The Christopher Maples era has begun for the Valley Christian Academy boys basketball program.

Maples has replaced former veteran coach Pete Fortier, who is still the school's athletic director.

"I am becoming familiar with the players, and they are becoming familiar with me," Maples said in an email to the Times.

"We may be in that adjustment period all season of getting to know each other.

"We don't have much size. Andrew (Sparlin) is 6-foot-4, and that's about it."

VCA is off to an 0-3 start under Maples. The Lions will try to rebound at their own tournament at the end of the month.

Sparlin is one of three returning starters, and one of four returnees overall, from the team that finished third in the Coast Valley League behind Coast Union and Cuyama Valley and qualified for the playoffs in 2017.

The Lions went out of the CIF Southern Section Playoffs in the second round of Division 6.

Two double figures scorers from last year, point guard Isak Deming and shooting guard Kiernan Quinonez, return for the Lions.

Deming averaged 15.4 points a game last season. Quinonez averaged 11.5. Both are seniors. Junior Ethan McCoy is the other varsity returnee.

Deming is the lone Lion who is averaging in double figures, at 13.8 points a game. 

All four returners played for the 2017 VCA football team that won the CVL championship and made it to the quarterfinals of the 8-man Division 2 playoffs.

Maples indicated that he has his preferences as to what kind of offense and defense he wants his team to use for the balance of the season, but he also indicated that he is willing to be flexible.

"I would like to use a man-to-man defense," he said. "I'm trying to implement that defense, but I am also willing to use a mix of zone and man."

Maples said, "I would prefer to use a transition-style offense, but I am also willing to build a half-court offense.

"I'm basically working from scratch with these guys."

Maples said that although some of his players played summer basketball, "I did not move here until August, so I was not with them.

"The guys on the team are hard workers, and they have teachable attitudes so I am enjoying working with them. I think this is going to be a good season."

VCA will open its Coast Valley League game with a 7 p.m. game Jan. 9 against Coastal Christian at the San Luis Obispo Church of the Nazarene. 

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Sports Reporter