When Gunn hired coach Brandynn Williams, the Titans' basketball team had just come off a horrific season, going 4-19 overall and only winning a single game in league play. Williams, who was a part of the Paly coaching staff when the Vikings won the state championships in 2006 and also a Paly grad, sought to revive Gunn basketball and that is exactly what he did.
"I came into the job not looking at the record; I saw the record, but then I just wanted to teach these guys to play hard and play the fundamentally right way," head coach Williams said. "I tried to get them to believe in themselves and to not be attached to the wins and losses, but to be attached to playing the right way. If you play the right way, you'll be okay not only in the game of basketball, but in the game of life."
During the three years he's been at Gunn, the Titans improved every year, winning the El Camino league title in 2015 and the De Anza league title in 2016, finishing above rival school Paly.
Palo Alto is coming off a 16-9 (7-5 in the De Anza Division) season under coach Peter Diepenbrock and the Vikings lost one senior.
Paly's top three scorers return in Miles Tention (13.3), Jack Simison (10.3) and Max Dorward (8.3) and its top rebounder in Will Schlemmer (6.5). Tention led the Vikings with 3.1 assists per game last year.
"I think winning league in the past two years really shows how far our program has come and where we're headed," Gunn senior team captain Tim Sun said. "I think having success in boy's basketball was something that Gunn lacked for a number of years, so it feels good to be able to take pride in our school's sports achievements."
With eight seniors gone, the Titans will need to look for new sources of scoring this season. Last year, then-freshmen Evan Dray played huge minutes for Williams. Averaging roughly three points and three rebounds per game, Dray will be a more prominent offensive threat for the Titans this season.
"I think we are definitely going to have to rebuild our starting lineup, and that just really means we need to all have the confidence knowing we deserve to be on the court," Dray said. "This season I really hope we can develop more of a team bond on and off the court."
Three-year varsity member and all-league player Jeffrey Lee-Heidenreich is returning to the starting lineup for the Titans. With all-league MVP Alex Gil graduated, Lee-Heidenreich has taken the helm of the ship, aiming to lead his team to a third straight league championship.
"We had some great athletes graduate last year, but we have also added a great batch of young talent," Lee-Heidenreich said. "It's definitely a different team dynamic, but we will still be just as strong if not stronger. Last season's abrupt ending has without a doubt left a bitter taste in our mouths. We're ready to bounce back and finish strong. we definitely have high some high expectations. We aim to defend our league title and even take CCS."
The Titans, who were upset in last year's CCS Division II first round, open play at the James Lick Tournament in San Jose on Tuesday.
Menlo-Atherton, undefeated in the PAL Bay Division last year, finished its season in the Northern California regional finals.
The Bears lost five seniors but should remain among the section's top teams. Eric Norton is the top returning scorer and will need help from returners like Will Perrone, Kai Winterling and Bradley Stillman.
Priory beat Eastside Prep for the CCS Division V title after Eastside upset Pinewood in the semifinals.
Nico Arslander and Zach Weiss will be counted upon to lead Priory, coached by Stanford grad David Moseley.
Look for Aaron Cason and Isaiah East to contribute to Eastside's season. Matthew Peery and Jaeden Bailey will help Pinewood.