New-look Tigers aim for same intensity
The Douglas boys basketball program has come into its own over the past six seasons.
The Tigers have advanced to the regional title game four times during that stretch and qualified for the state tournament twice.
Last year, they won the school’s first league title in 15 years.
For the Tigers to make a return this season, or to break through and capture that elusive regional title, they’ll have to do it with an almost entirely new starting lineup.
“It’s the beginning of the year and just like always there is a lot of work to do,” said Douglas coach Corey Thacker. “We’re working on team concepts and trying to gel.
We’ve have to get a new group of guys all on the same page, and their ability to work as a team is going to determine a lot as to how far we can go.”
There are plenty of known commodities with this group –all-state 6-7 forward and recent Harvard commit Hunter Myers, for example – and a total of five returning lettermen. The overall makeup of the roster, though, will be largely different than what Tiger fans have become accustomed to over the past several seasons.
“We won’t be in a full-court defense as much,” Thacker said. “We might not be as quick in the front court as we have been, but we are longer and bigger than we have been in quite a while.
“We’re working on a lot of half-court presses and we should be effective in those situations. The bottom line, especially with the league is made up this year, we have to be able to play good team defense. We have some guys who can score, but we have to toughen up on defense.”
Myers leads the talented returning core for Douglas. He’s an early a state player of the year candidate and is coming off a junior campaign during which he averaged more than 16 points per game and totalled 24 3-pointers, 136 rebounds, 57 blocks and 19 assists.
He’ll be joined in the frontcourt by junior 6-10 center James Herrick, who improved throughout his sophomore campaign and has only gotten stronger over the summer.
“A lot of teams are going to be concentrating on Hunter, but James is someone they’re really going to have to pay attention to as well,” Thacker said. “He’s improved his strength and aggressiveness big time and he’s worked hard on his shot. He can knock down some shots from 15-16 feet. If those two guys are knocking down shots, it will cause some trouble for defenses.”
Newcomer Sam Broersma will help add some more depth to the front court.
“He gives a little different dynamic up front, gives us some added options,” Thacker said. “We’re excited to see what he can do.”
On the wings, Thacker said he sees an upgrade in shooting.
“We’ve got guys that can really shoot it,” he said. “We’ll be scoring a lot more from the wings. It’s funny, because in the past those were the positions we relied to slash, attack and create. We don’t have as many slashers this year, but we have high expectations in terms of our outside shooting.
“Guys like Austin Evans (17 3-pointers in 2011-12), Jaden Wass and Pat Johnson – they can all shoot. We’re in a situation where we can fill the floor with four or five shooters and still have a big guy on the floor. That gives us some really nice options.”
Syammach is the early front-runner to claim the point guard position, but he’ll get competition from Michael Nolting and AJ Pfaffenberger.
“Joe really stepped up last summer and has done a good job,” Thacker said. “Michael is a guy we’re looking at to fill more of that athletic 2 (off guard) spot and AJ can stand in there too. All three are good options that could all step up and start at some point.”
The league itself is on an upswing, with many schools returning large portions of varsity players.
“There’s going to be a lot of parity, there are just a lot of good teams,” Thacker said. “Galena has a new coach (Bryan Voyles) and they have a lot of great players coming back. Spanish Springs will have a great team, Reno will be good, Damonte Ranch always has a strong group.
“Carson will be really good. They had great lower level teams last year and the varsity at the end of last season was playing great basketball. Hug and Reed will be right there at the top. There just won’t be any easy games. I just mentioned six or seven teams. They could all step up and grab it.
“It makes for a more fun league. You have to be on the top of your game every night. It’ll come down to playing defense and bringing your best every time out.”