One look at the pennants adorning the Juneau-Douglas High School gymnasium speaks volumes about the winning tradition of Crimson Bears' boys basketball
The 12-inch placards span nearly a wall and a half and many of them are painted white, denoting a Southeast Conference or state championship for the Bears.
That is, until recently.
JDHS is mired in a three-year slump by the Crimson Bears' high standards. The boys team hasn't reached the state tournament since 2003 and hasn't won the Class 3A/4A conference title since 2002.
The lack of white paint on the recent pennants hasn't been ignored by JDHS coach George Houston.
"We talk about the plaques on the wall," Houston said. "We say there's not enough white up there on those plaques. Hopefully it'll motivate them. I don't know if it motivates them, but it sure as hell motivates me."
Juneau-Douglas opens the new season on Wednesday at Colony, last year's runner-up at the state tournament.
It will also be the first game since the Crimson Bears were forced to watch visiting Ketchikan celebrate a Class 4A region title in their gym last March.
"We don't forget," senior guard Tres Saldivar said of last year's regional defeat. "We have a bad taste in our mouths, but still our first game is against Colony."
Meet the Crimson Bears
The Juneau-Douglas High School varsity boys basketball team
Tres Saldivar, sr.
Luke Miller, sr.
Scott Lesh, sr.
Ryan Fagerstrom, sr.
Nico Saldivar, jr.
Will Egolf, jr.
Cameron Cook, jr.
Clae Baker, jr.
Billy Sarandria, so.
Faifo Levale, so.
Ryan Larson, so.
Shawn Ibesate, so.
Sam Clark, so.
Dominique Brinson, so.
Eric Gross, fr.
Head coach George Houston
Assistant coach Steve Potter
Assistant coach Robert Casperson
Assistant coach Steve Brandner
This year's version of the Crimson Bears appears to be a unique mix of height and speed.
It will also be a very diverse offense, if the Bears heed Houston's demands.
"We try to run, we try to apply full-court man pressure and run up and down the court," Houston said. "We're not going to walk it down and pound it inside and be one-dimensional."
Juneau-Douglas appears to have the athletes to make Houston's vision of a 94-foot game reality.
The Crimson Bears are blessed with four quality returning big men who may lack gigantic muscles, but make up for it with agility.
Will Egolf, a 6-foot-7 junior weighing 194 pounds, can play inside and outside and will by joined in the front court by 6-foot-5 junior Clae Baker.
Additional inside forces figure to be 6-3 Cameron Cook, 6-2 Ryan Fagerstrom, 6-2 Ryan Larson and 6 foot, 250-pound sophomore Faifo Levale.
Houston said his team will be comparable size-wise to their opposition this season.
"We have a little bit of size," Houston said. "We're not really bulky other than Faifo, but I do think our bigs are pretty quick and we'll have to see."
In the backcourt, Juneau-Douglas boasts a wealth of experience hungry to reclaim the glory years of recent memory.
Saldivar and Luke Miller, both four-year varsity players, will be in the backcourt and bring quickness and shooting ability to the team. Junior guard Nico Saldivar should bring energy and speed.
Tres Saldivar is a bulldog defensively and must make smart decisions with the ball. Miller serves as one of Juneau's more experienced marksmen.
Senior swingman Scott Lesh is one of the team's best 3-point shooters and should help extend opposing defenses.
If the jump shots start falling for Juneau, it could make life a lot easier for Eglof and Baker in the paint.
"I'd say we move the ball well up and down the court and that's a really good attribute," Lesh said. "We play well together and are experienced with four seniors and four juniors."
Though Juneau-Douglas boasts a solid array of jump shooters, Houston doesn't want them to just camp outside and fire away.
"We try to get a balance of shots and not just be one-dimensional where the saying is if you live by the long one, you die by it because some nights they go in and some nights they don't," Houston said. "Also, you don't get to the free throw line if you don't go inside. We have to try and put that as more of an emphasis as we go along and roles get identified."
While the Crimson Bears want to maintain a multifaceted attack, JDHS would love to get out and pressure opponents.
Juneau-Douglas isn't exceedingly muscular or strong, but its quickness and overall athleticism lends itself to a pressing game.
"Defensively we can move up and down and all of our big guys are quick," Egolf said.
JDHS should be able to match up with any team it plays in the athleticism department. Whether or not the Crimson Bears reclaim the Southeast crown, however, may come down to mental toughness.
Can the Crimson Bears finish off a team when they're down? Can they eliminate the lulls in the game when opposing squads start a comeback?
The team will start to find out Wednesday.
"There's times when you've got to get stops, there's times when you've got to get a really good shot, there's clutch times in a ball game when you have to make free throws," Houston said. "It comes down to mental toughness and believing in your team and teammates. The kids understand that and do that."
Tim Nichols, sports editor, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Crimson Bears boys basketball schedule
Dec. 14 at Colony
Dec. 15-17 at Service Tournament
Dec. 27-30 Capital City Classic
Jan. 4-6 at Dimond Tournament
Jan. 13-14 vs. Service
Jan. 20-21 at Sitka
Jan. 27-28 vs. North Pole
Feb. 3-4 at Ketchikan
Feb. 10-11 vs. Sitka
Feb. 24-25 vs. Ketchikan
Mar. 8-11 Southeast Tournament at Ketchikan
Mar. 23-25 State Tournament at Anchorage