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BOYS BASKETBALL PREVIEW: TJ looking to break postseason drought with talented squad
The Federal Way School District has long been a hotbed for some of the best boys basketball talent in the state of Washington.
Federal Way and Decatur have been mainstays at the state tournament. The Eagles have made 15 state appearances, including a title in 2009, and the Gators have 12 state appearances since 1992, including the last six years. Even 8-year-old Todd Beamer has played at the Class 4A State Boys Basketball Tournament.
And then there is the Thomas Jefferson boys basketball program. The Raiders have never qualified for a state tournament in the 45-year history of the school. The last time TJ even played at the West Central District Tournament was 1985.
It’s something that isn’t lost on the 2012-13 edition of the Raiders, and it’s something fourth-year head coach Kyle Templeton isn’t shying away from. The 1995 TJ grad thinks this season’s group of players could break that 28-year postseason drought.
“This could be a historic year for the Raiders,” Templeton said. “I think that streak comes to an end this year.”
The Raiders return plenty from a team that finished with a 9-11 record in the rugged South Puget Sound League North Division, including their two leading scorers in guards Daryon James and Daniel Park. James averaged 14.5 points a game and Park chipped in 10.8 and was one of the league’s best on-ball defenders.
“Daryon and Danny have been in the program for all four years and have really seen this through,” Templeton said. “Those guys are good enough to play anywhere and they decided to stick it out at Jefferson, which not a lot of people have done in the past. They would all transfer to some other school rather than play at TJ.”
Not only did James and Park stay at TJ, but the Raiders actually pulled in a very solid transfer from Federal Way High School during the offseason. Junior Deonte Anderson moved into the TJ service area after the 6-foot-7 forward played his first two seasons for the Eagles.
“He is a freak as an athlete,” Templeton said of Anderson. “And he is exactly what we needed.”
Anderson was third on the Eagles in scoring a season ago as a sophomore at 10 points a game and played in 20 games as a freshman.
The threesome of James, Park and Anderson will be joined by senior guard Jerry Duckworth (8.1 points last year), senior Tyshawn Webster Piper (missed last season) and sophomore Xavier Scott for a very solid first six for the Raiders.
Duckworth might be the Raiders’ best option from the outside, shooting 37 percent from 3-point range. Templeton calls Webster Piper the team’s “glue guy” and also says Scott has a chance to be special.
“He is a freak athlete at the moment, who is still learning how to play the game,” he said.
But the influx of talent at TJ might pose a little bit of a problem, so to speak, for Templeton. Obviously, it’s a problem that the Raider program hasn’t had in a long, long time and one Templeton won’t complain too much about.
“We have a lot of mouths to feed this year,” he said. “So we are going to have to be able to put our egos aside and sacrifice for the greater good and goals of the team.”
The Raiders open their SPSL North season Friday at home against the Kentridge Chargers.
“We are successful if we are playing unselfishly and playing for ourselves on both ends of the floor,” Templeton said. “There will be expectations on the team for the first time, maybe ever, and we have to deal with those in a positive way. If we start worrying about who is getting the most shots and touches, we are going to have a problem. We have enough talent to really do some damage, but sometimes too many guys can make chemistry difficult.”
To say the Gators have made a home in the postseason is an understatement. Head coach Kevin Olson has led Decatur into the state tournament for the past six seasons.
The Gators will attempt to make a seventh-straight run this season, but they will do it with a lot of unproven talent. Olson lost his three leading scorers from a year ago in Dom Hunter, Markus Rawls and Abraham Ferrell-Logan from a team that won the SPSL 3A Division and finished fifth at the West Central District Tournament.
Hunter averaged 21 points a season ago and was named the MVP of the SPSL 3A Division. Rawls (13.7 points) was a first-team, all-league selection at point guard and Ferrell-Logan was a second-teamer, averaging 12 points a game.
This season, Decatur will be counting on six seniors to get back to state. Jason Young is the leading returning scorer and rebounder at five points and four rebounds a game. Also back are 6-foot-3 Adam Wilson, 6-foot-2 Chris Castro, 6-foot-1 Kevin Locascio and 6-footer Ramere Rollins. The Gators will also feature 5-foot-11 senior newcomer Glen Jackson. The Gators opened their season Wednesday against Highline and take on Kennedy Catholic at 8 p.m. Friday at Auburn Riverside.
The Eagles are loaded with talent after winning the SPSL South Division title with a 13-3 record a season ago with an entire team of underclassmen.
Back are all-league selections Brayon Blake and DeeShawn Tucker. The 6-foot-7 Blake led Federal Way in scoring and rebounding a season ago at 15.9 points and nearly 10 rebounds a game. He was in double figures in all but three games and was over 20 points five times.
Tucker, a 6-foot point guard, averaged 11.3 points and was a first-team, All-SPSL South selection despite missing several games after suffering a head/neck injury.
The Eagles got even more talented during the offseason when electric Adrian Davis transferred to Federal Way from Mount Rainier. The 6-foot-2 guard averaged 14.8 points a game last year for the Rams as a sophomore and 17.8 as a freshman, and was a first-team, All-SPSL North selection both seasons.
Federal Way will also count on sophomore Malik Montoya, who averaged 6.4 points, and had four games in double figures. The only two seniors on the roster are D’Londo Tucker and Rashawn Goosby. The Eagles open their SPSL South season Friday on the road against Rogers.
The Titans are coming off an impressive season last year, finishing 12-4 in the rugged SPSL South. The record was good enough for third place behind Federal Way and Curtis. Beamer eventually lost in the quarterfinals of the West Central/Southwest District Tournament.
But Beamer will be without three of their four leading scorers from a season ago. Gone are Roosevelt Jones (18.5 points), Thomas Rhodes (16.2) and Luscious Brown (7.8).
However, the Titans do bring back plenty of talent, led by Juwan Flowers and Trey Burch-Manning. Last year, the 6-foot-1 Flowers averaged 11 points, including a season-high 31 against Jefferson. Burch-Manning, a 6-foot-4 guard, chipped in 8.9 points, 6.0 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 3 blocks a game for the Titans. The 6-foot-5 Bogdon Bliznyuk should also provide an inside presence for Beamer.
The Titans open their season Friday, hosting the Garfield Bulldogs in a non-league contest. They open SPSL South play Tuesday on the road against Rogers.
Federal Way Eagles
Coach: Jerome Collins
Last year’s record: 16-9 (SPSL South champs)
Strong returners: Jr. Brayon Blake (6-7, forward); Jr. DeeShawn Tucker (6-0, guard); Sr. D’Londo Tucker (6-0, guard).
Key newcomers: Jr. Adrian Davis (6-2, guard).
Coach: Kevin Olson
Last year’s record: 18-7 (SPSL 3A champs)
Strong returners: Sr. Jason Young (6-foot-2, wing/post); Sr. Adam Wilson (6-3, wing/post); Sr. Chris Castro (6-2, post); Sr. Kevin Locascio (6-1, guard); Sr. Ramere Rollins (6-0, wing).
Key newcomers: Sr. Glen Jackson (5-11, guard).
Thomas Jefferson Raiders
Coach: Kyle Templeton
Last year’s record: 9-11 (sixth in SPSL North)
Strong returners: Sr. Daryon James (guard); Sr. Daniel Park (guard); Sr. Josh Duckworth (guard); Sr. Hunter Henry (forward); Jr. Pekedey Ren (guard).
Key newcomers: Jr. Deonte Anderson (forward); Soph. Xavier Scott (wing); Sr. Tyshawn Webster (forward); Jr. Dabrian Taylor (forward).
Coach: Winston Bell
Last year’s record: 14-9 (third in SPSL South)
Strong returners: Jr. Bogdon Bliznyuk (6-5, guard/forward); Jr. Trey Burch-Manning (6-4, guard); Sr. Juwan Flowers (6-1, guard).