Every day while roaming the halls or sitting in class at Olympia High School, Lewis Faller’s friends and former basketball teammates never let him forget his importance to the team.
Faller quit basketball after his freshman season, which he spent as a 5-foot-11 point guard on the “C” team. He enjoyed the game, but wanted to pursue other interests, namely soccer. But teammates missed him; the program would be better with him, they said.
“We’d tease him and make fun of him – all in good humor, of course,” fellow senior Brendan Leonard said.
Thanks to the persistence of teammates, Faller – who now stands 6-8 and weighs 195 pounds – was persuaded to return to basketball and reunite with the teammates he befriended on the “C” team three years ago. He has made a noticeable impact through the Bears’ 10 games – first in the starting lineup and now off the bench – as the Bears (8-2 overall, 2-2 Narrows 4A) play host to Bellarmine Prep (4-7, 3-1) in a key league game tonight in Chick Rockey Gymnasium.
Faller said he has experienced a welcoming feeling from the start, and thanked his teammates for their patience as he gets back into a basketball rhythm for the first since the 2009-10 season.
“I’m lucky to have a chance to play with them again,” Faller said. “They’re all really good people, which makes them easier to play with.”
Faller’s interest was more focused on soccer, where he was a two-year starting center midfielder for the Bears’ boys soccer team. But then he grew … and grew ... and grew, getting to a point where he was too tall for soccer.
He didn’t play soccer as a junior, and at the start of his senior year in September, he joined Olympia in its fall basketball league games, rekindling his memories of playing with his fellow seniors when they were all freshmen three years ago.
And then …
“Before you know it, he showed up to preseason conditioning,” Leonard said. “We were all ecstatic.”
The biggest change he has noticed so far? How physical the game has become.
With his newfound height, Faller often plays on the low block, but he still can step out and shoot a 3-pointer. And, depending on the lineup, he is a wing, a forward or even a center. He’s been working on his turnaround jump hook, practicing against Leonard and Michael Champlin, who also are 6-8.
“I’m not used to how physical it is,” said Faller, whose mother, Kristine Norelius, was an Olympic gold medal winner for the United States on the women’s eight rowing team in 1984 in Los Angeles.
“I think slowly, I’ve started to adjust more and started to get a little bit of an inside game.”
While Faller is averaging 3.0 points and 4.5 rebounds a game, coach Luke Salme said he thinks he’s a player who can have a breakout game and become a difference maker, especially come playoff time.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if he has 20 in a game,” Salme said. “He still has a body of an athletic guard. He’s a kid who can hit 15 out of 20 3s just shooting around.”
The past two games, Faller has been a key contributor off the bench after eight games in the starting lineup.
Salme has adjusted his starting lineup, moving senior Michael Naipo to shooting guard and handing the point guard duties to junior Mitch Fettig.
On Wednesday, in Olympia’s 54-49 loss at South Kitsap, Faller came off the bench and equaled his season-high of six points on 3-for-5 shooting and also had four rebounds.
The basketball rustiness is wearing off, and Faller knows he made the right call by returning to basketball.
“I feel good about it,” he said.Meg Wochnick: 360-754-5473 email@example.com www.theolympian.com/southsoundsports @MegWochnick