Seattle Prep recently won the Father George National Jesuit Christmas Tournament in Washington D.C. and are 8-2 overall, but more importantly, 3-1 in Metro play. With very winnable games against Nathan Hale and Chief Sealth this week, the Panthers should roll into a Jan. 13th matchup at Lakeside in great position in the Mountain Division.
The Panthers are an interesting mixture of young with a few experienced seniors. Jack Stewart and Jordan Kitchen have a wealth of experience and sophomores Collin Welp, J’raan Brooks and Aaron Nettles.
Here is some of my conversation with them from today.
On the tournament: “I think it was a good test for us. We got to see our true identity. Played to our strengths, kind of. I think it was great for us.”
On the trip off the court: “We went to the Lincoln Memorial … it was eye-opening, all the different sights and museums. It was big.”
On where the team is at: “A grade, I think we’re about a C-plus, a B-minus.”
On why he grades so low: “I think we have a lot of potential, and once we get that down and kind of get better at defense, better at offense, I think we’ll be really successful.”
On what a successful season would be: “A successful season would be getting to districts, getting to state and competing for that championship.”
On the toughness of Metro: “I love to play against teams like Rainier Beach, Garfield, O’Dea, those are big rivalries.”
On the tournament: “Off the basketball court, it was a lot of fun, a lot of fun going to D.C. The whole team, coaches all with us, touring the Mall, all the museums. It was pretty special to go to the nation’s capital. On the court, the teams, it was a competitive tournament. It was cool to be in a Jesuit tournament. They’re all kind of the same type of school as us. The competition was good. It was cool to play teams from east coast who we normally wouldn’t play. It was a lot of fun.”
On how the team plays when successful: “We’re grinding on the defensive end, making the other team work. Offensively, we’re pounding it inside and then that’s getting the shooters open, as well, and the bigs are dominating down low. It starts on the defensive end, though, when we can grind on the other team and make them tired, makes it easier on offense.”
Coach Mike Kelly
On the team: “We’re improving, so I think from the first game of the year, we’re getting a little bit more organized, we’re starting to find a little bit more of an identity for us. We’ve played 10 games now, so we’re at a point now where it’s really important roles are worked out, and we understand what it is we’re trying to do and stick with each other on the court. I’m hopeful we can play better basketball. I definitely believe we’re a better team than we were the first two or three weeks of the year.”
On senior leaders: “Jack and Jordan are our two seniors, but they’re old-soul seniors, so they have a lot of varsity games under their belt. Both of them started as sophomores, both of them had very good experience playing with [D.J.] Fenner as a senior. That team won a lot of games. We rely on them a lot for their leadership and their stability. They’re both really selfless.”
On the young kids: “I don’t think it’s a secret that we have a couple young kids that are pretty good. A lot of teams in Metro have young kids that are pretty good, so we can’t get too happy about that. I look at Garfield, I look at Rainier Beach, I look at Blanchet, some other schools, they’re all carrying talented young kids. But Jack and Jordan are a calming influence for our team and they do a lot of different things for us. That’s a long way of saying we’re relying on them a lot.”
On Collin Welp:“I think it’s a jump. It’s not something out of what we see in his skill set. He’s a stretch four, and he’s a skilled four. But I think what where Jordan’s got to in his development is his confidence is growing. So I think what he saw at the tournament, I don’t think there was anything that was like ridiculous or he played above himself. I think he was just solid and he played actually within himself, but he played with a confidence that just hadn’t happened quite yet.”