A year after making the state tournament for the first time in nine years, the Hazen boys basketball team couldn’t quite repeat the success.
The Highlanders finished 10-12, qualifying for sub-districts last year in coach Ryan Thompson’s first year with the team.
“Last year there were more expectations to win early,” Thompson said. “This year there’s not that pressure as much.”
This year all of the starters from the 2010-2011 state tournament team are gone. Most of the players expected to play significant roles this year are young and inexperienced, but Thompson is excited about their potential.
“I’m pretty excited; we’re pretty young,” Thompson said. “Lots of guys from the JV program are up on varsity now. They developed over the summer and hopefully they’ll be ready to play this year.”
The Highlanders do have some experience returning in seniors Brody Graybeal and Emmanuel Oppong. Graybeal averaged 3.8 points and 6.2 rebounds per game last season. Oppong averaged 5.8 points and 3.1 rebounds per game.
Outside of Graybeal and Oppong, Ryan Takeuchi is the team’s only other senior. Thompson said the team is very athletic with a lot of wings with the ability to contribute.
He’s also excited for junior center Anthony Phillips, who stands 6-foot-8.
“We’re really going to mold the team as the year goes on,” Thompson said. “We feel very good about our potential. We have a very high ceiling, but I don’t know how early you’ll see that.”
Junior Isaiah Davis flashed some scoring potential with 22 points in Hazen’s win against Chief Leschi Nov. 28. Sophomore Dominic Green was also impressive in the game, scoring 17 points.
Thompson said he’s much happier with this team’s chemistry.
“There’s much better buy-in from this group,” he said. “We’re holding to our values a little more as a coaching staff and focused on doing the right things to make progress daily.”