All across the state, teams are still trying to find answers early in the season. What will their identities be? Who will take the shots in the final minutes? How will they react to adversity?
So many of those questions are still up in the air, even for successful teams, that we still don’t truly know what to make of the basketball landscape in the state or the area.
But the early returns for some teams have been undeniably good. Federal Way has rolled through the early season so far. Mercer Island has gutted out two wins against two good teams. And yet there’s also the other side of things: Rainier Beach had cruised in every game before hitting a roadblock against Seattle Prep. Now the Vikings must take their first loss of the season and learn from it.
All of that, plus rankings and big performances, in this week’s edition of TFQ…
Federal Way showing all the right signs so far
It’s early, so that means most coaches evaluate their teams from two perspectives. On the one hand, coaches pick out the good things and positive moments from games to show improvement is being made. On the other, they nitpick and harp on mistakes and areas that need improvement.
Federal Way coach Jerome Collins is no different, especially when looking back at his team’s only close game this year – a 70-55 win against Curtis.
“I was telling the guys in the video session,” Collins said, “‘we won the game, we did a good job at times, but there were missed assignments and things we didn’t do.’ Those guys then came to work to improve that. And we did that the next time we came out and played.”
The Eagles, the second-ranked team in Class 4A, have rushed out to an impressive start so far this season. They are 6-0, have scored at least 68 points in every game and have held opponents to less than 40 points three times.
Federal Way doesn’t have any true stars, at least not in the form of a consistent 20- or 30-point scorer. But the Eagles are a deep team that gets contributions from all over the place. Brayon Blake and Deeshawn Tucker return from last year’s team. Malik Montoya is a developing sophomore. And Adrian Davis, a transfer from Mount Rainier, added even more punch this season.
Take Federal Way’s game against Curtis. Montoya, Davis and Rashawn Goosby each had 14 points. D’Londo Tucker, Deeshawn’s brother, had 11 for the Eagles. Deeshawn and Blake, the two players Collins calls his leaders, had a combined nine points in the 15-point win.
“We really believe in moving the ball to the open man,” Collins said. “In that sense, they remind of the 2009 championship team. It didn’t matter who scored.”
The Eagles are led by junior guard Deeshawn Tucker, who Collins calls his “court general, my extension.” Blake, a 6-foot-5 forward, helps control the back line for a smaller Federal Way team that has relied heavily on a full-court press.
“We are heavily defending on those two guys,” Collins said. “They’re our team captains, and we look to them for leadership. They both have really continued to get better each and every year.”
And that’s the goal Collins is harping on for his team right now, the same goal most coaches in the area are drilling home: Try to get better every day.
Because as Collins said, “We’re still not where we want to be.”
So far, so good.
Mercer Island hopes early-season heart will pay off in the playoffs
Mercer Island has played five games this season, all wins. Three have been decided by at least 20 points. But the other two, against 4A Bellarmine Prep and league foe Mount Si, were games in which the Islanders needed strong fourth quarter to make up for second-half holes.
Mercer Island trailed by as many as nine in the third quarter against Bellarmine Prep before rallying for an eight-point win. The Islanders trailed Mount Si by eight in the third before eventually winning 60-51.
“Our kids have showed a lot of heart in both those games,” Mercer Island coach Gavin Cree said.
And it’s for that reason that Mercer Island is 5-0 and ranked sixth in the state. The Islanders are the favorites to win KingCo 3A this year, and so far they’ve looked the part.
Backed with an experienced team – “It’s the best group we’ve had in terms of leadership,” Cree said – the Islanders have easily looked the part of a top 10 team so far. It all starts with 6-foot-8 senior and team captain Joe Rasmussen, an SPU commit who averages (WHAT) points per game.
Yet Rasmussen’s influence is more than statistical, although he has scored 20 points in Mercer Island’s last two games. Rasmussen is a big body who commands attention inside.
And when teams focus on limiting his touches inside, that opens up the outside for Mercer Island’s talented shooters to open fire.
“Most teams will front him and then bring a guy from the weak side so we can’t get him the ball,” Cree said. “And that opens up room for our guys on the perimeter to shoot the ball. I think we’ll be a team you’ll see shoot a lot of three-pointers and a lot of them will be open.”
Kaleb Warner scored 30 points in one game, Will Taylor had 18 in another and Nick Nordale had 17 in another. The Islanders are balanced and have a big frontcourt (In addition to the 6-foot-8 Rasmussen, Warner is 6-foot6 and Nordale is 6-foot-5).
And because of that, Mercer Island, which has lost in the regional round of the playoffs the last two years, has cast its eyes on a deeper run this season.
“One of our many goals for sure is to get to the Tacoma Dome,” Cree said.
Rainier Beach’s challenge
Rainier Beach entered Seattle Prep’s gym as the No. 1 team in Class 3A and the fifth-ranked team in Max Preps’ national poll. The Vikings had a roster that could go 12 deep, and all 12 were quality high school players.
And then, in the fourth quarter against Seattle Prep on Friday, at the hands of Prep’s D.J. Fenner, that was gone when the Vikings lost 59-57 after leading by 14 points. Losing, of course, is never seen as a good thing, and Beach didn’t treat it any differently.
“I never want to say a loss is a good thing,” Beach assistant coach Dave King said after the game.
Yet in the case of this year’s Beach team, it could be exactly what the Vikings need.
There is no questioning Beach’s talent. Shaqquan Aaron, a 6-foot-7 wing man, is receiving attention from major D-I programs. Marquis Davis is the most ferocious defender I’ve seen this year and maybe the most ferocious defender I’ve ever seen at the high school level. Djuan Piper is a 6-foot-5 player who can slice through the lane.
And that doesn’t even get to 6-foot-9 Fuquan Niles or 6-foot-8 Elijah Foster.
But having all that talent can also create a logjam. Who takes the big shots at the end of games? How often should a guy assert himself? What roles does everyone play?
Rainier Beach coach Mike Bethea said before the season that he always preaches a simple philosophy: If everyone buys in and works together, they’ll each get a piece of the pie at the end of the season.
It’s still extremely early in the season – it was only Beach’s fourth game of the year – so in no way, shape or form is it time to panic, or even question how good Beach is. That shouldn’t be up for discussion.
But the loss could give Beach an opportunity to learn and grow and hammer out some of the finer points of featuring so much talent.
Tip of the cap to…
– Stanwood’s Cannen Roberson, a 6-foot-5 junior, poured in 41 points on Tuesday in a 92-58 win against Marysville Getchell. According to the Everett Herald, Roberson scored his 41 points on 17-of-25 shooting, a 68-percent clip.
– Bothell’s Zach Lavine scored 29 points against Skyline on Tuesday and had 35 against Inglemoor on Friday.
– Mount Rainier’s Jamil Wilson-Jones had 31 points in a win against Kentridge on Tuesday.
– Edmonds-Woodway’s Travis Bakken had 24 points against Lynnwood on Tuesday.
– Jackson’s Jason Todd had 24 points against Cascade on Tuesday and 32 against Lynwood on Friday.
– Seattle Prep’s D.J. Fenner scored 39 against Eastside Catholic on Tuesday and 28 against Rainier Beach on Friday.
– Shorewood’s Josh Hawkinson scored 30 points against Meadowdale on Tuesday.
– Lake Stevens’ Dakota Tomson had 24 points against Snohomish on Friday.
– Kamiak’s Imaan Vincente had 32 points against Cascade on Friday.
– Cascade’s Steven Gallardo had 32 points against Kamiak on Friday.
– Mariner’s Ahmad-Woods had 24 points against Edmonds-Woodway on Friday.
– Mount Si’s Trent Riley had 26 points against Lake Washington on Friday and 26 against Mercer Island on Saturday.
– Eastside Catholic’s Mandrell Worthy had 25 points against Nathan Hale on Friday.
– Bishop Blanchet’s Matt Welch had 25 points against O’Dea on Friday.
– Franklin’s Patrick Ball had 24 points against Bainbridge on Friday.
– Chief Sealth’s Bronte Corbray had 23 points against Cleveland on Friday.
– Marysville Getchell’s Elijah Jordan had 31 points against Everett on Friday.
– Glacier Peak’s Zach Pederson had 27 points against Meadowdale on Friday.
– Renton’s Lavelle Smith had 29 points against Highline on Friday.
– Highline’s Erik Anderson had 28 against Renton on Friday.
1. Bothell 5-0
2. Federal Way 6-0
3. Garfield 4-1
4. Jackson 5-0
5. Central Valley (Spokane) 5-0
6. Olympia 7-0
7. Richland 4-1
8. Issaquah 4-1
9. Mead 5-1
10. Ballard 3-2
Out: Bellarmine Prep
1. Lincoln (Tacoma) 5-0
2. Seattle Prep 6-0
3. Rainier Beach 3-1
4. Franklin 5-0
5. Kamiakin 5-0
6. Mercer Island 5-0
7. Mountlake Terrace 5-1
8. University 4-2
9. Foss (Tacoma) 4-1
10. Lakeside 4-1
Out: Chief Sealth
1. Lynden 4-0
2. Renton 7-0
3. White River (Buckley) 6-1
4. Mark Morris (Longview) 4-0
5. Ellensburg 6-0
6. Pullman 4-1
7. Capital 5-2
8. Clover Park 3-3
9. West Valley (Spokane) 5-1
10. Ridgefield 3-2
Out: River Ridge