Young Lake Washington team looking for another strong season
By MEGAN MANAGAN
Kirkland Reporter writer
January 13, 2011 · Updated 11:13 AM
Last season the Lake Washington boys made the start tournament for the first time in 13 years under first year head coach Barry Johnson. This season the team returned just two members of that squad, battling high expectations early.
"We started out ranked No. 4," said Johnson of a preseason state basketball poll. "We should have never been ranked and I kind of looked at that and saw a target. We have 11 new guys and only two (of the 14 total) had experience. That kind of put an unfair bulls-eye on our kids and they thought they were a little cooler than they were."
The team, which has a 7-4 record so far this season and is 4-2 in KingCo 3A, had to learn to deal with the pressure of the preseason ranking early on, despite being a young team.
"It's been a learning experience for all of us," said Johnson. "We're still young now."
Early success on the court has been a team effort, relying on the Kangs strengths, like their transition game, Johnson said.
"Where we can get out and transition, I think we're a really, really good team," said the coach. The team also gets a helping hand from 6 foot 11 inch junior Darien Nelson Henry and Matt Staudacher, Johnson said. But even when injures pile up or players need a break, the Kangs have talent across the board.
For the last several years Lake Washington competed in the KingCo 4A league, but dropped down this season. Though, from Johnson's point of view, the strength of the leagues are very similar.
"You have to play," he said. "Last year in KingCo 4A where we were it was a good league and you had to be ready to play every single night. This is the same thing, now the powers, I believe, have really shifted over to KingCo 3A, not just because we're here, but because of a lot of other teams. Those are all really good teams. You can't overlook anybody because you'll get knocked off."
The Kangs learned that lesson early on with a defeat to Sammamish in December, but followed it up with a win over Bellevue in January.
"I think toughness is key," said Johnson about the team's focus in the early weeks of the season. "Not just on a physical level, but toughness mentally. You look at any of the box scores and we're a good team, we'll get up by 20 and then we'll just think everything's all good and drop it."
Gaining experience on the court and learning those ins and outs of the game is part of Johnson's goals for the team this year.
"Since we are young, we really are, our goal is to improve every game and at the end of the season just maximize all our abilities," he said. "Whether that's winning KingCo, that's great, if it's taking second, that's fine. We have to focus on us and maximize every game and opportunity. We can't worry about what other people are doing, we have to worry about we're doing."
The Kangs are led by captains Robert Reyes, a senior, and junior point guard Matt Staudacher.
The Kangs traveled over the holiday break to San Diego for the ESPN Holiday Prep Classic. They finished 2-2 in the tournament against some of the best teams on the West Coast.
"It was awesome," said Johnson. "We played a lot of good teams. Our second game we played Compton High School, where you know, that's just Compton. It's a different style for these kids and we competed within four to six the whole game. Our last game was against a team from Long Beach, that was actually one of our coming out parties as a group. We had a pretty good game overall, and we found ourselves."
Lake Washington beat James Logan in the final game of the tournament 82-77.
While the bulk of the league season still stretches ahead, Johnson said the team is in a good place, but hopes by the end of it everyone is on the same page.
"We have different personnel now," said Johnson of having so few returners this year. "We did have to change a few things, so in order to be a successful coach you have to be able to adapt to your players. I'd like to see at the end of the year, everybody clicking on all cylinders and maximizing their talents both offensively and defensively. I feel if we do that, we're going to be a tough team to stop."
The Kangs face Interlake Friday, Jan. 14 at 8 p.m.Contact Kirkland Reporter writer Megan Managan at firstname.lastname@example.org.