SIGNAL PEAK — Along with a pair of third-year players, the Central Arizona College men’s basketball team will have eight newcomers when it takes the floor Tuesday night at the George Young Activity Center for its season opener against Park University-Gilbert’s junior varsity squad.

Eighth-year CAC coach Tramaine Aaron said having two months to prepare for the upcoming campaign will be beneficial. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, the Vaqueros were limited to two weeks of practice last year before embarking on a truncated 13-game season.

“All the uncertainty affected us because it was hard to build consistency,” Aaron said. “We didn’t have any COVID issues, but you never knew if games were going to be canceled.”

Central finished with a 4-9 record, capped by a 77-60 loss to Arizona Western in the opening round of the Region 1 tournament. The Vaqueros went 3-7 in Arizona Community College Athletic Conference play.

The returners are guard Brenton Woods, who was named to the all-ACCAC first team, and 6-foot-7 center Keivon Robinson. Woods averaged 16.9 points last season, which ranked third in the ACCAC, along with 4.9 rebounds, 4.4 assists and 2.2 steals. Robinson averaged 3.4 points and 2.8 rebounds.

Guard John White Jr., 6-7 forward Jamison Epps and 6-6 forward Keyshaun Bolen will join Woods in the starting lineup, along with Kenneth Franklin Jr. or Brahjon Thompson at guard. The rotation also will include Robinson and 6-6 forward Simeon Richardson-Collins. Rounding out the roster are guards Raishun Wilson and Kishon Butler.

“With Woods and Robinson, we have a good base,” Aaron said. “They can help facilitate what we want from the new guys in terms of our basketball language, culture and values.”

Aaron said the newcomers “bring a lot of energy.”

Athleticism and a willingness to share the ball are the team’s main strengths, he said.

“They want to play for each other and not just for themselves,” Aaron said. “These guys know how to play the game. They just have to make good decisions on and off the court. If we can keep our composure, we’ll be fine.”

CAC plays three other home games against nonconference opponents (Taylormade Prep on Thursday, Dream City Post Grad on Saturday and PHH Post Grad on Nov. 11) prior to beginning its 20-game ACCAC schedule Nov. 17 at home against Eastern Arizona.

All six of the Maricopa County schools are slated to return to action after opting not to play last season. Pima was limited to five games, three of which were against ACCAC teams that did not count in the standings.

Cochise advanced to the NJCAA Tournament with an 83-62 victory over Arizona Western in the Region 1 tourney title game. As the No. 20 seed in the 24-team national tournament, the Apaches lost 86-68 to No. 13 Ranger, Texas in the first round.

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