While the W.F. West boy’s basketball team is set to return four starters from last year’s group, there is no doubt that there will be a major role to fill in the center of the floor this season.
Soren Dalan, the 6-foot, 10-inch post player who is the program’s all-time leader in rebounds and blocks, is now playing collegiate basketball at Walla Walla University.
Coach Chris White and this year’s Bearcats aren’t backing down from the challenge his absence will bring, however. Instead, they’re embracing it, shifting their mentality and team philosophy in the process.
“We’re excited about playing a different style of basketball,” White said. “Last year, we were definitely post-centric … We just have a lot more emphasis on playing with more pace, getting out in transition, trying to get more actively defensively. Just try to play the game a little faster.”
White certainly has the athletes at his disposal to make it happen. Senior Tyler Klatush, a first-team all-EvCo last winter, is back this winter, as are Parker Eiswold, Gage Brumfield and Braden Jones.
White specifically noted Brumfield and Jones’ defense, saying Brumfield may be one of the best defenders in the state while Jones is a “dog of a defender.” Junior Grady Westlund is also expected to step into a starting role, and White sees him grabbing a lot of rebounds at center.
White’s excitement carried over as he began running through his bench, a unit he is expecting contributions from.
Junior Weston Potter “got his feet wet” at the varsity level last year and is ready to step into a bigger role this season. Senior Lucas Hoff is an “electric athlete,” and his ability to score off the bench will be a “huge piece” for the Bearcats this winter.
Each player has their strengths, but White’s focus is on “trying to have a lot of unicorns” throughout the lineup.
“Guys that can post you up or hit from outside,” White said. “Trying to get everybody to be downhill attackers. Everybody can post you up. Everybody can attack.
“That’s kind of our program emphasis and goal right now. Just getting more people to be more well-rounded players and turn up the defensive intensity.”
White has also been pleased with how some players are already stepping into leadership roles.
Prior to the team’s practice on Tuesday, White had to finalize some issues that had popped up with the team’s uniforms. With White in an equipment room, Westlund took it upon himself to lead the team through a post circuit and layup lines while White was finishing up.
Later in the practice, a few players nursing minor injuries asserted themselves into the team scrimmage from the sideline, calling in plays and organizing the unit on the floor.
“That’s the kind of thing I’m excited about, these guys growing in their leadership,” White said. “It was amazing, I think it got way better. By deferring that leadership to them, it looked better than if I was going to try to do it myself.”
White did note that the few players while there are a few players dealing with injuries, he believes they all have a good chance to be ready come Game 1.
And with all of those players falling into their roles, White is ready to have success in different ways this winter.
“We had an absolute blast having a 6-10 guy, don’t get me wrong,” White said. “It’s just fun to just see the challenge in front of us. Okay, we miss our 6-10 guy, but here’s our strengths now. How can we go do that? That’s what we’re trying to grow towards, and we’re very excited.”