-team all-district and All-Johnson County selection, averaged 10.1 points and 6.2 rebounds per game a year ago. And Caldwell averaged 7.7 points and 5.3 rebounds per game to earn all-district and All-Johnson County second-team accolades a season ago.

In addition to having six returners back, junior guard Ka’Lon Johnson is expected to have a role as a top newcomer.

While the Indians’ strengths entering the season are many, Islas said two areas they’ll have to improve in are free throws and interior defense.

After a big step forward last season, ending a three-year playoff drought, Alvarado is looking to snap another drought — the Indians’ last playoff win came in the 2012-13 season.

“[We expect to] contend for the district title and advance in the playoffs,” Islas said.

Alvarado is scheduled to open the 2019-20 season at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday vs. Castleberry in Alvarado.

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