2022-2023 Varsity Basketball Season Preview

The 2021-2022 TCA Conquerors Varsity Basketball Team may have had a less-than-stellar win-loss record, but considering then-first-year Head Coach Cliff Willis more than doubled the team’s win total from the previous season, the Conquerors showed tremendous improvement. More than half the losses were by 10 points or less and against some of the toughest competition in Jacksonville.

With the new season fast approaching, the 2022-2023 Conquerors look to not only improve on their record, but become a force in Class 3A, District 3, which also includes Baldwin, Bishop Snyder, Episcopal, and Providence.

Now in his second season at the helm, Coach Willis recognizes some of the struggles of last season and he understands how to overcome those problems with this year’s team. “As much as I hate to say it, last season we drastically underperformed. We had a ton of talent but, unfortunately, we were plagued by careless turnovers,” he said. “A lot of that has to fall on me. We will clean up those mistakes this season. Despite the frustrating parts, I’m proud of our team from last year. They fought hard every game. We lost several games by single digits when we were expected to lose by 30. We just couldn’t quite get over the proverbial hump.”

Rivalries Renewed

The Conquerors will begin play with the preseason tournament at Wolfson, playing against Wolfson on November 15 and Nease on November 17. Five of the first six regular-season games are away, with the first home game against Joshua Christian on Monday, November 28.

From there, the Conquerors will have a heavy home-laden schedule, especially in the second semester of play. Some of the rivalries that TCA will continue with include Stanton, Christ’s Church Academy, University Christian, Eagle’s View Academy, and Episcopal. In addition, first-year program Beachside is on Trinity’s schedule, and recent rivalries with River City Science Academy, Temple Christian, and Hope Christian will have home-and-home matchups throughout the season.

Key Returning Players

Trinity welcomes back seniors Josh Robinson, Seth Bialek, Sam Byers, Mekhi Burton, Jace Walker, and Tre Goggins. The Conquerors have a very experienced roster with eight seniors. “We will rely on their experience and leadership,” said Coach Willis. “I have some juniors like Cam Anderson and Josh Morricette moving up from JV, and we think they will be major contributors.”

Normally, the Conquerors’ basketball team has many of its varsity players miss the beginning of the season due to playing football very deep into the postseason. This year, Bialek, Anderson, Tomarion McCray, and Miles Burris are on the football team, and, of course, we wish them well as they play for Trinity’s 10th state championship. Coach Willis, though, is confident that his roster is full of upperclassmen ready and able to help the team have a strong start and maintain that momentum throughout the season.

Players to Watch

McCray returns to Trinity after a year away, and he will be a key ingredient to Trinity’s success. “At 6’6” he’ll be our biggest player in about 10 years,” said Coach Willis. “Combined with Seth and Tre, we’ll have an inside presence unlike anything we’ve had in my 13 years at Trinity.”

JV Conquerors

The Conquerors also have some new talent on the JV roster and to Trinity Christian Academy. “Freshmen Josiah Brown, Jordan Martinez, Luke Baker, and Braden Riddick are all first-year players who look to make an immediate impact,” said Coach Willis. “Along with Tyler Chapman, Mason Smith, and Griffin Edenfield, the JV team gives me confidence that the program is headed in the right direction.”

A total of 28 young men makes up the JV and varsity rosters.

Toughest Part of Schedule

About a third of the way through the season, the Conquerors will have a stretch of five out of seven games against opponents that defeated them last year. “That will be a stretch that will go a long way toward this team having a successful record,” said Coach Willis. “Our toughest game of the year is late in the season against Episcopal.” The Episcopal Eagles were last year’s district runner-up to Providence.

District Rivals

The only district rival the Conquerors will play in the regular season is Episcopal. District 3 is one of the toughest in Class 3A. “Between Episcopal, Providence, and Bishop Snyder,” said Coach Willis, “we will more than likely have 3 of the top 10 3A teams in the state in our district. Hopefully, we can increase that to 4 with Trinity.”

Biggest Challenge Preparing for the Season

Trinity has only one returning starter in Bialek, but Josh Robinson and Sam Byers both played significant varsity minutes last year. Coach Willis, though, will count on all three and more to motivate and mentor the younger players. “Along with senior Jace Walker, they will be expected to carry a major part of the load this season.”

Another challenge is the necessity of sharing the gym with six other teams: the JV and middle school boys, the girls’ varsity and middle school teams, and Trinity Baptist College’s men’s and women’s teams. “One of our biggest challenges is ALWAYS a lack of gym time,” said Coach Willis. The team, though, understands the situation, and the players all rise to the occasion. “The varsity team practices at 5:45 a.m. just to get consistent uninterrupted practice slots. It’s frustrating, but the guys have embraced the early morning sessions and are performing well despite an obvious lack of sleep.”

Coach’s Thoughts

“I have high hopes for this group,” said Coach Willis. “The chemistry is building exponentially every day. It’s really encouraging to see. We haven’t been over .500 as a team in about six years, and I’m hoping that changes with this group. I have three new coaches this season. Tommy Carr is assisting me with varsity, J.P. Ellison is coaching our JV team, and [former TBC Eagle] Jarious Rose is coaching the middle school. I’m super excited to have all of them on board, and I have complete confidence in all of their abilities to take Trinity Basketball to the levels of success we all hope to reach.”

The action begins on Tuesday, November 15. Click here for the varsity schedule on MaxPreps.


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