Boys’ Basketball: Tigers bring a little bit of everything into 2011-12
In high school basketball, a coach generally gets height or quickness, but rarely both.
A coach will have a couple Division-I-type talents or solid overall depth, but rarely both.
And a coach will get a handful of single-sport year-round basketball die-hards or a roster littered with multi-sport competitor-leaders. But again, rarely both.
Welcome to Corey Thacker’s 2011-12 Douglas High Basketball bag of tricks.
Height, depth, athleticism, experience, potential, leadership, work ethic. It would seem that if you can name it, coach Thacker can find it somewhere on his 13-man roster heading into this year.
The Tigers have everything from the top-rated 2013 college prospect in the entire state to the 2011 state pole vault champion. They can go with a legitimate lineup that averages 6 feet, 5 inches per player, or they can get down and run with the fastest of them with a lineup topping out at 6-4.
“It’s going to be fun mixing and matching,” Thacker said with a laugh. “We will definitely play around with what we do, depending on the opponent.
“We can go small if we want to, or we can go big. We’ll have some fun with it depending on if teams are throwing a man or a zone at us. We’ll adapt our style, and I think that will be important this year, given the quality that is out there in the league.”
First and foremost, though, the Tigers will be looking simply to get everyone on the same page.
Douglas had seven of its 13 players join the team only last week after football season ended. Monday was the first time the entire roster had been suited up at practice.
“We had one real practice together last Tuesday, we scrimmaged on Wednesday and looked terrible,” Thacker said. “We’ll get there, it’ll just be a matter of getting everyone up to speed.”
Once that happens, though, Thacker said he expects to run up to a 10-man rotation.
“We’re going to be pretty deep,” he said. “That’s a great thing to have. We’re not as deep at the post yet, but I think we can be. We still have one of the best post players this school has ever had (junior Hunter Myers) and we’re going to be able to shoot the ball a lot better than in the recent past.
“We have more kids that like to shoot and want to shoot. That’ll add another wrinkle to what we do. We’re still going to keep the pressure play all the time. We struggled with pressure defense over the summer. We have a lot of kids that are soft defenders. We have to be more physical, and that is one thing that is not there yet.
“We have a lot of leaders, though, a lot of kids that work hard and it’ll be interesting to see what becomes of it.”
The team will be replacing four of five starters, six of its seven top scorers and its top three outside shooters from last year’s regional runner-up squad.
But that one returning starter is an important piece.
Junior forward Hunter Myers (6-7, 215) enters his third season in the starting lineup after averaging 13.1 points per game on his way to first-team all-region honors last year.
ESPN rates him as the top junior in Nevada above Bishop Gorman’s Rashad Muhammed and Las Vegas’ Juwan Major.
He’s receiving strong interest from Arizona State, Gonzaga, Stanford, Nevada, Utah, USC, Yale, Harvard, and University of San Francisco. His high GPA (4.5) and heavy course load have been especially attractive to the Ivy League schools, and he’s also gotten steady attention from MIT.
ESPN also places him as the 43rd rated junior in the Western United States and the 52nd rated small forward in the country.
“Hunter just works hard and he can make a big difference,” Thacker said. “We’re going to try him out at all points on the floor, except for point guard. We’ll be moving him around a bit.”
Filling into the starting five will be any combination of about nine different players.
“We have a lot of pieces to work with,” Thacker said. “We just have to get out, compete and get better every game.”
Senior Connor Hughes is the likely starter at point guard after a strong season in backup of Chris Downs (now at Butte College). He hit 13 3-pointers last year and showed a strong grasp of Douglas’ offense.
“He’s a leader on the floor, he can shoot and he know’s what we’re doing very well,” Thacker said.
Senior Nick Maestretti (6-1, 154), the defending state pole vault champion as well as the top wide receiver for the football team during the fall, also likely slides into a starting spot on the wing as he enters his third year at the varsity level.
“Nick is a slasher who can get to the rim and he’s one of our better defenders,” Thacker said. “He’ll plug up some holes in the defense.”
Nate VonAhsen (6-4, 159) is also coming off a stellar football season and could compete for starting time on the wing.
“Nate and Nick are by far our best athletes,” Thacker said. “Nate is a big guard and he presents some matchup difficulties.”
Another strong candidate along the wing is 6-6 senior Jake Tessmann, whom Thacker called one of the best pure shooters in the league.
“He’s one of the best shooters we have,” Thacker said. “If he can find a spot on defense and step it up there, he’ll play a lot of minutes for us.”
Things get interesting down low.
Aside from Myers, senior Trevor Shaffer (6-3, 220) appears to be the likely starter heading into the season.
“He was in kind of a back seat role last year, but he still scored a fair amount of points,”
Thacker said. “He can be in the driver’s seat this year scoring and playing post. He will be able to give our other bigs a break too.”
Second-year varsity foward Matt Wylie (6-4, 220) will also figure into the mix up front, “He’ll be in a bigger role for us than he was last year,” said Thacker, as will 6-2 junior Connor Greth.
“Connor is another post who just works hard and gets it done,” Thacker said. “He’s athletic and quick and gives us some interesting options in the frontcourt.”
And that brings up one of the most interesting players on Douglas’ roster this season.
Sophomore James Herrick comes in at 6-10, 220 with solid athleticism for a player of such height.
“He worked really hard in the fall and he’s developed quickly,” Thacker said. “He’s a sophomore and he’s still learning some things. There is a lot of room to develop. We brought him up to varsity so he could develop. He’ll go against Hunter and Trevor every day and I think that will pay big dividends for him.
“We’re going to bring him along and hopefully by the end of the year he can be a solid part of the rotation.”
Austin Evans, 6-4, is the team’s other sophomore and will see time on the wing. Of note, he hit 39 3-pointers in 20 JV games last year.
“He worked hard over the summer increasing his quickness and his defense,” Thacker said.
Junior Michael Nolting is coming off a stellar football season where he broke every single-season passing record for the Tigers and tallied a school record 3,245 yards of total offense. He’ll back up Hughes at point guard.
“He’s just a great athlete that understands how to lead and play under control,” Thacker said.
Joe Syammach and Steven Werth are each JV call-ups who Thacker said simply do everything the coaching staff asks.
“You ask them to run to Reno to win a game for us, and they’d do it,” Thacker said. “Joe just does everything right. He defends really hard and he’s a good shooter. Steven is the same as Joe. He does everything we ask of him and he’ll do whatever it takes to help us win a game.”
The Tigers will get a quick blast of games heading into the thick of league play to figure things out.
Douglas will play 15 games in 24 days starting Tuesday at home against North Valleys.
During that stretch, the Tigers will travel to San Diego to the presitgious Torrey Pines Holiday Classic and will play in the Wild West Shootout in Reno against power programs like Lakes (Wash.) and Inglewood (Calif.).
“Not a lot of practice, a lot of play, the kids are excited about it,” Thacker said. “We’re going to find out who we are real quick.
“The Wild West will be good for our guys to be exposed to what is out there and going to San Diego will be ridiculous. It’ll be some good tests, it’ll be good to see where they stack up against some high, high level teams.”
The Northern 4A itself will provide a high level of competition this year.
“There is no clear-cut No. 1 heading in,” Thacker said. “Hug is returning just about everyone and that’s big. Manogue will be solid again. They lose guards, but they are huge. They’re just a big team.
“Reed will be surprising to a lot of people. They have a bunch of great athletes and they’ll be pretty good. McQueen and Reno will be good and Galena will be a lot better. It’ll be an interesting regular season. There will be a lot of people playing for that top spot.”