Sports

New guy fitting in - and then some

It was his first game of the year and Josh Monagle had been waiting for this moment ever since he arrived in Port Orchard this past summer.

He sat on the South Kitsap bench waiting to be introduced as one of the Wolves’ starting five. Having moved to Port Orchard from Alaska, he was kind of an unknown to many of the Wolves’ basketball faithful.

And his name was fifth on the list, meaning he was sitting alone on the bench when he heard it - “and starting at center for your South Kitsap Wolves,” the public address announcer said - “Jacob Yount.”

“I was thinking, ‘First game of the year, oh great, they announce Jake. That’s sweet,’“ Monagle said last week as the team heads into the holiday break. “Jake was like, ‘Am I playing coach?’ It was funny.”

He shouldn’t ever have to worry about that happening again.

Four games into his career at South Kitsap High School, the 6-4 transfer from Juno is averaging 15 points and eight rebounds and has taken his place in the middle of an already potent lineup.

“He’s got a great attitude,” South coach John Callaghan said. “If we were to pick someone to fit in with these guys - he’s perfect. He’s a good student, he’s a good person and just like the rest of these guys, he’s all about the team.”

He has helped the Wolves jump out to a 4-0 start and grab a No. 10 state ranking in the Seattle Times high school basketball poll. He has become a key member of a team that finished second at the Class 4A state tournament last year, giving them points, rebounds and good defense.

“I like it a lot better down here,” Monagle said. “The school is a lot bigger. And basketball, the competition, is a lot better down here.”

Monagle, who was born in Puyallup and lived in Southworth until he was 5, said basketball was a huge reason his family decided to comeback to Western Washington and Kitsap County in general. He had a few bad experiences playing in Juneau and is happy to be back in an environment that’s conducive to good basketball.

“Coming down, I was afraid that I wouldn’t know anyone and that I wouldn’t fit in. I wondered if they’d mesh with me,” Monagle said. “But they did, and it’s perfect now, basically.”

He has slid right into the starting lineup, meshing nicely with guards Tippy Burk, Derrick Webb and post players Jamil Moore and Conner Gehring.

“It’s been great,” Webb said. “We’ve had great chemistry right from the start. He’s just fit right in.”

Part of that comes from Monagle taking part in Craig Murray’s Total Package summer basketball league. Although he didn’t play very much, Monagle practiced with most of his future teammates, which gave him a head start on learning the style and personalities.

But more importantly, he’s easily stepped into what was the most difficult position there was to fill on this team - replacing the graduated Jake Beitinger.

“He fit in with these guys from day one. The minute he got here, he fit in just like he’d been here forever,“ Callaghan said. “And sometimes that’s not the way it is with a new kid.“

Especially one who has to somehow replace the points and poise of a Beitinger, a McDonald’s All-American nominee and current post player at Eastern Washington University, or the defense of an Adam Bennett.

Monagle knows all about Beitinger and Bennett. He shot baskets with Beitinger this summer. And he knows what is expected from him, and he always knows that he can only be himself.

“Jake’s an excellent player. You can’t really replace him,” Monagle said. “(From the beginning) I was thinking I could step in and play the big-man position, and I’ve kind of done that. You can’t replace them, but I’ve worked hard to try.”

One advantage for Monagle has been his role compared to Beitinger’s. Monagle is a pure inside player who loves to bang away, where Beitinger was more of a finesse big man who posted up outside to shoot.

And at 235 pounds, Monagle can bang away with the best.

“I like to bang inside a lot more,” he said. “I like to use more of my body. I’m definitely not as athletic as Jake or all those other guys, so I try to use my body a lot more and outwork the other guy.”

So far, he has done just that. He collects most of his points in the paint and has yet to score under double figures in a game.

“He can be a force just like Jake was,” Callaghan said. “But in a different way. He’s his own player.

“You play as hard as you can. That’s all you can do,” Callaghan said. “In the framework of our team, you play as hard as you can. And I don’t have a bad word to say about him. He’s done everything we’ve asked of him.”

South’s up-tempo style, something new this year, fits right into what Monagle like to do. He said he may not be the first guy down the court but he likes to run and he Callghan’s style of play.

“His offense, his defense, the way we get up and down,” Monagle said. “His style of coaching basically, everything about him is great. He’s a great coach. I like him a lot.”

But the bottom line, at least so far, has been the success Monagle and the team have seen.

“I think they definitely like playing with me, with a big man,” Monagle said. “I think that if I can make an impact like I did in the beginning, we’re only going to pick it up.”

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