Sports

Expectations soar at FWay

By CASEY OLSON

The Mirror

A lot is expected of the ultra-athletic Federal Way High School boys basketball team this season.

The Eagles return a bulk of their lineup from a team that was one game short of playing at the Class 4A state tournament a season ago. Federal Way also brings an impressive group of transfers into the mix, led by 6-foot-4 junior Ernest Williams.

But the expectations, which included being the third-ranked Class 4A team in WashingtonPrep.com’s preseason poll, might have gotten into the Federal Way players’ heads a little bit. The Eagles lost a heartbreaker to the unheralded Tahoma Bears in their opener last week on a last-second shot. The meaningless non-league defeat could be just what the doctor ordered for the Federal Way coaching staff.

“I think we kind of needed that,” Williams said of the loss to Tahoma. “It sent a message that anybody can beat anybody at any time during the season.”

The Eagles bounced back Friday night to blow away the Puyallup Vikings at home. Puyallup, along with Bethel and Federal Way, were preseason favorites in the South Puget Sound League South Division and came into the game as the seventh-ranked team in Class 4A.

Leading the list of returners for the Eagles are senior guard Morris Anderson and sophomore wing Terrell Smith. Anderson averaged 10 points and five rebounds a game last year and will run the team from the point guard position this year. As a freshman, Smith was lethal from behind the 3-point arc. He’s added a little bulk this summer and has become a solid rebounder at 6-4.

Collins will also get contributions from seniors Jon Flood, Elon Langston, C.J. Green and Marcus Wright.

Decatur transfers Anwar Asadi and Trey Williams will provide depth and athleticism to the Eagle lineup. Asadi was Decatur’s top rebounder last year and Williams got a lot of experience as a freshman.

Bethel, the top-ranked 4A team, is the clear cut favorite in the South. The Braves, who were unbeaten in league last year, have three Division I athletes in their starting lineup in 6-8 forwards Brandon Moore (Eastern Washington University) and Alex Tiefenthaler (University of Portland), along with UCLA football-signee Jamil Turner. Bethel also returns last year’s SPSL South Player of the Year in point guard Jordan Sutton.

Federal Way and Bethel will meet in the first of two regular season contests Tuesday in Graham.

Decatur

Gators coach Kevin Olson has a solid group of young players entering the 2004-05 basketball season. About the only thing lacking is experience and that goes a long way in the rugged SPSL South.

“With only one returning starter we are young and inexperienced,” Olson said. “However, these young players are good basketball players and they are ready to step in and produce. They’ll need to in order for us to compete.”

Decatur is attempting to rebound from last year’s 8-12 season, which was good for a seventh-place finish in the SPSL South. It was the second straight season the Gators failed to qualify for postseason play after a streak of 11 years in a row in the playoffs.

“We are going to focus on working hard and improving every day,” Olson said. “Hopefully in the end, we’ll have enough games to get back to the postseason.”

The top-five in the SPSL South advance and Bethel, Federal Way and Puyallup look to be the favorites. Several other teams, including Decatur, should fight. for the final three berths.

Gone from last year is the Gators’ leading scorer, 6-foot-8 post Kellen McCaffrey, leading rebounder, Anwar Asadi, and leading assist man, Kyle Tait. McCaffrey averaged 15 points and 7.6 rebounds a game and Tait scored six points and dished out nearly five assists. Asadi (11 points, eight rebounds) is currently playing at Federal Way High School after being granted a fifth year of eligibility by the district. Decatur also lost Nick Isaac (six points, four rebounds) and Trey Williams (transferred to Federal Way).

Junior wing Travis Wagner will be counted on by Olson to provide a lot of the scoring that departed Decatur after last season. As a sophomore, the 6-3 sharp-shooter averaged 10 points a game before missing the final seven games of the season with a fractured knee cap.

Other returners include 5-11 guard Andrew Kim (1.5 points a game) and 6-1 junior Brad Reid (1.8 points).

Olson will also be counting on newcomers JaRon Brown (6-4 post), Stedman Richardson (6-3 wing from California), James Miller (5-11 guard from Oregon) and Federal Way transfer Marcus Hudson.

Beamer

According to second-year coach Jarrett Mentink, the hardest part about starting a new basketball program is learning how to win. Mentink hopes that his Titan team has that feeling a little more this season.

“I’m so proud of our kids,” he said. “They’ve put in so much work and done it the right way.”

The Titans rolled through their first season in the SPSL South with a 2-18 records. Their two wins came over Wilson in a non-league game and Thomas Jefferson in their last game of the season.

Beamer is going to have to improve on the defensive side of the ball to improve on that win total this season. The Titans allowed opposing teams to shoot an eye-popping 64.4 percent (714-for-1,113) from the field last year, while shooting 33 percent.

Hurting Beamer is their lack of size. Senior Evan Thomas is the Titans’ tallest starter at 6-2. Compare that to league-favorite Bethel, who starts two kids 6-8.

The Titans did get some good news late last week when leading scorer Kenny First-Rider was ruled eligible after missing Beamer’s first game of the season with academic problems. First-Rider averaged 10.1 points a game and also led the Titans in rebounds with 5.35 a game.

“He plays a lot bigger than he is,” Mentink said about the 6-foot First-Rider. “He was our MVP last year.”

Joining First-Rider, at some point during the season, in the starting lineup will be seniors Jermaine Parker (8.15 points a game), Thomas and Ryan Bellessa and juniors John Weins, Tyler Brigham and Carsten Bocchi (9.2 points a game).

Some newcomers Mentink will be counting on to provide some solid minutes will be sophomore Allen Brooks and junior Marques Hollins.

Jefferson

Second-year coach Tacuma Williams wants to build a solid boys basketball program at Thomas Jefferson High School that can compete in the SPSL South year in and year out.

The Raiders finished last year with 4-16 record in Williams’ first year, but did so with nine seniors. Meaning this season, Jefferson will be counting on a lot of unproven players.

“Last year was the start of something special at TJ,” Williams said. “Those (nine seniors) provided the building blocks for the future.”

But it also looks like this year will be another one of those building years with only four returning players and only one that saw any significant playing time.

The Raiders will be depending on senior forward Amrinder Singh to provide a bulk of the offense during the season. Singh was one of Jefferson’s leading scorers last year before suffering an injury late in the season.

“Injury kept him from being a superstar last year,” Williams said. “He will make a big comeback and do really well for us.”

Other returners include seniors Aaron Borth and Cliff Satterwhite and junior forward Travis Warnock, who led the Raiders in scoring with 14 points in their season-opening loss to Kent-Meridian.

Newcomers Tanuj Soni, Abraham Kinlow, Todd Muecklish and Chris Grove will also be counted on to keep the Raiders competitive.

“The team’s aggressive and hard-working nature will surprise teams this year,” Williams said.

Sports editor Casey Olson: 925-5565, sports@fedwaymirror.com

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