On a basketball court, Jamey Smith has always been a scorer; a shooting guard who could pop 3-pointers or drive to the hoop.
However, Olympia Bears coach Luke Salme wanted to know, could he be a passer? Could he pile up points and assists?
That’s what Salme worried about when Smith made his first start at point guard in the season opener three months ago. Now, with his team at 17-2 going into tonight’s regular-season finale at home against Shelton, Salme no longer frets if Smith has the knack for passing.
“Jamey is the main reason why we’ve had such a turnaround,” Salme said. “He’s figured out how to get everyone involved and still be a threat.”
Because of his shooter’s mentality, Smith isn’t a prototypical point guard. But he has learned to think pass first, shoot second.
“I don’t try to look for my shot as much anymore,” Smith said. “I’m OK now to pass. Before it was always about being able to shoot. I’ve always been a shooting guard.”
Smith is averaging 14 points, 3.5 assists and two steals.
“Before, if I wasn’t scoring, I’d have my head down,” Smith said. “Now, it’s a matter of getting everyone involved. It’s been an adjustment.”
Salme said Smith is just one piece of the puzzle that has produced Olympia’s dream season: The Bears have lost one league game and won their first league title since 1999. There’s also Alex Weber-Brader, the Bears’ do-everything 6-foot-4 forward who was the Narrows League’s MVP last season and is averaging 22 points this season. And senior guard Marcus Raschkow, who is averaging 12 points.
“I’ve always said that if you can get three guys in double digits a game, then we’re probably going to win,” Salme said. “That’s a major reason why we’re winning. Especially with the way we try to play defense.”
Olympia, indeed, can pile up the points and shut teams down. The Bears are averaging 65.3 points and giving up a paltry 48.4.
“Our goal is to give up no more than 12 points a quarter,” Salme said. “Our goal is to keep teams under 50 points.”
Olympia has done that nine times this season, even holding Shelton and South Kitsap to 27 points in back-to-back games last month. Olympia is shooting 47 percent from the field, and opponents are shooting 39 percent.
Weber-Brader is a score-anywhere threat. Raschkow and guard Dom Francks are the Bears’ best 3-point shooters, each shooting about 48 percent from behind the arc. Salme calls Kyle Steen, the Bears’ fifth starter, a solid defender who can score, averaging eight points.
“Kyle has been the guy who can defend like crazy,” Salme said. “I think he’s the best defensive player in the league. So, we’ve got guys who can fill different roles. They don’t just accept those roles, they welcome them with open arms.”
Salme came into the season optimistic, even though just two regular starters (Weber-Brader, Raschkow) and one part-time starter (Smith) returned.
“Alex returned, which said a lot,” Salme said. “This summer, we really started to see it. We recognized then that if we did what we needed to do, we could win. We came into the season pretty excited about our potential.”
Especially since he’s found someone to run the show at point guard.
Gail Wood: 360-754-5443