"We're a very young team with only two returners. But we're much improved and we'll compete," said Gehler. "It's going to take some time, it's going to take a couple years to get to where we want to be, but that's part of this whole process. We have a pretty good team right now and I think down the road we'll be very solid."
That was the hope last year, but after a virtual civil war among team members Gehler ridded the team of its more troublesome players and surrounded himself with those who wanted to play for him.
"All the players that are here now are guys that want to be here. We have good players that are good people. There's a lot more responsibility coming from these guys. They take care of things on and off the court. This is just a good group of guys," said Gehler.
Along with Atchison and Estrada, the only other local product on the team is freshman guard Hugo Estrada of Calexico. The majority of the players are from the San Diego area.
From San Diego are guards Jason Byrd and Nate Moore and forwards Anthony Scott and Brandon Warner. Also from Southern California are forwards Jesse Doubek of Santee and Tyrese Watkins of Oceanside and guard Ian McKeithen of Escondido.
Said the 6-foot-4 Doubek: "We have a lot of good athletes on this team and I think we have the potential to win a lot of games. But we need to play with high intensity every game, just continue to get to know each other and just develop this team so we can build on what we have."
Out-of-state players include guards Michael Jayne of Seattle and Edward Thornton of Memphis, Tenn., and forwards Glen Ellis of Phoenix and Shane Pollock of Bullhead City, Ariz.
"We've been practicing together for about three months and I think that right now we're where we want to be," said the 6-foot-2 Pollock. "One of the strengths of this team is that almost everyone is interchangeable. You could bring like three guys off the bench in place of the starters and there won't be a drop off. We don't have great size, but you don't necessarily need size to win. With this team we have, I anticipate a lot of good things."
Rounding out the team is 6-foot-4 forward Nabil Mebarki of Saint Priest, France. Mebarki is the third sophomore on the team and is scheduled to start at small forward.
"I think the other teams in the conference don't expect us to be that good this year. So I think we'll be able to catch them by surprise," said Mebarki. "Right now we are a pretty good team, but I think we can be really good if we keep practicing and working hard."
The Arabs' first home game of the season will be at 3 p.m. Saturday as they host Victory Valley College.