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Boys basketball: Callaghan seeking significant improvement this season
South Kitsap boys basketball coach John Callaghan is not promising a return to when the Wolves placed in the top eight in the state tournament for five consecutive seasons.
But he also feels the worst is out of the way.
South’s record declined each season since its last state appearance in 2006 before it peaked with a 13-9 record in 2008-09. But the last two seasons have been the worst of Callaghan’s tenure with the Wolves following a 7-13 record in 2009-10 with a 6-14 mark last season. They finished just 4-10 in Class 4A Narrows League play.
Callaghan attributes much of that decline to diminishing returns from last year’s graduating class. Forward Tre Haslom, who now plays at Olympic College, transferred to Lakewood High School in Snohomish County after the 2008-09 season. In addition, point guard Isaiah Davis elected not to play as a senior last season. Post player Riki Blas also sat out his final season with an injury.
“We were a little lean,” Callaghan said.
Those departures left the Wolves with a sophomore-laden roster last season. Callaghan believes the experience gained by Devon Newquist and Kellen Traxel should benefit his team this season. South appears deep at the guard and wing positions with seniors Angelo Hazely and Aaron La Deaux, junior Thomas Simpson and sophomore Caulin Bakalarski also expected to play significant minutes.
“We might still be young,” Callaghan said. “But there’s some talent.”
Those players join the squad’s top returner, senior Nars Martinez, who made the transition to point guard last season when Davis elected not to play. Martinez led the teams in points (13.4), assists (3.9) and steals (1.3) per game last season. Callaghan also might have the flexibility to shift Martinez to the other guard position at times this season as the coach’s son, Ryley, enters the program.
Callaghan said his son, a sophomore, is a different type of point guard than his sister, Kelsey, who now plays at Montana Western. He said Ryley is more of a scorer than a traditional point guard who distributes the ball.
“He’s got the ball-handling skills,” Callaghan said. “But physically, will he be able to keep up with the guys in the Narrows League? They’re strong.”
Martinez, who is receiving interest from some smaller colleges, including Whitworth University in Spokane, said he feels more comfortable playing the point this season.
“It really does feel natural now,” he said. “I feel confident enough to teach it to Ryley now.”
The younger brother of former Wolves’ standout post Jake Beitinger, Martinez said he is excited to return to a style of play he said is reminiscent of what he watched growing up.
“The previous years we’ve tried to grind it out a lot and slow it down,” he said. “This year we’re pressure defense and pushing the ball.”
But there is no shortage of athleticism in 4A Narrows. Despite that, Martinez said his team can keep up.
“We’re athletic and smart,” he said. “And when you can do that, you have an advantage.”
While South has some experience in the backcourt, it has virtually none in the post. Callaghan said juniors James Hyson and Josh Osinski will receive the bulk of playing time at power forward and center. Both saw limited time on varsity last season.
“That’s our area we really need to improve and concentrate,” Callaghan said. “That will be a big key for us.”
And it could be a significant factor in determining whether the Wolves advance to the postseason for the first time since 2009. With the exception of Bellarmine Prep, which Callaghan said is the favorite in 4A Narrows, he feels every other team in the league is pretty even.
Based on what he has observed during practices, Martinez said he is confident South will rebound this season.
“I used to come up here when I was little and saw how intense their practices were and I get the same vibe now,” he said. “I’m excited.”
South Kitsap 2011-12 schedule
Dec. 14 Shelton
Dec. 16 at Stadium
Dec. 27 at Bellevue Christmas Cl.
Dec. 28 at Bellevue Christmas Cl.
Dec. 29 at Bellevue Christmas Cl.
Jan. 4 Bellarmine Prep
Jan. 6 at Central Kitsap
Jan. 11 Gig Harbor
Jan. 13 at Mount Tahoma
Jan. 18 at Olympia
Jan. 20 at Shelton
Jan. 25 Stadium
Jan. 27 at Bellarmine Prep
Feb. 1 Central Kitsap
Feb. 3 at Gig Harbor
Feb. 8 Mount Tahoma
• All games except for Bellevue Christmas Classic begin at 7 p.m.
Coach: John Callaghan, 14th season (214-105).
2010-11 record: 6-14 overall, 4-10 in Class 4A Narrows League.
Key returners: F Aaron La Deaux, 6-3, sr.; G Nars Martinez, 6-3, sr.; G Devon Newquist, 6-0, jr.; W Kellen Traxel, 6-1, jr.
Key newcomers: G Caulin Bakalarski, 6-2, so.; F James Hyson, 6-4, jr.; F Josh Osinski, 6-4, jr.
Key departures: G Steven Ebner, graduated.