BOYS BASKETBALL: Jefferson hoping to build on momentum from last season

The Thomas Jefferson boys basketball team was one win away from making history last season.

The 2012-13 edition of the Raiders was the closest the program has ever been to making an appearance inside the Tacoma Dome at the Class 4A Boys Basketball State Tournament. But, Jefferson lost to the eventual state-champion Curtis Vikings at Regionals.

It was the first time Jefferson qualified for the postseason since 1985. The program has never played in Tacoma.

“Outside of a tough draw, I think we could have ended up in the Dome,” said head coach Kyle Templeton, who is a TJ grad and former player. “As it happened, we got overwhelmed by the moment.”

Templeton is pretty confident that won’t happen again this season. Although the Raiders lost five key players from last year’s team, including their entire backcourt, TJ might have more talent this time around.

“In a sense, we are rebuilding,” Templeton said. “We lost a core group of guys who have been around the program for a long time. All of those guys played at least two years of varsity. That kind of experience and leadership we are really going to miss.”

Gone are guards Daryon James, Danny Park, Josh Duckworth, Tyshawn Webster Piper and Hunter Henry. James was a first-team, All-SPSL North selection after averaging 18.8 points, 4.3 assists and 3.5 rebounds a game.

“Although we have lost all those guys, we might have more talent this year on our roster top to bottom,” Templeton said. “We have 11 guys that I am comfortable with playing and starting. We are much deeper this year. Last year we would basically play six-and-a-half guys. This year we can go 11 deep.”

The Raiders should be led this season by the 6-foot-7 Deonte Anderson, who averaged 13 points and 6.5 rebounds a game last year.

“Deonte is one of the most physically talented players in the league,” Templeton said. “And one of the most talented players I have ever coached or been around. Last year he was able to float at times because our guards were so strong. This year he has to be the man, which means we need a strong effort from him every possession of every game.”

On the opposite end of the height spectrum will be returning guard Pekedey Ren. The 5-foot-5 senior will play a major role for TJ.

“He is really small, but he can really shoot it,” Templeton said. “He is fast and can be a pest defensively.”

But it’s the newcomers who will make or break the Raiders’ season. The talented group includes four players 6-foot-3 or taller, including sophomore twin towers Darius Anderson and Alex Sommerfield, both 6-foot-6.

The group also includes junior Xavier Scott-Hollis, who might be one of the more talented players in the SPSL.

“He can be a monster on the floor at times,” Templeton said. “He is a phenomenal athlete. He runs like a deer and can jump out of the gym. He is great in transition, but we are still working on making him a basketball player. Once that clicks, the sky is the limit for him.”

Depth will also be provided by seniors Cordae Mcafee, Gabe Corsey and Brandon Madsen, along with junior Will Osborn. The 5-foot-10 Mcafee is set to be the starting point guard and Corsey is a “flat-out scorer, who can score against anyone at any time,” Templeton said.

Madsen made the Raiders’ varsity roster a season ago, but had to quit the team midway through the year because his soccer schedule became too much. Madsen, a 6-foot-3 wing, was a first-team, All-State forward for the TJ soccer team that won the state championship in the spring.

“He is a sensational athlete,” Templeton said. “He is going to surprise in our league. No one really knows about him because he has played so little.”

Decatur Gators

The Decatur Gators are looking to extend the program’s nine-year run of qualifying for the West Central District Tournament. But they will have to do it with a new cast of characters.

The Gators basically lost all of their scoring from a season ago, including first-team, All-SPSL 3A guard Jason Young.

Young led Decatur in scoring at 19 points a game and seven rebounds. Also gone are second-team, all-league guard Kevin Locascio (15 points) and guard Glen Jackson, who averaged nine points and six rebounds.

“We need to gain experience and learn what it takes to compete at the varsity level,” said head coach Kevin Olson, who has been at Decatur 14 seasons.

Last year’s team finished 12-10 before losing in the first round of the district tournament. Decatur returns 5-foot-10 guard Malik Wade, 6-6 post Brady Fankhauser and Carsten Olufson (6-6 wing). All three averaged just one point a game a season ago.

The Gators will be counting on newcomers Deonte Smith (6-foot-1 wing), Palofino Jatta (5-10 guard), Karim Coulibaly (6-3 post) and Vincent Teregeyo (5-9 guard).

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