Vineland High School boys basketball coach Travis Amstutz stressed getting bigger and stronger for this season.

"The kids really put a lot of work in during the spring, summer and fall, getting into the weight room," Amstutz said. "We came in four days a week during the summer for three hours. I'm a football guy at heart, and I'm always preaching to them that there is no substitution for strength."

With the team getting a year older, he feels this is the year to show improvement.

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"Last year I had to deal with a lot of inexperience, and on top of that I had two of my best sophomores get injured," Amstutz said. "Anything that could have went wrong last year really went wrong."

One of those sophomores was Alphonso Smith, who will be Vineland's biggest player on the court. The 6-foot-4 forward broke his leg and missed last season.

Vineland's top scorer is senior Eddie Thomas.

"He's been a leader of this team considering I didn't have many veterans, and he was a leader last year," Amstutz said.

Amstutz will look for more senior leadership from Jola Babalola and James Coates. They will get a new player from Sacred Heart in junior soccer standout Steven Tobolski.

"He's been a pleasant surprise," Amstutz said. "He's bringing a lot of energy and a toughness to the team that we lacked."

Contact John Russo:



League: Cape-Atlantic League American

Group: South Jersey Group IV

Coach: Travis Amstutz (15-37, two seasons)

2012-13 record: 7-18

2013-14 prediction: Spoiler - Vineland is improved and looking to compete with teams.

Key players: Eddie Thomas Sr., 6-0, G; Alphonso Smith Jr., 6-4, F; Jola Babalola Sr., 5-10, G; James Coates, Sr., 6-2, F; Steven Tobolski Jr., 6-1, G;

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