Boys’ Basketball: Tigers take on new defensive look |

Boys’ Basketball: Tigers take on new defensive look

by Joey Crandall

Returning five players – only one of them with significant starting experience – from a rebuilding year, the Douglas High boys’ basketball team enters the 2009-10 season with plenty of question marks.

The team lost its top five scorers and four key players out of its frontcourt rotation.

The top returning scorer averaged less than five points per game.

Filling in will be seven new faces, including a sophomore and a freshman.

But what they lack in experience, they are going to make up for in work ethic.

“I think we have 12 solid guys,” said Douglas coach Corey Thacker, who is entering his third season. “They’re working very hard. This is the hardest working group I’ve had since I’ve been here.

“Depth-wise we’ll be solid. We might struggle a bit at first with our youth and inexperience, but they will make up for it with their work ethic. It’ll just be a matter of how quickly they can catch up.”

There won’t be sweeping changes to the Tigers’ approach, but it’ll be hard not to notice a significant difference from the squads of the recent past.

For the first time in quite a while, Douglas will be without a physically imposing player roaming the middle. Keith Olson (6-9, 260), Jeff Nady (6-7, 260) and Parker Robertson (6-4, 280) occupied the post for the past six seasons. All three are now playing at the Division I level (Nady and Robertson in football as linemen).

Douglas will go with a smaller, quicker, sleeker and even deeper look to its front court this year, led by junior returner Jorey Scott (6-5, 220). He’ll be joined by junior varsity call-ups Matt Thomas and Kameron VanWinkle and 6-4 freshman Hunter Myers.

“I’m really happy with the group we have up front,” Thacker said. “They make up a pretty decent unit. They’re not small, but they’re not big either. We’ll still run our offense through the post, but they give us some more options on both sides of the ball.

“Jorey has improved and grown a lot after a good season last year. Matt did a great job at the JV level and Kameron sees the floor well, knows about body positions and will make a great compliment player on the post.

“Hunter is really a brilliant kid. He’s taking AP calculus here this year as a freshman. He picks things up right away, and that’ll be important for him to kind of catch up with the rest of the group. “

Point guard Chris Downs is the Tigers’ only returning starter, but he’ll have plenty of competition from fellow returner Luis Pina-Duarte, transfer Jeremy Burkhart and JV call-up Brett Anderson.

“The point will be our deepest position,” Thacker said. “We have four guys pushing for the spot. Chris is the returning starter and Jeremy transferred in from Kansas. He’s quick, he can shoot it, he gets to the rim and he sees the floor well. Luis and Brett are going to be right in there too. The competition will be huge.”

The Tigers will also present a couple of intriguing combinations on the wings with juniors Austin Neddenriep (the team’s leading returning scorer at 4.3 ppg) and Garrett Getty returning.

Junior Theo Denson and sophomore Nick Maestretti will make the jump up from JV at the position as well.

“Austin and Garrett are guys that can slash and get to the rim, which will be an important part of what we do,” Thacker said. “Theo has just worked really hard in the offseason and got a lot bigger.

“Nick is very athletic. He’s like Austin in that he can get to the rim when he wants to. He likes to stick his nose in there and he can shoot the pull-up jumper.”

Thacker he said he is most excited about the team’s defensive potential.

“Defensively, everyone is just flying around,” he said. “They want to get their hands on the ball. Defensively, they have really taken it to another level.

“We’re looking to be 94 feet all the time. We’re going to try to press as much as we can. We want to pick up as soon as we can go and use man, zone, whatever just to keep the other team off guard.

“Our team speed is there overall and athletically I think we can match up. I really want us to be able to get after it defensively, really make it hard to get the ball up the court.”

Thacker said it’s too early to say where his squad figures into the league race, but he mentioned one school that set themselves apart during the offseason.

“I think people are chasing Manogue,” he said. “They have a great sophomore, something like 6-5, and they have a bunch of great players coming back like Bobby Hunter, Niles Lujan and Pat John. They’re still going to run the same attacking style.

“Damonte Ranch will be solid and Galena will be in there. It should be a competitive season.”