Sports

South Sound boys basketball primer: Who will be the top teams, players in 2018-19?

Federal Way’s Jaden McDaniels throws down a dunk in the third quarter. Federal Way played Kentwood in a basketball game to decide the 4A NPSL title at Tahoma High School in Maple Valley, Wash., on Saturday, Feb. 3, 2018.
Federal Way’s Jaden McDaniels throws down a dunk in the third quarter. Federal Way played Kentwood in a basketball game to decide the 4A NPSL title at Tahoma High School in Maple Valley, Wash., on Saturday, Feb. 3, 2018. joshua.bessex@gateline.com

SOUTH SOUND BOYS BASKETBALL PRIMER

Who will be the best local basketball players this season? Which teams will wind up with league crowns? The News Tribune breaks down the 2018-19 season in the South Sound.

CLASS 4A

No. 1-ranked Gonzaga Prep capped its undefeated season with a come-from-behind title victory over Federal Way in the Tacoma Dome

TEAM TO WATCH

Could Gonzaga Prep and Federal Way be headed toward another meeting in the 4A state title game? The Bullpups, led by Gonzaga signee Anton Watson, wowed in the Tacoma Dome last season, edging the Eagles in the championship game. But, Federal Way is ranked 15th in the nation by MaxPreps, returns five-star small forward Jaden McDaniels, who is considered the No. 5 recruit in the nation in the 2019 class, and adds Garfield transfer Tari Eason. Curtis, the four-time defending 4A SPSL champion, could be another contender after advancing to the quarterfinals last season, and has leading scorer and Seattle Pacific signee Zack Paulsen back. Don’t sleep on Puyallup either, which arguably has the most depth in the 4A SPSL.

4A NPSL CASCADE

FAB FIVE

G Ricky Bell, Mount Rainier, 6-10, jr. — Point guard is leading the Rams in scoring average (14.3 points per game) and assists (3.8 per game) early on.

G Jett Briceno, Kentridge, 6-4, sr. — Returning first-team 4A NPSL Cascade pick does everything for the Chargers.

F Kimball Cottam, Tahoma, 6-7, sr. — Powerful forward leads the Bears in points per game (20.1) and rebounds per game (10). (20.1 points per game).

F Yadel Hedego, Mount Rainier, 6-7, sr. — Reigning 4A NPSL Cascade defensive player of the year is averaging 10.6 points, 7.9 rebounds per game for the Rams.

F Owen Paznokas, Kentridge, 6-5, jr. — Top threat for the Chargers is lengthy and can light up the scoreboard.

LEAGUE PREDICTION

Kentridge (17-7 last year), Mount Rainier (11-12), Kentlake (6-16), Tahoma (9-13), Kentwood (19-8), Kennedy Catholic (16-8), Kent Meridian (7-13), Hazen (3-17).

4A NPSL OLYMPIC

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Federal Way’s Jaden McDaniels throws down a dunk in the third quarter. Federal Way played Kentwood in a basketball game to decide the 4A NPSL title at Tahoma High School in Maple Valley, Wash., on Saturday, Feb. 3, 2018. Joshua Bessex joshua.bessex@gateline.com

FAB FIVE

F Isaiah Dunn, Auburn, 6-5, sr. — Most experienced player on a team of underclassman has the Trojans off to a hot start.

F Tari Eason, Federal Way, 6-9, jr. — Garfield transfer won a 3A state title last season, and balances out McDaniels well as a four-star forward.

G Peter Erickson, Enumclaw, 6-6, jr. — Lengthy combo guard was a first-team 4A NPSL Olympic pick as a sophomore last season.

G Bradley Graham, Federal Way, 6-0, jr. — Transfer from Decatur is a sharp shooter, and was a second-team 4A NPSL Olympic pick as a sophomore.

F Jaden McDaniels, Federal Way, 6-11, sr. — No. 5 recruit in the nation in 2019 is the Eagles’ most dynamic player. Has narrowed list of college choices to Kentucky, San Diego State, Texas, UCLA and UW.

LEAGUE PREDICTION

Federal Way (27-2 last year), Auburn (15-9), Enumclaw (23-6), Auburn Riverside (4-16), Todd Beamer (6-17), Auburn Mountainview (7-18), Thomas Jefferson (6-14), Decatur (11-15).

4A SPSL

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Curtis’ Zack Paulsen (1) puts up a shot in the first quarter. Curtis played Olympia in a basketball game at Curtis High School in Tacoma, Wash., on Friday, Dec. 14, 2018. Joshua Bessex joshua.bessex@gateline.com

FAB FIVE

G Jace Barrett, Rogers, 6-2, jr. — Second-team 4A SPSL pick a season ago is lighting up the board for the Rams, averaging 15.2 points per game, and has 16 3-pointers early on.

G Charles Elzie, Bellarmine Prep, 6-1, sr. — Returning point guard was a first-team 4A SPSL pick last year, and averages 13.8 points per game.

F Jackson Grant, Olympia, 6-9, soph. — Big presence in the paint played varsity as a freshman, too, and is averaging 14.1 points per game.

G Jaeden Ingram, Puyallup, 6-1, sr. — Most dynamic and versatile of Puyallup’s deep set of wings is averaging 14.2 points per game.

G Zack Paulsen, Curtis, 6-4, sr. — Seattle Pacific signee was the 4A SPSL co-MVP as a junior, and leads the Vikings with 18.3 points per game.

LEAGUE PREDICTION

Curtis (20-9 last year), Puyallup (15-8), Olympia (15-11), Rogers (14-8), Sumner (10-11), South Kitsap (5-15), Bellarmine Prep (15-11), Emerald Ridge (4-16), Graham-Kapowsin (3-17).

CLASS 3A

TEAM TO WATCH

The 3A Metro League teams have plenty of star power again this season between favorites Rainier Beach and O’Dea, and Seattle schools have won the past seven titles in the Tacoma Dome. Lakes was the last South Sound team to win a 3A title, but that was back in 2010. And, with former South Sound stars like Wilson’s Emmitt Matthews Jr. (West Virginia) and Timberline’s Erik Stevenson (Wichita State) off in college, and former Lincoln coach Aubrey Shelton now at UPS, the 3A PCL and 3A SSC appear wide open. Lincoln has won back-to-back undefeated 3A PCL titles, but former Foss coach Mike Cocke’ is now at Wilson, and won a 2A state title in 2017 with the Falcons. North Thurston won the 3A SSC last year, but graduated heavy. Timberline and Capital could be contenders in the southern league.

3A PCL

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Lincoln’s Julien Simon shoves aside Timberline’s Eli Morton for a steal during Thursday’s 3A boys basketball state quarterfinals in the Tacoma Dome on March 1, 2018. Tony Overman toverman@theolympian.com

FAB FIVE

G Davion Gaines, Stadium, 6-1, sr. — Returning first-team 3A PCL pick is a Portland State football signee, but is averaging an impressive 25 points per game.

G Damani Green, Wilson, 5-9, jr. — Averaging 18.5 points, 4 rebounds and 3.5 assists for a Rams team that could contend for a league title.

F Donnelle Irvin, Stadium, 6-3, jr. — Chief Leschi transfer was the co-MVP of the 2B Pacific League last season. Averaging 18.7 points per game for the Tigers.

G Daniel Santana, Wilson, 6-1, sr. — Second-team 3A PCL pick a season ago leads the Rams in scoring (20.5 points per game) and rebounding (8 per game).

F Julien Simon, Lincoln, 6-4, soph.Two-way all-state football player has eight Power 5 offers, and is also the Abes’ top performer on the basketball court.

LEAGUE PREDICTION

Lincoln (26-2 last year), Wilson (21-8), Stadium (10-12), Lakes (8-14), Spanaway Lake (17-7), Mount Tahoma (1-19), Bethel (4-16), Bonney Lake (9-13).

3A SSC

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Capital guard Chris Penner (15) drives to the basket at the Peninsula Seahawks vs. Capital Cougars boys basketball game at Peninsula High School in Purdy, Wash., Friday, Dec. 8, 2017. Capital wins 70-62. Penner finished the game with 34 points. David Montesino dmontesino@thenewstribune.com

FAB FIVE

G Hunter Campau, Timberline, 6-0, sr. All-state pick as a quarterback also paces the Blazers on the basketball court, and is their leading scorer.

F Grant Erickson, Capital, 6-5, sr. — Biggest presence in the paint for an always-balanced Cougars team. 3A SSC first-teamer last year.

G Chris Penner, Capital, 6-1, sr. — Returning 3A SSC first-team pick was the leading scorer for the Cougars as a junior.

G Tyler Spurlock, Peninsula, 6-3, sr. — Leading the Seahawks with 16.7 points per game, and chips in 5.9 rebounds and 2.6 assists.

F Tim Tenkley, North Thurston, 6-4, sr. — Top returner for the defending league champions is averaging a double double with 21.8 points, 10.5 rebounds per game.

LEAGUE PREDICTION

Timberline (22-7 last year), Capital (17-7), Peninsula (14-9), Shelton (9-14), Central Kitsap (10-12), North Thurston (21-4), Gig Harbor (6-14), Yelm (0-19).

CLASS 2A

Foss cruised past Pullman to secure a bye into the state quarterfinals on Thursday in the Yakima SunDome.

TEAM TO WATCH

Defending state champion Lynden, with its overwhelming height — the Lions top out at 6-foot-10 — still sets up as the favorite in Yakima in March, but the contending tier of the 2A field is deep after that. Foss, which is a season removed from winning a 2A state title in 2017, remains the best local hopeful despite some program changes, including longtime coach Mike Cocke’ moving to Wilson. Josh Barsh, the Falcons’ first-year coach was a standout at Puyallup, and played college basketball at TCC and Montana State. Foss does return veteran guard Micah Pollard, who is arguably the best player in Tacoma, and averages 27.4 points per game.

2A SPSL

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Foss’ Micah Pollard (3) shoots over Steilacoom’s JJ Lemming (42) in the first quarter. Foss played Steilacoom in a basketball game at Steilacoom High School in Steilacoom, Wash., on Tuesday, Dec. 18, 2018. Joshua Bessex joshua.bessex@gateline.com

FAB FIVE

G Malachi Afework, Fife, 6-0, sr. — Scoring point guard is the top returner from a state-playoff team a season ago. Was a second-team 2A SPSL Mountain pick as a junior.

G Jalen Barbee, Franklin Pierce, 6-4, soph. — Most explosive playmaker for a Cardinals team that plays up-tempo. Franklin Pierce is undefeated early on.

F Torrey Cady, Steilacoom, 6-2, sr. — Strong, slashing scorer is the top threat on a tough Sentinels team. Was a 2A SPSL Sound second-teamer as a junior.

G Micah Pollard, Foss, 6-0, sr. — First-team 2A SPSL Mountain pick last season does everything for the Falcons, including averaging 27.4 points per game.

G Brandon Howard, White River, 6-2, sr. — Sharp shooter is a top scoring threat for a Hornets team that should contend for a division title.

LEAGUE PREDICTION

North Division — Renton (21-7 last year), Foster (8-10), Lindbergh (11-12), Highline (14-9), Evergreen of Seattle (1-17), Tyee (4-15).

East Division — Franklin Pierce (16-9 last year), White River (9-11), Eatonville (7-13), Orting (4-16), Washington (1-18).

West Division — Foss (21-6 last year), Steilacoom (10-13), Fife (21-6), River Ridge (4-16), Clover Park (17-9).

2A EVCO

FAB FIVE

G Jackson Bauer, Black Hills, 6-0, sr. — Lone returning starter for the Wolves averaged 11.5 points, 4.5 rebounds and 3.2 assists per game as a junior.

G Javier Bojorge, Aberdeen, 6-0, sr. — Averaging 17.8 points, 4.3 rebounds and 3.5 assists per game for the Bobcats. Second-team 2A EvCo pick as a junior.

G Ben Dublanko, Abereen, 5-10, sr. — Returning first-team 2A EvCo pick is averaging a team-leading 19.7 points, 4.8 rebounds and 4.7 assists per game.

G Gunnar Fields, Tumwater, 6-0, jr. — Floor leader is quick, and a sharp shooter from 3-point range. Leads the T-Birds in scoring.

F Colby White, W.F. West, 6-5, sr. — Second-team 2A EvCo pick last season was key in the Bearcats’ deep state tournament run.

LEAGUE PREDICTION

W.F. West (25-5 last year), Aberdeen (6-14), Tumwater (11-13), Black Hills (14-10), Rochester (5-15), Centralia (12-11).

SMALL SCHOOLS

TEAM TO WATCH

Longtime Life Christian coach Mark Lovelady left the program after last season’s 2B state-tournament appearance to take a job in Arizona, but he left plenty of pieces for first-year coach Charles Simmons Jr., including returning 2B Pacific co-MVP Omari Maulana and first-team pick Noah Robinson. The Eagles also add Bradley Swillie, a transfer from Tacoma Baptist. Tacoma Baptist was the top local in 1B last season, turning in a sixth-place finish. Two-time defending state champion Kittitas-Thorp, led by Gonzaga signee Brock Ravet, and Saint George’s, are still the top contenders in 2B. And Lynden Christian could defend its 1A title behind 6-foot-8 Michigan signee Cole Bajema.

FAB FIVE

G Tommy Delargy, Vashon Island, 6-0, sr. — Scoring point guard is also a standout soccer player, and the leader on the court and only returning starter for the Pirates.

F Parker Johnson, Cascade Christian, 6-4, jr. — Second-team 1A Nisqually pick as a sophomore for the defending league champions is a tough back-to-the-basket player.

G Omari Maulana, Life Christian, 6-1, soph. — Was the 2B Pacific co-MVP as a freshman, and the top scoring threat for the Eagles.

F Noah Robinson, Life Christian, 6-2, sr. — First-team 2B Pacific pick last year is averaging 18.6 points, 5.1 rebounds per game.

G Bradley Swillie, Life Christian, 6-3, fr. — Tacoma Baptist transfer was a top scoring threat for the Crusaders’ state-playoffs squad last season as an eighth-grader.

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