The W.F. West boys basketball team is in a bit of uncharted waters less than a week out from their scheduled season opener.
Minus a good chunk of returning contributors and depth due to the Bearcat football team being one of just four 2A programs still fighting for a state title, coach Chris White said there has been no dropoff in intensity or energy through a week and a half of practice.
“We’ve just been trying to grow our leadership,” he said. “The older guys that we do have are doing a fantastic job of being leaders and keeping things really positive and focused, trying to instill drill familiarity and get guys used to what we want to do with our culture. It definitely seems a little different, but it's been positive, we’ve had a great energy.”
It helps that a few veterans are still leading the way in practice, including some newcomers as well. Senior big man Soren Dalan is leading the charge through most drills, new point guard Tyler Klatush has been stabilizing force, and a slew of faces looking for playing time will be competing at most of the wing spots to replace the production of grads Dirk Plakinger, Seth Hoff, Evan Tornow, and more.
That group last year emphasized a need for strong defensive play, contending with the likes of Shelton’s Chuckie Thompson, Tumwater’s Luke Brewer, and more playmakers in the 2A Evergreen Conference.
“All in all it was a really great year and a good growth year,” White said of last season, which ended in a Bearcat defeat in the regional round of state. “One thing we learned was the value of defense, we had some really good defenders on that team. They were instrumental to our success. Defensively they played so hard, it was really important to us to shut down those elite players in our league. We hope to find that identity and find who our pitbulls on defense are.”
Dalan will all but assuredly lead the way on the low block and Klatush provides a savvy guard to head the offense, but a new-look set of wings will fight and claw for playing time with the graduation of a big senior class.
Gage Brumfield, Hunter Niemi, Hunter Lutman, and Cameron Amoroso are all players that the Bearcats expect to return after football season ends, and other wings that could contribute include Parker Eiswald and Braden Jones.
All players have gotten tons of run and will look to crack the Bearcats rotation with a defensive mindset.
“We feel like we have a lot of depth at guard and wing, they don’t necessarily have a ton of varsity experience but they’re ready to go,” White said. “They’ve been waiting their turn, there's a lot of good players just waiting to rock and roll and compete for those wing and guard spots.”
Dalan, he noted, is certainly the feature piece in the post, but there’s also interesting pieces at the guard position.
“Tyler Klatush moved in last spring and is a pretty crafty point guard who sees the floor really well,” he said. “We have a bunch of nice pieces who are playing football right now, too. They participated in a lot of summer stuff so they’ll be ready to go when they do show up.”
The Bearcats are tentatively scheduled to take on two 3A squads next week, starting with River Ridge at home on Wednesday before taking a short drive north to Capital on Friday. Though, should the football team advance to the state title game the following weekend, W.F. West might need to adjust its plans.