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Bears revamped, reloaded

Posted: Monday, December 27, 2010

Speed thrills, post power kills. Depth and versatility seal the deal.

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Klas Stolpe / Juneau Empire
Klas Stolpe / Juneau Empire

The 2010-11 Juneau-Douglas boys' basketball team plans to run and gun, and overpower people in the post - whether out on the floor or in half-court sets.

It's almost a new year and there's a revamped squad of Crimson Bears, set to be unleashed today as Juneau-Douglas prepares for the Capital City Classic.

"Speedy, which is OK, because we have pretty good speed," JDHS coach Steve Potter said of his new team. "But, now, we're pretty big. We have too much speed to not try and run, so we're going to defend in the whole court - which is our plan - and we expect to rebound and push it down the floor."

Five-foot-6 junior speedster Lance Ibesate has the reigns at point guard, but the Bears' true depth lies on the wings. Classmate Tony Yadao, 5-foot-8, gets the nod at shooting guard with senior swingman Colin Gozelski at small forward. Fellow seniors Cort Saviers, 5-foot-9, and Eddie Hurtte, 5-foot-11, will come off the bench, along with 6-foot-4 junior Alec Calloway, who was tabbed by Gozelski as the most improved.

"Really, for us, (shooting guard) and (small forward) are interchangeable," Potter said. "All of our guards can play the off guard, but where we are the thinnest is at the point."

Depth at point guard is a concern, but the another key loss from the 2009-10 Southeast Conference Tournament champs will be at shooting guard, where All-State honorable mention Alex DeRocher was the team's go-to guy on the perimeter and a leader in the locker room.

But the Bears' best bet for 2011 might be his replacement - Yadao, who showed flashes of defensive brilliance, scoring ability and athleticism as a sophomore; not to mention that DeRocher-like 3-point stroke during Thursday's alumni game.

"We'll miss DeRocher's scoring, but Tony has done a lot of work in the offseason, (Alec) Calloway's done a lot of work, and I think those guys can help fill that role," Potter said. "Tony, I thought he was pretty good last year and he played hard. The thing for him is maintaining that intensity and hunger.

"If he still wants to dominate people, then he's going to have a monster year."

Yadao, who let his game speak for itself last season, said he's ready to take on a leadership role.

"The thing that I've gotten better at is communicating. I've been quiet most of my high school career, but I've been trying to develop that leader mentality," he said. "Over this past summer, I've been working with my coaches on being a leader. I think with our supporting cast, all the pressure won't be on me.

"We're more athletic, and we have a lot of returning guards who can step in."

The Bears graduated a wealth of bulk, depth and fouls down low, but should be more of a scoring threat. Six-foot-4 senior DeAndre King and 6-foot-2 sophomore Gary Speck transferred from Thunder Mountain and will add both size and experience in the post, along with 6-foot-6 senior big man Ryan Baldwin and 6-foot-9 junior Taylor Swofford.

"We lost some bigs but out of the blue, we replaced them with some even bigger bigs," Potter said. "I think that last year, we had an advantage in that a lot of guys could play hard. We have the same situation and if we can get everybody to play hard, then I think we can be pretty good."

Gozelski said this year's post players are more skilled on both ends of the court.

"We're a lot different from last year. We're a lot bigger," he said. "Because of the big guys, we're going to try some new zones. Our big guys are more experienced and we've put in a lot of work over the summer."

King and Baldwin will both get a shot at power forward, but everything will depend on matchups, Potter said. The 6-foot-3 Gozelski also will see time down low.

"It just depends on how we move guys around," Potter said.

At center, 6-foot-7 junior Evan Gross has the upperhand on the starting role.

"We'll also look at Baldwin there," Potter said, "plus we have two sophomores in Jeff Pusich and Gary Speck with good size and good skill."

The X-Factor for this team is sophomore Phillip Fenumiai. The Crimson Bears' All-State quarterback shed more than 30 pounds before the school year started, and has shown increased mobility, along with a better handle. So much so he's grown from a JV post player into a versatile weapon Potter plans to play all over the floor.

Fenumiai played point guard at times during the recent alumni game and Southeast Holiday Hoops Classic, a JV tournament at Thunder Mountain last week.

"Phillip can play anywhere from one to five," Potter said. "He's transitioning from a post player into a wing player. He's grown a little bit and he's so much faster. He's always had pretty good ball-handling skills, and he's evolving into a guard for us."

Potter said he's happy with the team's athleticism and depth up front, and overall communication is much improved. Perimeter shooting, he said, could be the biggest hurdle.

The way to make up for any deficiencies, Potter said, is "for guys to play to exhaustion," while recognizing they will get back in the game.

"Guys are afraid that once they come out, they'll never go back in," he said. "I think that we're deep enough, and I think the guys know that. When a big subs in for another big, they're not worried about it. And our guards are pretty intense."

Everything accounted, Potter said this year's team should be "fun to watch."

Gozelski was more definitive.

"I want to get out of the first round (of the state tournament), and I think this is the team to do it," he said. "I think this is the best team I've ever been on."



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