Bouncing back from an injury-riddled 5-16 season and playing its best at tournament time will be objectives of the 2008-09 Wood River High School boys' varsity basketball team.
Wood River debuts its 20-game season tonight, Wednesday against the newly-crowned State 4A football champs Hillcrest Knights, over in Idaho Falls. Then the 4A Wolverines host the 3A Filer Wildcats Friday night at the Hailey gym.
Third-year Wood River coach John Radford, acknowledging that his program competes in one of the best conferences in the Gem State, said, "We will point to be the best we can at the end of the year, and hopefully we'll stay healthy."
Radford has welcomed back three seniors who played a big role last winter when the Wolverines battled injuries and ran up against a perfect storm in Great Basin Conference West rivals Burley (27-0), Minico (16-9) and Jerome (14-9). The three had a combined 57-18 record.
And Burley (53-1 over 2 years) captured its second consecutive State 4A tournament title 75-54 over Bonneville.
Wolverine senior starters back are 6-2 wing Greg Wakefield (6.8 ppg, 12 3-pointers), 6-4 wing Bryan Tidwell (5.6 ppg) and 5-10 guard Michale Brunker (5.5 ppg, 11 3-pointers). Other seniors are Sean Bunce, James Todd and Clive Hope III.
The juniors on varsity are Juan Martinez, Keven Abbott, Jordan Doan and Ryan Dean.
Radford said, "Offensively, we are perimeter-oriented. We have kids who can spot up and shoot and drive a little. Defensively, we'll have to deny passes and pressure the ball as much as we can. On the boards we'll have to be very conscientious about blocking out."
Last winter, in the tough GBW, Wood River was 0-8 and outscored 67-43 on the average in its league games. The Wolverines suffered at the free throw line where opponents out-shot them 477-287 and out-pointed the Hailey boys 326-179.
But the coaching staff is hopeful of a strong start this winter. Wood River split with Hillcrest last season, winning 72-57 there and losing 50-40 in Hailey. The local team swept Filer last time around the southern Idaho courts, winning its games 50-31 and 51-45.
Wood River will have a tougher time with the Pocatello Indians Wednesday, Dec. 10 at home, since Pocatello earned third place in the 2008 State 4A tournament. Hailey dropped 32-point and 28-point games to Pocatello last winter.
Radford said Jerome (1-0), a 65-40 home winner over Bishop Kelly Saturday, is the pre-season league favorite. Burley (0-1) is rebuilding and had its two-season, 46-game win streak snapped in its home opener Saturday, 61-47 to Preston.
Junior varsity coach Craig Eastop has welcomed a team of Kevin Jensen, Luis Tamayo, Isaiah Garza, Collin Dean, Alex Padilla, James Williams, Stone Sutton, Luis Chavez, James Paris, William McCarthy and Lashon Smith.
Coaches Rick Bradshaw and Bret McNee are coaching the freshman team with Marco Diaz, Francisco Gomez, Sam Slike, Colton Larkin, Dustin Rutkowski, James Petzke, Dylan Carey, Chance Larkin, Braxton Parish, Dakota Vegwert, Julio Ortega, Mica Merritt, Luis Lopez, Pedro Contreras and Quentin Dowdle.
Cutthroat boys eager to learn
Like a holiday smorgasbord buffet, this season's Community School boys' basketball team will be serving up a little bit o' this and a little bit o' that, from a wide variety of talents.
The 2008-09 Cutthroat boys' squad opens its 19-game season Thursday, Dec. 4 at Twin Falls Christian Academy, and makes two visits to Jerome Monday and Tuesday for two more games.
"While the roster is loaded with seniors, we are lean on actual basketball experience," said first-year coach Ed Flory. "We will take maximum advantage of our athletic skills, and work on basketball fundamentals."
The eclectic group of 14 players includes seven seniors, two juniors, two sophomores and three freshmen. Assistant coach Jim Carkonen said, "With an assorted collection of hockey, tennis, soccer players, golfers, skiers and even theater performers, the transitional learning curve to basketball is sure to be a steep one, but everyone is up to the task."
Flory added, "The Cutthroats will rely on a fundamentally sound, stingy defense to be competitive in the league. This is a terrific group of guys with excellent camaraderie among team members who all are anxious to learn and improve their basketball skills. The coaches are pleased that everyone is making a purposeful effort in practice to prepare for the upcoming season. We welcome the challenges and look forward to a fun season."
Returning players from last year who are hoping to provide a much needed offensive punch include seniors Casper Brun, Lucas Vorsteveld, and team captain Eddie Albarran.
Juniors Paul Davis and Tanner Flanigan will provide solid play at the guard positions. Seniors Alex Conn, Peter Atkinson, Chet Stephens, Harry Dreyfuss and Reed Stokes add speed and quickness to the mix, while underclassmen Will Weston and Henry Rickbeil are hopeful prospects at the low-post center position. Along with Rickbeil, Eli Albarran, Zach Dolenar and Charlie Grabow will anchor the JV.
In addition to Carkonen, Flory is assisted by former Cutthroat star basketball player Dylan McIlhenny.
The Cutthroat junior varsity season started Tuesday, Dec. 2 with a visit to ISDB in Gooding. The first home game at the Fish Tank for both the JV and varsity squads is Friday, Dec. 12 against Bliss at 4:30 p.m. JV and 7:30 p.m. for the varsity.