Alex Weber-Brader did pretty much everything for last year's junior-dominated Olympia High School boys basketball team - scoring nearly 21 points a game, while averaging eight rebounds. He earned Narrows League Bay Division MVP honors and led the Bears to the Class 4A West Central District playoffs for the first time under coach Luke Salme.
Most would be satisfied with that stellar list of accomplishments, but it only seemed to whet Weber-Brader’s competitive appetite.
The 6-foot-5 senior guard spent the entire offseason polishing his game, playing countless summer-league games to further develop chemistry with teammates and spending numerous hours in the weight room to get stronger – evident by the fact he has bulked up to 200 pounds.
“I’m not sure you can say someone is poised to have a breakout season a year after they were named MVP, but Alex is going to surprise a lot of people with how much better he is,” said Salme, who enters his fourth season with the Bears.
“I think in years past he didn’t pass the eye test. He wasn’t the type of player who walked into a gym and everyone knew before they even played he would be the best player on the court. But then you’d look at the stat sheet and he filled it up.
“This year, he’s a much more athletic player. He’s stronger and quicker. He’s added all those dimensions to his game that he didn’t necessarily have before.”
With a scholarship to NCAA Division II powerhouse Seattle Pacific already in his back pocket, Weber-Brader’s dedication to improve was motivated by one aspect: help return Olympia basketball to its once dominant status.
“My entire focus has been on Oly hoops,” Weber-Brader said.
“Making districts last year was a big step for us. I think we proved to ourselves we definitely belonged with those caliber of teams; and with everyone back this season and all the work everyone’s put in, why can’t we be the No. 1 team in the Narrows?”
That’s a good question, and certainly hard to argue against. Olympia returns three starters, including Weber-Brader and fellow senior guards Jamey Smith and Marcus Raschkow, and eight total letterwinners, all of whom saw significant playing time from last year’s 14-10 squad.
That Bears team had no problem excelling on defense a season ago but often struggled at scoring.
Expect that to change.
“We’ll be a more up-tempo team. Jamey can push the ball up the court, and we have a number of players that can hit shots,” Weber-Brader noted. “We set team goals before the season started, and improving our offensive productivity was high on our list.
“The Narrows is just too good of a league. You have to be able to produce on both ends of the court to be successful, and I think we’ll be able to do that.”
The Bears will also benefit from Weber-Brader’s newfound embrace of his role as a senior leader.
“I wasn’t a very vocal player before,” Weber-Brader said, “but that’s changed. This is our last year here.
“We have eight seniors on the team. Everyone wants to do all they can for us to have a successful season.”
NARROWS LEAGUE 4A
1. Olympia (14-10)
2. Bellarmine Prep (15-10)
3. Mount Tahoma (13-11)
4. Gig Harbor (17-9)
5. South Kitsap (7-13)
6. Central Kitsap (10-11)
7. Stadium (2-18)
8. Shelton (2-18)
G Donald Gaddy, 5-10, Sr. Bellarmine
Bundle of excitement plays much bigger than his height
G Alex Weber-Brader, 6-5, Sr., Olympia
A complete player, signed with Seattle Pacific University
G/F Xavier Bazile, 6-3, Sr., Mount Tahoma
T-Birds will rely on elite Idaho commit to play multiple positions
F Austin Seferian-Jenkins, 6-7, Sr., Gig Harbor
Teams will have difficulty guarding big man with quickness
G, Brandon Gagliardi, 6-2, Sr., Gig Harbor
Top-notch shooter can fill up the basket in a hurry
Olympia is a slight favorite, but Bellarmine Prep, Gig Harbor and Mount Tahoma are contenders for the league title. The Bears return three starters, including G Alex Weber-Brader – the Narrows League Bay Division MVP last season who averaged 20.2 points, 8.4 rebounds and 2.0 steals a game. PG Jamey Smith and G Marcus Raschkow are also back for Olympia, which also returns five other senior lettermen. ... Bellarmine Prep has just two starters back, but G Donald Gaddy and F Sefo Liufau are two of the league’s finest athletes. Gaddy might appear small, but his athleticism makes him much larger than his 5-foot-10 frame. Liufau became a starter less than a month into his freshman season. ... Gig Harbor has a tremendous inside-outside game with G Brandon Gagliardi and F Austin Seferian-Jenkins. Gagliardi, a second-team all-league pick last season, can score quickly, and Seferian-Jenkins will be a defensive mismatch for nearly every team the Tides face. The UW football recruit moves quickly for a high school player his size. ... Mount Tahoma is loaded with athletes and capable of playing with the best teams in the state.The Thunderbirds just need to be consistent. G/F Xavier Bazile, who signed with Idaho, is one the top players in the area. ... Central Kitsap lost a lot to graduation – three all-league players are gone – but the Cougars should be one of the league’s quicker teams. ... South Kitsap will be good on the perimeter, but must develop an inside presence. G Isaiah Davis, a 5-11 senior, is a leaper. ... Stadium is heavy with guards, led by seniors Tre Briscoe and Chase Hillis. The Tigers will rely on their transition game.
1. Bellarmine Prep (21-8)
2. Mount Tahoma (19-6)
3. South Kitsap (17-8)
4. Olympia (14-11)
5. Gig Harbor (11-11)
6. Central Kitsap (15-9)
7. Stadium (2-18)
8. Shelton (4-16)
G Sarah Hartwell, 5-10, Sr., Bellarmine
Athletic Xavier recruit makes basketball look easy
P Jessi Williamson, 6-6, Sr., Mount Tahoma
Shot-blocker extraordainnaire, she has signed with Seattle University
G Deborah Anderson, 5-8, Sr., Mount Tahoma
Will be among the state leaders in scoring; averaged 27.8 ppg last year
G/F Simonne Potts, 5-10, Sr., Bellarmine
Potts can get it done in the paint and on the perimeter
G Kelsey Callaghan, 5-4, Sr., South Kitsap
Heady point guard can make big plays, hit big shots
With two players committed to Division-I schools and a roster full of talent, Bellarmine Prep can make a serious run at a state title. G Sarah Hartwell, one of the state’s top athletes, has committed to play at Xavier University, and G/F Simonne Potts is headed to Air Force. Hartwell and Potts have each been named league MVP in the last two seasons. PG Grace Beardemphl is a two-time all-league selection. ... With all five starters back, Mount Tahoma is loaded and will challenge Bellarmine Prep for the league title. G Deborah Anderson led the state in scoring last season (27.8 ppg). And 6-6 P Jessi Williamson makes life miserable for opponents trying to get to the hoop with her shot-blocking ability. G Kaitlyn Bunger (12.9 ppg) and G Charly Williams (7.3 ppg) are also capable scoring options for the Thunderbirds. ... South Kitsap should make another postseason run. The Wolves return their leading scorers – G Angela Romonsky (13.0 ppg) and W Dana Goularte (10.5 ppg, 7.8 rpg) – and PG Kelsey Callaghan (6.7 ppg, 5.7 apg). ... W Jenna DeWalt (10.0 ppg) will lead a Gig Harbor team that returns three starters. G Leah Davis excels as a defender, and P Racheal Smith is a force on the boards. ... Rod Tripp takes over coaching duties at Olympia and has a team that can contend. Guards Tayler Fettig (8.3 ppg, 5.5 rpg) and Olivia Rethwill (11.6 ppg, 5.0 rpg) are scorers. ... Stadium could be poised for a breakthrough season with four returning starters – G Nicole Williams (7.6 ppg), G M’lis Cleary (7.9 ppg), G Tina Atonio 96.2 ppg) and P Carli Hallis – and 10 players with varsity experience. ... With no returning starters and a new coach, Shelton is starting from scratch. Coach Nigel Warren takes over a team that has decent height – P Taylor Gustafson, F Madison Gaa and P Heather Sawyer are 5-10 or taller.
Doug Pacey, staff writer