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Knights look to have the right stuff
Joe Bollinger lifted off the floor, got his right-hand on Anthony Ragsdales soft alley-oop toss above the rim and slammed it home.
It was young Mr. Bollingers first dunk, but not everybody had seen it. Many of his Bremerton High teammates, scattered around the gym, had their backs turned.
What! Joe dunked! No way!
The poker-faced Bollinger, an aggressive 6-foot-2 senior who has slammed into his share of bodies on the basketball court, calmly backed off, and tried it again. This time all eyes were on him. Ragsdale underhanded another lob pass toward the hoop. Wham-bam, thank you mam, Bollinger stuffed it again.
Whats up with that Joe?
Probably all the squats Ive been doing, he said.
Teammate Michael Stitt was still shaking his head when asked about it outside the Knights lockerroom.
I dont know, Stitt said. Thats the first time Ive seen that. Hes always been close, but he finally got one today. Now Ive got to get one.
Now, wait a minute. Were talking about a 5-foot-10 point-guard, right.
I worked on it and got close, but I figured Id rather spend my time working on my jump shot than working on my vertical, Stitt said. I figured the jump shot would probably be a little more important.
Good decision, Mike.
The Knights will be counting on Stitt to make a lot of good decisions in this season of high expectations.
Even without Marvin Williams, a highly-touted, multi-talented 6-foot-7 sophomore, Bremerton knew it had the potential for a special season.
Stitt, Bollinger and Kellen Alley, whos been throwing down dunks, blocking shots and shooting high-arcing jumpers since stepping on the court as a sophomore, gives the Knights a well-grounded veteran trio to build around.
Willliams gives them much, much more.
Add steady, heady 6-5 Noah Garguile, jumping James Bailey, a 6-4 sophomore, and a load of other quick, athletic players to the mix, and you get an idea why everybodys pointing at Bremerton as the team to beat in the Narrows League Bridge Division.
They players have heard the talk about how theyre supposed to be all-this and all-that.
In a way you just kind of laugh and smile about it because its the beginning of the season, Bollinger said. Everybodys saying Bremertons going to take league, but weve just got to go out and practice hard and basically just try and show them, and ourselves, what we can do.
The Knights heads havent swollen to unusual proportions. Overconfidence, said Stitt, shouldnt be a problem.
Weve got a grip on it, he said. We know were talented and we know we can accomplish a lot if we put it all together.
Team work, unity, playing together, Stitt said. Weve got to play together and not let our individual goals surpass our team goals.
Coach Casey Lindberg feels fortunate to have the kind of senior leadership that Bollinger, Alley and Stitt provide.
Theyve been around the block, Lindberg said. Theyve been in the big games and they realize what it takes. Its nice to have that blend of senior leadership and a couple pretty darn good sophomores.
Its a perfect situation for a player like Williams, who has yet to put up his first shot as a varsity player, yet has already held a private audition for a University of North Carolina assistant coach.
Face it, Marvin does things that other kids cant at that age, Lindberg said. But hes only 15 years old. A lot of people see this 6-foot-7, talented youngster and expect so much, but they forget that hes only 15.
This year were not going to have to put tons of pressure on him, Lindberg said. Theres going to be expectations for him to perform, but I dont think there will be any excessive pressure on him where he has to do this or has to do that for us to be successful. This year Im very lucky to have the three seniors who can provide leadership and I can just let Marvin play.
The players recognize Williams enormous skills. They watch him lead fastbreaks and feed the open man. They know hes not terribly physical at this stage of his development, but hes still able to tip-in missed shots and block shots in the lane. Hes got three-point range with his shot, at least when his legs are fresh.
Lindberg wasnt kidding when he said to list Williams as a guard/forward/center.
He basically makes everyone around him better, Stitt said. He virtually can play every position out on the court, which is a big help for us.
Hes the real deal.
Yeah, he is, said Stitt.
I give him a lot of credit, Bollinger said. Hes working just as hard as everybody else and keeping humble about it all. I think hell continue to do that.
Stitt played summer ball with Williams and has seen enough to know theres no need to sit down and have a heart-to-heart talk with the guy who thought long and hard about attending ODea High School in Seattle.
He has a grasp of how things go, Stitt said. He knows hes good, but he also knows were all a team and that we all have our goals.
Lindberg believes Bailey, Bremertons other sophomore, has Division I potential. An aggressive all-around player who runs the floor and sticks outside jumpers, the transfer from Kentucky dominates at times during practice. His biggest challenge could come in the classroom.
Were pretty deep, Lindberg said. Weve got kids like Anthony Ragsdale, Tieba Bropleh, Zach Otis and the Bailey kid coming off the bench. We can probablay go nine, maybe 10-deep on most nights. In a normal year, a lot of these kids would be pushing for starting spots.
The Knights will be tested early, opening on the road against Issaquah (Tuesday, Nov. 27) and Eastlake (Friday, Nov. 29), squads reputed to be among the best in their leagues. The Narrows League has produced the last two state 4A champions in Foss (2000) and Lincoln (2001), and the Bay Division of the Narrows is loaded once again. Bremerton and South Kitsap have been tabbed as the teams to beat in the Bridge Division, with Gig Harbor, North Kitsap and Port Angeles considered the best of the rest.
Theres a lot of competition in the Narrows League, but I see us doing all right depending on how hard we work, Bollinger said. We can go as far as we basically want to go. Definitely, the state championship is not out of question or anything.
Hes not talking smack. Thats not Bollingers style. Even if he was, how are you going to argue with a guy who just threw down his first dunk.