Speed an emphasis for Mercer Island boys basketball

Mercer Island senior forward Brian Miller goes up for a shot during last winter’s home game against Sammamish. He, along with Jeff Lindquist, is a captain of the team. - Chad Coleman/Mercer Island Reporter
Mercer Island senior forward Brian Miller goes up for a shot during last winter’s home game against Sammamish. He, along with Jeff Lindquist, is a captain of the team.
— image credit: Chad Coleman/Mercer Island Reporter

While they may still be tall, the Mercer Island boys basketball team doesn’t plan to be one-hit wonders this year. Size and speed will both factor into the team’s game plan this winter.

“We play a lot faster than we did last year,” said returning head coach Gavin Cree. “We are emphasizing pushing the ball ahead — we have a lot of good athletes who like to run the floor, so we’re going to play a little faster pace than we did last year.”

Mercer Island lost some key players to graduation last year, but because of injuries during the previous season, this year’s squad has had plenty of time on the court.

“You always miss seniors. Some of the leaders that we had last year were really good. They were just great senior leaders. We’ve got new guys stepping into those roles, and I feel good about what we have. We have a lot of guys who have really worked hard on their game in the offseason; in particular, Sam Cohn, Brian Miller and Joe Rasmussen. Those are three guys coming back who’ve really worked hard. A number of other guys as well,” said Cree.

Cree said he hopes the team, thanks to their size, will be a dominating force on defense.

“We’re big, so we’re going to be a great rebounding team. We have a lot of length. I told our guys that if we had a contest with all the other guys in the league just touching fingers, we’d win. So we have just a lot of size and a lot of length, which should lend itself to the defensive end — ‘should’ being the key word. We have to have the guts to do it,” said Cree. A few players have been sidelined early on thanks to injuries sustained at the end of the football season. Cree said both Jeff Lindquist, a captain this year, and Parker Scott, a senior, will miss the first several weeks due to injuries.

“Both are expected to start practicing in the next couple of weeks. They are going to miss December for the most part,” said the coach.

Despite those players missing the beginning of the year, the rest of the team is focusing on getting the ball up court.

“We’re really trying to emphasize kicking the ball up the court so we can run. Again we have a lot of athletes who are strong, and we are a deep team. We have plenty of guys to come in, so we shouldn’t be saving any of our energy. We’re really trying to run the floor. We’re trying to emphasize our sort of team culture that we have every year. We always reemphasize being together and supporting each other,” said Cree.

For senior captain Brian Miller, he’s seeing the guys work hard in practice.

“It’s going well,” said the forward. “We’re working on our transitions and getting up the floor.”

While the program’s goal — a state title — hasn’t changed from years past, they know it takes a little more than sheer talent to make it happen.

“We want the banner,” said senior Sam Cohn, who plays point guard. “We want KingCo, too, but to go all the way. It’s going to take dedication and hard work, and staying healthy.”

“Obviously, it’s difficult, but that’s the goal,” said Cree. “We have the ability. It’s about getting lucky a little bit, staying healthy and peaking at the right time. We were close last year. We were right there last year. I’m not going to say we have a better group, but it’s a different group this year. But as much ability to get there as before.”

The Islanders made their first state appearance last winter since 2008, traveling to Spokane for the regional round, playing two games before losing to Kamiakin.

To get to that point again this year, the team will have to find its leaders and use all of their skills.

“We have some guys who have done it, and that’s the one thing about our team. We lost guys, but those guys were out, so we have quite a few guys with a lot of experience,” said the coach.

The first game was against Eastlake, a tough start for the Islanders last year. The Wolves come to Mercer Island on Wednesday, Nov. 30, for the team’s first game of the season. The Islanders will take on Mount Si in their first league game this Friday at Mount Si.

“Eastlake, our first one, was a really difficult game last year,” said Cree. The team is always excited for Bellevue, a cross lake rivalry, as Cree called it. Mercer Island lost to the Wolverines twice last winter, before winning during the KingCo tournament.

“We’re really excited to play them,” said both Cohn and Miller.

Get a complete schedule on the KingCo website.

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