Transfer students can arrive from just about anywhere, but rarely do they come from your own backyard.
South Whidbey High School’s newest addition to the boys basketball team is 6-foot-4-inch senior guard Chase White. He has lived on Whidbey Island for years but attended Archbishop Murphy High School, where he saw ample playing time with the Wildcats for three seasons.
White transferred in the fall and joins a Falcons squad which finished 9-13 overall and 6-8 in the Cascade Conference in 2014 and were bounced from the district tournament after two losses.
Second-year head coach Michael Washington recalled a moment during open gym sessions in 2014 shortly after taking the reins of the program. Washington thought he had seen all of the Falcon players step onto the court, until he noticed a tall, lanky blonde-haired boy shooting hoops.
Washington remembered asking the players who he was and they told him he was from Langley, which led to some initial excitement for the coach. He learned a few moments later than White went to Archbishop Murphy.
“When he told us that he’s coming back, I was pretty excited,” Washington said.
The addition of White will help take some of the load off the shoulders of sophomore point guard Lewis Pope. Last year, the Falcons relied on Pope as the primary ball-handler when now-graduated standout Parker Collins didn’t have the ball.
With Collins as dominant of a scorer as he was in 2014, Washington said the Falcons became a one-dimensional team. With his departure, Washington sees the team becoming a more balanced squad, with five or six options to score.
The Falcons begin the regular season on Dec. 2 against Coupeville.
Washington said the Falcons mostly focused on defensive techniques and strategies at practice, such as press defense and working the entire court to their advantage. The additional focus on defense will allow the Falcons to stay alive in games when their offense struggles.
“Because our offense isn’t always going to be on, if we have a good defense we kind of absorb runs better,” Pope said. “Because when our offense isn’t on, that’s when other teams tend to go on runs. If our defense can slow it down, I think that’s what will help us out a lot.”
White said that the team’s defensive cohesion will be crucial as the season progresses. The effort on defense can make up for being a smaller or slower than opposing teams.
“Being an undersized team, we kind of need to play really good team defense, especially when you play larger teams with big guys down the road when you go into state or districts or whatever,” White said.
The Falcons will contest for a postseason berth in a tough Cascade Conference. They’ll face defending state 1A champions King’s twice.
Washington said he’s working on changing the players’ mentalities to not be intimidated by teams with better records or high-scoring offenses.
Washington’s goals for the team included a winning record and advancing further into the district tournament. Returning varsity forward junior Maxfield Friedman will help as a primary post player, as well as senior guard Donovan Miller, who Washington said has flown under the radar.
Washington also pointed out that junior guard Tyler Heggenes was another player that can help the team with his feisty and aggressive play.
“Overall, like I said, I’m excited for the season,” Washington said. “Win or lose, we have a good bunch of kids who are coachable. All of the kids have a thirst for knowledge.”
2015 Falcon boys basketball schedule
5:30 p.m. Monday, Nov. 30 Jamboree*
5:15 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 2 Coupeville
7 p.m. Friday, Dec. 4 Concrete
7 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 9 Sultan
6:45 p.m. Friday, Dec. 11 Archbishop Murphy*
6:45 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 15 Cedar Park Christian*
7 p.m. Thursday Dec. 17 Kings
1:30 p.m. Saturday Dec. 19 Friday Harbor
5 p.m. Monday Dec. 21 La Conner*
6 p.m. Wednesday Dec. 23 Meadowdale
6:45 p.m. Monday Jan. 4 Coupeville*
5 p.m. Tuesday Jan. 5 Granite Falls*
6:45 p.m. Friday Jan. 8 Cedarcrest*
8 p.m. Tuesday Jan. 12 Archbishop Murphy
8 p.m. Friday Jan. 15 Lakewood
6:45 p.m. Tuesday Jan. 19 Kings*
5 p.m. Friday Jan. 22 Sultan*
8 p.m. Tuesday Jan. 26 Cedarcrest
7 p.m. Friday Jan. 29 Cedar Park Christian
6:45 p.m. Tuesday Feb. 2 Lakewood*
8 p.m. Friday Feb. 5 Granite Falls
* Home games