The Mercer Island Islanders boys basketball team believes the 2018-19 season will be a year to remember on the hardwood.
Mercer Island senior co-captain Will Lee, who will be in his second season in the starting lineup at the guard position, loves what he’s seen during the first two weeks of practices in late November.
“I love the way the team is looking right now. We are really gelling and we’re getting better. We love the challenge and we are getting after it,” Lee said.
The Islanders finished the 2017-18 with an overall record of 12-12 and were knocked out of the district playoffs by Seattle Prep in their season finale. Lee expects this year’s team to eclipse last year’s performance.
“We got two big goals. The first is to win KingCo (2A/3A Conference). This is our year to take league and we feel like we have the team to get that done. The second is to get to the Tacoma Dome (site of the Class 3A state tournament). We’re going after it,” Lee explained.
Mercer Island co-captain Teague Condor believes having eight returners on the varsity squad will pay dividends in early season matchups.
“It is nice having so many guys coming back because obviously we don’t have to work on sets in practice. We can just go out and compete. We competed hard these first few weeks of practice and have just been getting after it at 100 percent. That has helped us a lot,” Condor said.
The Islanders have one of the most physically daunting presences in the entire league in the paint. Islanders sophomore center David Pickles, who stands 6-feet, 8-inches tall, towers over opposing teams players in the post.
“We can feed him in the post and its a mismatch for everyone else in the league. He opens everyone up for open looks on the outside. If we miss a shot, he will get the board and just give us more opportunities,” Condor said.
Mercer Island Islanders head coach Gavin Cree, who will be in his 10th season leading the boys basketball program, is the longest tenured head coach in the 2A/3A KingCo Division.
“We learned some things last year about preparation. Last year we learned that we can’t just go walk into a game and expect to win. Last year we dropped our first game to Sammamish, which was a disappointing loss. Now I think we are well positioned to approach every game with a great mentality,” Cree explained. “We have eight returning lettermen so we have a lot of guys coming back with various levels of experience. Griffin Emanuels (2018 graduate) was such focal point for us last year being a three-year starter and a four-year varsity player. With him graduated, it actually opens up more freedom for everybody else to bring their skill set to the table. A lot of the guys have improved.”
Cree said returners Rainer McDonald, Joe Gormley, Adam Parker, Bickle, Lee and Condor bring a wealth of experience to the floor.
“We have a lot of guys who have had some big roles on this team but we’re still young overall. We don’t have a lot of seniors. We have four seniors and three of them have experience. Overall it is a group that is continuing to learn to play at this level. I think it’s going to come together more quickly than it did last year,” Cree said.
Dec. 7 at Marysville-Pilchuck, 7:15 p.m.
Dec. 11 JUANITA, 7:15 p.m.
Dec. 14 INTERLAKE, 8 p.m.
Dec. 18 at Sammamish, 7:15 p.m.
Dec. 21 at Lake Washington, 8 p.m.
Jan. 5 at Newport, 7 p.m.
Jan. 8 BELLEVUE, 7:15 p.m.
Jan. 11 LIBERTY, 8 p.m.
Jan. 18 at Juanita, 8 p.m.
Jan. 22 at Interlake, 7:15 p.m.
Jan. 25 SAMMAMISH, 8 p.m.
Jan. 29 LAKE WASHINGTON, 7:15 p.m.
Feb. 1 at Bellevue, 8 p.m.