As with the beginning of any season, many local boys hoops squads are replacing key players and won’t really start to see how their teams shake out until they get into the season. But teams are hard at work, with Foss, Lincoln, Wilson, Mount Tahoma, Bellarmine Prep and Stadium all getting together for the preseason jamboree at Foss on Nov. 24, with the JV teams starting at 2:30 p.m. and the varsity games at 5 p.m. And with a solid crop of talent returning at many schools, we spoke to local coaches to see who might be the big-time impact players on local courts this winter.
The Lions appear poised for another deep postseason run, returning four starters off a team that advanced to the 4A state semifinals. Leading the group is senior forward and Gonzaga commit Lucas Meikle, whose 6-foot-8 frame is a nightmare for opposing defenses. Senior guard Isaiah Flynn is lightning quick and can score in a variety of ways, and athletic forward Sefo Liufau is another elite talent up front. Senior point guard Jacob Salazar also returns to help run the show in the backcourt. Junior guards Carson Hollyoak and Mar’kese Jackson – an athletic up-and-comer – provide depth in the backcourt along with Rex Bodoia, and 6-foot-7 Capital transfer Jordan Jackson adds size up front. But the Lions won’t get caught up in their past success. “We need to buckle down, get to work and make sure we are the best team we can possibly be,” said head coach Bernie Salazar. “You have to prove yourself every day.”
First-year head coach Doug Cocke’ will look to lead the Tigers behind second-team all-league senior guard Eric Anderson-Connolly, who can score in multiple ways and at 6-foot-3 has a height advantage over most opposing guards. Joining Anderson-Connolly is senior honorable mention forward Corey Glackin-Coley, who battles up front and is an excellent rebounder. Long and athletic 6-foot-5 senior forward Nate Anderson will help the Tigers be stout up front, and senior Jacob Bills will be productive in the backcourt as well. But Cocke’ noted the Tigers will have to focus on defense and take advantage of fast break opportunities. “We’re really going to have to run when a missed shot happens, block out defensively and really control defensive field goal percentage.”
The Abes have to be looked at as one of the top 3A contenders in the state, as senior guard Tre’Shaun Fletcher – formerly Tre’Shaun Lexing – was a co-MVP of the Narrows 3A last season. Adding to the Abes’ star power in the back court is Clover Park transfer Ahmaad Rorie, the reigning 2A state player of the year that can score in bunches. “That’s the most talent we’ve had in a long time,” said head coach Aubrey Shelton. “They are both guys that can do it all…they’re going to be the big leaders on our team.” Junior guard Ar’Mond Davis is a deadly shooter from three-point range, and senior Latravion Satterwhite gives the Abes another athletic option.
The Falcons return the other half of the Narrows 3A co-MVP, senior forward Dezmyn Trent, who will look to lead Foss up front with his dominant play. “He had a really good summer,” Falcons head coach Mike Cocke’ said. “He’s shooting it better, and we rely on his leadership. He’s been through the fire. We’ll lean on him a lot.” Senior point guard Noah Hunthausen also has three years of experience helping direct the offense, and guard Jericho Ballard also returns after getting a fifth year of eligibility. Senior forward Jawan Osby brings toughness and will see an increased role, while junior forward Olashawan Miller is quickly improving and will make a mark as well.
After emerging to claim the Narrows 3A title last year, the Rams will have to replace some key players, but have the depth to be successful. Senior guard Ben Matz is a solid shooter and an imposing defender, and sophomore point guard Ivy Smith is fearless driving into the lane. Sophomore guards Julius Yates-Brown and Keun Thompson add depth in the backcourt, and an athletic freshmen class is headlined by guards Montre Brown and David Jenkins and 6-foot-6 forward Alfonso Anderson. “This is the deepest group we’ve ever had,” said head coach Dave Alwert, the reigning Narrows 3A coach of the year. “We’re probably going to be a little more up-tempo.”
The Thunderbirds return senior all-league second-team guard Mychael Rollins, who should be the leading scorer and has some serious range. The only other returner is sophomore guard Dominique Hammond, who should be a key player, but the Thunderbirds will rely on some newer players. Senior wing player Brian Neal will be solid on the outside, and senior post Andre Wiley will look to contribute inside. With no player standing taller than 6-foot-3, coach Owen Chambers noted it will be important to focus on their own game to stay competitive in the tough Narrows 3A. “It’s definitely going to be a challenge for us, because those teams are very talented,” he said, noting the Thunderbirds will stick to their trademark pressure defense and fast-break offense.
Head coach Mark Lovelady heads into his 20th season having to replace Nisqually 1A MVP Jordan King, but noted that the group is more balanced this year. “There are no all-stars on the team,” he said. “Any one of those guys could get 10 points a night. I really see a super balanced lineup.” Leading the group is junior 6-foot-4 point guard Tyler Bogue and junior guards Taylor Roelofs and Jordan Bowles. Senior 6-foot-6 center Jake Comfort and 6-foot-5 sophomore Luke Grocott give the Eagles some size up front, and senior guard Paul Kunitsa also returns to provide another scoring threat on the outside.
The Crusaders return eight of their 10 players from last season, led by sophomore guards Dayton Pascua – who averaged 12 points per game last year – and Brandon Stoehr, a skilled shooter. Athletic forward Dalton Wintersole is a good scorer and rebounder up front, and at 6-foot-4 has the size to be a game changer. Senior forwards Taylor Martindale, Brandon Hughey and Drew Jordan all stand 6-feet or taller, and should also be productive. But head coach Eric Sivertson said the key to being competitive will be the defensive performance. “We have a lot of guys where that is their primary focus, so that makes us stronger,” he said, adding the Crusaders should employ lots of full-court, man-to-man presses this season.