JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL) – The high school basketball season in Northeast Tennessee begins this week and the University High Bucs boys are antsy for it to begin.

“It’s really exciting,” senior guard AJ Murphy said. “It’s your last season – you want to make it count.”

U High turned in one of the best campaigns in school history in 2022-23, finishing with a record of 23-13. Thee Bucs claimed the District and Region 1A titles over Hampton and secured a sectional victory, as well.

The team grabbed a win in the state quarterfinals, before falling to top-seeded Middleton in the semifinals.

With all but one starter returning from last year’s group, players and coaches believe this could be a special year for the Johnson City squad.

“One of the things I was worried about would be the work ethic, because I didn’t want them to feel like they’ve arrived because they made the state tournament,” head coach Herman Rice said Sunday. “But this is the hardest working team I’ve ever had.”

“I think experience has a lot to do with it,” senior guard Peter Boynewicz explained. “We haven’t had much experience in the past and we made it really far last year, which gave us all great experience. We have most of our players back.”

“We certainly feel like it’s an advantage because we all play well together,” Murphy said. “We’ve been with each other through last year. We were really good last year. So everybody coming back is a really big confidence boost for us and it makes us feel pretty good.”

The season opens with tough tests against Alcoa and Morristown East this coming week.