By CHARLIE PIETERICK
The Vashon Pirate boys basketball team will have a new look this year following the graduation of seven members from last year’s team, a team that won three successive Nisqually League titles.
In the off-season, the new-look Pirates have been working hard to live up to the legacy of Pirate basketball excellence. The boys have continued a schedule of regular practices and work-outs and played more than 50 league and tournament games against some of the state’s better programs.
Coach Andy Sears likes what he sees. “We have a solid work ethic in this group,” he said, in lauding the effort and commitment the boys have demonstrated throughout the off-season.
“Nine times out of 10, this game gets down to who plays harder and who wants it more. When you see that you have a great work ethic, you can play through some of the inexperience with hustle and heart,” Sears added.
But this team is more than just hustle and heart, according to Sears.
“We’ll be deeper and be able to play more kids. That will change our style. We’ll get more up and down (the court). I’d expect to see more pressure, full court especially.”
Sears added that the Pirates seem armed to the teeth with a variety of weapons.
“This summer we had a different guy step up every night. We have a legit guy who can score at every position all the time. We’re going to be very hard to guard. It’s going to be very fun to play. Especially if we buy into sharing the ball.”
The Pirates will also have more size with at least three varsity players 6’5” or more. With a more consistent post game, Sears expects the Pirates to try to pound it inside more.
The team’s intensity, combined with what he sees as a huge potential for this group of young men to grow in the game, bodes well for success.
“We saw this summer,” he says, “that the boys just got better with each game.”
To get the Pirates prepared for the upcoming Nisqually League season, Sears has scheduled tough opponents, such as Foster and Fife, along with a very competitive Can-Am Tournament in Victoria, B.C. over the Christmas holiday.
Sears feels the boys share characteristics with his successful teams from the past.
“They’re (always) all there (for team activities). They’re all committed. The families are committed. They’re all nice kids of high character with high character families. They love the game. They share the ball. Wouldn’t every coach want their teams to have all those things?”
He also cites the foundation the players have coming into the program. Starting out with Vashon Island Junior Basketball, followed by getting the kids off the Island to play against other teams shows them “that there’s a big world out there with really good players.”
Sears said “During my first year as head coach, nine of our 11 freshmen couldn’t make a left hand lay-in. Skill-wise, now, it’s unbelievable. I have to give credit to the dads and moms who have invested in the growth of these young players.”
As for predicting how well this new crop of boys will do this season, he said, “We’ll be in the mix again.” He thinks Charles Wright (which brought in two good, experienced players) and Seattle Christian (which has an experienced group of seniors) will be the Nisqually League challengers to beat.
But he chooses not to look too far into the season. He prefers to focus on what needs to be done in each practice and game. “We’re just trying to get better all the time. We work hard to be prepared for each game as it comes.”
The “new-look” Pirate boys will open their season at home against Fife at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 28.
— Charlie Pietrick is a basketball dad.