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Dealing with high hoops hopes
Neil Fryer knows the expectations for the Central Kitsap Cougars will be high. He knows the expectations on him will be high. But if last season was any indication, this CK squad is just getting started.
Neil is the lone starter from last years 21-7 (12-2) squad that won the Narrows League Bridge Division and finished fifth at the 4A state tournament. After losing five seniors, including Narrows League first team member Brice Brooks, most programs would start rebuilding. But then again, most programs dont lose five seniors and replace them with seven more.
In fact, CK was so confident heading into last nights opener at Centralia that Neil said this team may just be better than the last.
Im just excited, Neil said. Im pumped up, feeling good. I think well do as good or maybe better than last year. We have a little different look this year.
Neil, a Narrows League second team member himself, knows the pressure will be on him to help shoulder the load that Brooks carried. But he also knows that as long as he can help the team win, his role is insignificant.
Im going to be whatever my team needs me to be for them, he said. If I need to pass or score or play defense, Ill do whatever I need to to help the team win.
CK coach Tim Fryer, Neils dad, knows that the transition will take a little more work than that, but he too feels the team can be just as good.
I think were a little quicker than we were last year, Tim said. We can do some things on defense we couldnt do last year. We might not change much on offense, but on defense, we have a couple different schemes to throw at people.
Because CK is more of a speed team, they will be looking to utilize the full court and put up some points in transition.
Well definitely push the ball a lot more and pressure more this year, Neil said. Well have to concentrate on rebounding a lot. But we probably gained more than we lost.
Tim agreed, saying their gain in speed also means a loss in size. But other than an emphasis on rebounding and staying physical, the coach said CK wont change much.
Rebounding is going to be our concern, Tim said. Weve focused on rebounding a little more than last year. We wont do a whole lot new this year.
On some teams, having a coach and star player as father and son could be a distraction. But at CK, nobody gives it a second thought. Especially father and son.
Its actually pretty good, Tim said. Weve got a great father-son relationship. The way I treat it is Ive got 12 sons on the team. Neil is very coachable. He works very hard. Hes very serious about his basketball. Hes got his own personal goals and goals for the team.
Were maybe a little too much the same person at times, Neil said. After a loss, well give each other space. But its nice. I like having him around. I think hes doing great for the program.
I call him coach. He looks at me the same as everyone else.
Along with Neil, CK will be relying on Glen Perkins, JR Gordon and Trent Bearbower to help shoulder the load. Bearbower specifically has stepped into more of a leadership role on the team, Tim said.
Neil was kind of a leader last year, Tim said. Hes always been a leader. When Neil plays well, the team plays well. When Trents on, hes as good a shooter as there is. As far as leadership, I would say Trent Bearbower. Hes kind of my legs around the school right now.
Tim added that teams that key up only on Neil will have an unpleasant surprise.
I think a lot of people will be surprised by our balance, Tim said. Defensively, teams kind of focus on Neil. That might be a mistake.
The Narrows League will again be tough, Tim said, especially South Kitsap, which finished second at state last year.
Theres no doubt SK will always be someone you have to look out for, Tim said. They have a lot of talent back. And you have to watch out for North Kitsap. They have a lot of returners. The big mystery team in my mind is Gig Harbor. Well see what happens.
Neil knows the road back to state will be tough, but he is also ready and willing to make whatever sacrifice needed.
Obviously, I want to do whatever I can, Neil said. My personal goal is to win as many games as I can. Itd be nice to lead the team in scoring or something, but when it comes down to it, Im the kind of guy that would rather score zero and win than score 50 and lose.
And regardless of whatever happens this season, Neil just wants to make sure the same basketball sprit is passed on.
I think we kind of started something with ourselves and we passed it on to the underclassmen, Neil said. We want CK to be a basketball school again.
New coach, new outlook
Yes, the Olympic Trojans graduated eight seniors from last years squad that went 9-12 (6-8). And they also have a new head coach. To most people, those are signs of instability that would seem to point Oly again towards the bottom end of the standings. But new coach Tyson Whitfield clearly isnt one of those people.
Im excited, Whitfield said. Our guys are looking good. Theyre excited. Theyre going hard.
Whitfield is in his first year as the Trojans coach, replacing the retired Robert Polk after a seven-year tenure. And based on what hes seen, hes ready to get his team on the court. Because while everyone else is talking about Central Kitsap and South Kitsap, hes thinking of another.
Im not really worried about other teams in the league, he said. Im worried about us. And thats what I tell the guys. We have to pick up our game to the level where everyone is talking Olympic basketball this and Olympic basketball that.
Whitfield nearly had a scouting opportunity last season when he served as an assistant coach at Davis High School. CK beat Davis in the fifth place/eighth place game at the state tournament.
The funny thing is I missed that game, Whitfield said. I was finishing up my schooling at (Central Washington University.)
Olympic is going to be a fast team, relying on quickness and a strong transition game. Leading the way for the Trojans is Reagan Logova. The two-way Trojan football star is ready to help launch the Trojans attack.
(Reagan) brings everything Im looking for, Whitfield said. Hes not a real vocal guy, but he leads by example. Hes physical on both ends of the floor. Defensively, he likes to get in your face. Once hes in transition, good luck catching him. Hopefully we can bring the best out of his talents.
Whitfield also likes Olys inside game, despite their lack of size. Josh Jones (61) and Travis Moore (63) will team up on the inside.
Theyve got some big bodies, Whitfield said. Theyll shove some people around. Travis is looking good inside. Hes got the ability to step out on the wing and put one up on the taller guys. Josh Jones is looking good. Hes a good solid post player with some good moves inside. He does all the little things, knows his fundamentals. Hes more the vocal leader.
Oly will be the underdog in most of its matchups this season, but that doesnt bother Whitfield. In fact, he said the team should perform better with less pressure on them.
Ill take being the underdog, he said. You can walk in here thinking youre going to win and lose by 10, 20 points. It makes it easier as a team. They come in and the only pressure on them is what we as a staff put on them and what they put on themselves.
Despite what others may say about the Olympic program, its easy to see the confidence exuded by its head coach. Whitfield makes it clearly known that this team knows where it wants to go. But he also knows that life goes on outside of the gym.
We want to win the league, Whitfield. We want to go to the playoffs. We want to go to state. I come in here with an old college motto, Leave it better than you found it. That may not mean wins and losses, but teaching them how to be good young men. As long as they do that, itll be a successful season.
And if nothing else, Whitfield assures that this years team should be fun to watch.
I just invite everyone in the community to come out and support Oly basketball, he said. Theyll be a fun team to watch. Guys will be diving all over the place. You might end up with some sweat on you if you come.
Eagles hoping to take flight
For the past two seasons, the Klahowya Eagles boys basketball team has been on the verge of taking its next step. After knocking on the door of the state playoffs with two consecutive winner-to-state/loser-out games, the Eagles are still on the outside looking in. And although they have yet to make their first trip to state, coach Scott McMinds said the team accomplished a lot in their district outings.
It was a tough one, McMinds said. Our goal last year was to make state. We were a pretty senior-dominated group last year, so we were disappointed we didnt make our goal.
But were no longer a team people can take lightly. Thats something I take great pride in and the kids take pride in. No matter who were against, were going to be tough and were going to be scrappy.
The Eagles, who finished the regular season last year with a 8-16 (5-8) mark, know the road back to districts will not be easy.
After losing six seniors, the Eagles are a young, inexperienced team. Of their five varsity returners, only two are seniors (Kyle Peachy and Alex Alexander). Among the lost is last seasons leading scorer, Ryan McElwee, who averaged more than 15 points per game.
But McMinds said because there is no one player he can rely on, he depends on all 12.
These guys are like blue-collar workers, McMinds said. We dont have superstud racehorses. But they show up everyday, they bring their lunch pail and they work. Everything this team achieves will be because they worked hard.
Klahowya has some weapons, including sophomore John Rarig, who figures to be the first four-year varsity letterer in Klahowya history. The explosive 64 sophomore can do just about everything on the court. Plus, McMinds said his ability to excel off the court will also help him.
(John) is a big kid that has really worked hard with his outside shot and his inside moves, McMinds said. He can play anywhere on the floor. And hes very knowledgeable. He has a 4.0 GPA. He gets it done in the classroom. And he takes that out on the court. Hes a fantastic athlete. I expect lots of good from him.
While Rarig helps alleviate the departure of McElwee, several others on the team also figure to make a strong impact. In fact, one of the teams youngest players, freshman Caleb Leavitt, could end up starting.
Hes got excellent vision, great court sense and is probably one of our purist shooters, McMinds said. Itll take him a little time to get up to speed. But hell be a terrific asset.
Returning juniors Seth Seamans and Dan Leenstra also figure prominently into the mix. McMinds said while Rarig adds some scoring pop, Leenstra will help add rebounding and presence inside. Leenstra is currently sidelined with hamstring problems.
(Leenstra) a force to be reckoned with, McMinds said. Once hes healthy, hell be a force. Hes worked a lot on his presence around the rim.
McMinds said because of the youth on the team, he is still figuring out a lineup that takes full advantage of his teams skills and talents.
Weve really got a young team, McMinds said. There is young in the sense that they are young 15- and 16-year-olds. But they are young in respect to being familiar with one another as well. Were meshing a bunch of skills and experience levels.
Im still trying to piece together what works best with this group. Were simplifying some things to some extent and throwing in different things we havent used before.
Because of the roster change, Klahowya is faster than the team from a year before. As a result, McMinds said he will try to implement more full court strategies, trying to create more opportunities in transition.
But ultimately, the Eagles have just one goal and theyll be working hard for it. These Eagles want to land back at districts and take it from there.
A good goal for us is to be competitive night in and night out, McMinds said. Were going to play some tough teams. If we make it to districts, thats a huge accomplishment. Thats where were shooting.