Sports

Erickson Gym heats up as basketball nears

It’s all about the need for speed.

Sure rebounding, taking the shot and blocking under the net are important, but speed is the name of the game this year for both South Whidbey basketball teams.

The Falcon girls

Second-year girls coach Henry Pope isn’t too excited.

Not!

“My wife has been peeling me off the ceiling for about three weeks now and I can’t wait to get started,” Pope said before the first day of practice.

“We have a strong freshman class coming in this year and they have been working hard all spring and summer and there’s a solid core group returning.

“The bottom line is we will be a quicker, stronger and more aggressive team this season,” Pope added.

He pointed to the addition of soccer players Karissa Thomas and Rachel Harris. “Along with Lindsey (Newman), Allison (Wood), Cayla (Calderwood), Samantha (Pope) and Natasha (Roberts) we’ll have a fast varsity squad, much more so than last year.”

Pope was gratified to see the level of commitment from the very first day and is pleased that Newman, last year’s leading scorer, has stepped up into a leadership role.

Watching Pope on the floor during a typical practice is endless entertainment as he alternates between humor, bombast, occasional cajoling, praise, a touch of sarcasm and then pure joy while he puts the girls through their paces.

“The kids are the star of this show,” Pope said. “But you know I’ll be the first one on my feet when I see something good happen.”

Nate Miller will be junior varsity assistant coach and Patan Robinson is handling JV/C team duties.

The girls open their season at Shorewood on Dec. 1, then welcome Friday Harbor to Erickson Gym at noon on Saturday, Dec. 8. The boys follow at 1:30 p.m.

The Falcon boys

First-year coach Scott Collins was assistant boys basketball coach and physical education teacher at Oak Harbor High School when he applied for the job vacated by Andy Davis last summer.

“I was pleasantly surprised when I got here and discovered the many good athletes showing up to play,” Collins said. “There’s a lot of potential here and our job as coaches is translating that into team success.”

Collins said he wants South Whidbey to be known as a shooting team.

“Our post players are the main rebounders and they will be sprinting down court in the fast break as we transition into the offense and take the shot,” he said. “It has to be done fast, lots of speed so that when the shot is taken, it’ll be relatively undefended. Get the points and move on for more.”

The concept of slowing down and taking a breath isn’t in Collins’ lexicon.

Collins was a three-year letterman, captain and starting guard for coach Mac Frasier at Mount Vernon High School during that school’s state tournament years from 1994 to 1998.

He also played basketball at the college level, including at Eastern Oregon University where he scored a three-pointer against Gonzaga, a highlight of his college career.

Graduating from Central Washington University with a degree in health education in 2005, Collins began teaching in Oak Harbor last year and coached the freshmen basketball squad.

“I felt I had enough experience in the game and was ready to challenge myself,” Collins said. “Now’s the time.”

He said he wants folks to take pride in Falcon basketball, as much pride as he and his players have.

Collins is a hands-on coach, not hesitant to jump in and challenge the players to do their best.

“Get the ball and score. Then do it again,” he said. “That’s what we’re working on.”

Collins’ assistants are Guy Erickson and Steve West.

The team has its first game Nov. 30 at Cedar Park Christian, then welcomes the Friday Harbor Wolverines at 1:30 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 8, the second half of a double bill with the girls team.

Jeff VanDerford can be reached at 221-5300 or sports@southwhidbeyrecord.com.

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