Too small to defend. Too small to shoot. Too small to be anything but a liability in a game dominated by size.
But not long after a game begins, an unsuspecting opponent makes a surprising discovery. Charette, a three-year starter at Black Hills High School, has got game.
“He plays a lot taller than he actually is,” said Thomas Rowswell, Charette’s coach and biggest fan. “As you get to know him, you find he’s got an unbelievable heart. There’s no challenge he won’t meet.”
With his speed and grit, Charette, who averaged nine points and four assists last season, is the little big man on a Black Hills team with three returning starters. With Charette at point guard leading an offense that can play uptempo or half-court, the Wolves are favored to win a 2A Evergreen Conference title.
He’s a shooter, passer and defender.
“He does a little bit of everything. He was a huge key to our success,” Rowswell said. “He’s an unbelievable on-ball defender. Low on the ball. Quick and strong. He’s fun to watch.”
Charette’s favorite players are Spud Webb, Muggsy Bogues and Earl Boykins, some of the smallest guards to play in the NBA. Charette, who began playing basketball on YMCA teams when he was 5, compensates for a lack of size with his speed and drive.
“I just go out and try to prove I’m the best guard on the floor,” Charette said. “I’ve always just wanted to be the best at what I do. Height is not going to determine what I can and can’t do.”
Charette is short, but he can jump. He can touch the rim. His jumping ability helps him when he’s driving to the basket, looking to score or pass to the open man.
“I try to be shifty,” Charette said. “I like trying to create and get the ball in the open guy’s hands.”
Charette, who was second-team all-league in basketball last year and all-league in football, is one of nine seniors who have played on the same team for several years. He’s also one of several who played on the school’s football team that reached the state playoffs. Guards Zeke Baxter and Cody Peterson and post Ben Westrum are three others who are making the transition from football to basketball.
Baxter, a second-team all-league pick last season at guard, won’t be able to play until Christmas because of a knee injury suffered in football.
Kyle Davidson, Ayre Turner and Westrum – all over 6-foot-5 – give the Wolves an inside scoring presence.
“Our post game is going to be unmatched,” Charette said. “We’ll also be able to get out and run. We’ve got eight guys who can handle the ball.
After finishing 8-6 in league last season, Black Hills goes into the season with high expectations in a competitive league.
“I love coaching in this league,” Rowswell said. “It reminds me of the old Black Hills League in the 1990s. Everybody is good and there are no nights off.”
Rowswell said his team can play fast or slow, depending on the matchup and on the circumstances of particular games.
“We’ll try to increase the tempo,” said Rowswell, who is beginning his third season with Black Hills. “But if we need to slow it down, we can slow it down. We have nice balance. We’ve got guards and posts with experience. On paper we’re excited. But on paper means nothing.”
The Wolves open their season Tuesday at Olympia.
2A EVERGREEN CONFERENCE BOYS
(2008-09 league records)
1. Black Hills (8-6)
2. River Ridge (12-2)
3. Chehalis (4-10)
4. Aberdeen (8-6)
5. Centralia (9-5)
6. Tumwater (8-6)
7. Elma (2-12)
8. Hoquiam (5-9)
Zeke BaxterG6 Sr.Black Hills
Second-team all-league last year and led team in scoring
Garrett Stoney F 6-2Sr.Elma
Aggressive defender, good rebounder and inside scorer
Easton MastellerF 6-1 Sr.Centralia
Solid on both ends of the court, a shooter and defender
Nick SiebertF 6-4 Sr.Aberdeen
Team’s best inside player and best outside shooter
Taylor CharetteG 5-8 Jr.Black Hills
Top ball-handler and defender in the league
Black Hills has the guards in Zeke Baxter and Taylor Charette to run the floor, and the frontcourt of Kyle Davidson and Ben Westrum to play halfcourt. The Wolves return three starters, making Black Hills the most experienced team in the league. ... River Ridge lost all five starters off last year’s league championship team. Joel King, a 6-3 senior guard, was the Hawks’ sixth man and is their top returner. ... Nick Sieber and Mike King averaged 12 points each last year and give Aberdeen two reliable scorers. King was honorable mention all-league at guard. He started at quarterback and is recovering from an ankle sprain. ... Tumwater forward Jake Dowers and guard Kyle Warner started last year, giving the T-Birds experienced leadership. ... Guard Jordan Boede is one of five senior guards for Tumwater. Senior guard Josh Quintero returns after missing last season with a knee injury. ... Centralia coach Ron Brown lost three players that received all-league honors. Easton Masteller returns at Centralia after making second-team all-league as a junior. The 6-1 forward can contribute on both ends of the court with his hustling play. ... Black Hills’ Cody Peterson returns after missing his junior season. Peterson rushed for 2,138 yards and was one of the top running backs in the state.
Gail Wood, The Olympian