The 2022-23 season is just around the corner for the Centralia boys basketball team. And so, in a way, is the 2023-24 campaign.
At least, that’s how head coach Kyle Donahue sees it.
“It’s kind of like we’re starting a two-year season at this point, because with one senior, there’s not going to be a lot of movement even going into next year,” he said. “I said, ‘We can’t throw everything at you in two weeks. We’re going to be learning stuff four, five, six weeks into the season, and for some of it, you’re not going to be able to pick it up and execute it well until we hit league.’”
The Tigers don’t just have to replace Landon Kaut and his area-leading 24 points per game on a daily basis. He was just one of a five-man graduating class, leaving Donahue with one senior, one returning starter, and a whole bunch of spots to fill.
That starter coming back is Cohen Ballard, who hit double figures multiple times, primarily contributing as a sharpshooter from the perimeter. The Tigers will be asking more of him in his junior season, joined up by Von Wasson and Brady Sprague, who both swung between JV and varsity last season.
“I always like to play through my posts,” Donahue said. “I always like to utilize my bigs. But at the same time, we have to play to our strengths. We’re going to look for Brady and Von and Cohen to be those leaders on the court, but we’re still going to look to execute and get the ball inside, and we’re still going to look to go through our posts to free them up on the outside as shooters.”
In the post, the Tigers have their lone senior in Darrell Neuert. Stepping into a bigger role will be sophomore Carlos Vallejo, who Donahue says is already starting to play beyond his singular year of high school experience.
“He’s just really fundamentally sound, really good footwork,” he said. “Really good vocal leader on the court.”
But while those might be some of the faces seeing minutes early in the season — which begins with a Nov. 30 non-league matchup at Hockinson — Donahue expects a lot more to start showing up more as the calendar flips over, with underclassmen getting more and more experience.
“Who those guys are kind of up in the air right now,” he said. “Even for me, it’s like, who’s going to fit in, who’s going to pick it up, who’s going to be ready next week? And who’s going to be ready in four or five weeks?”