After taking their lumps against some of the best high school basketball teams in the country this weekend, Frank Wright is confident his North Tahoe boys will be primed and ready to contend in their competition Division III.
“We’re going to get blasted down here,” Wright said Thursday morning from Las Vegas, where his Lakers were set to play in the Monster Legacy Tournament against top-notch national programs. “But after we get blasted down here, we’re going to have an understanding of how to beat anybody.”
The Lakers return all but two players from last year’s team, which played into the quarterfinal round of the Northern Region postseason tournament before falling to Silver Stage.
Although last year’s two seniors were impact players — first-team All-League post Colin Spencer and scrappy shooting guard Sean McDermott — North Tahoe brings back a number of quality players. And all have improved in a year’s time, said Wright, who’s entering his second season as head coach.
“We’ve got most everybody back, and we have some kids who have really developed in a year,” Wright said, pointing specifically to senior shooting guard and two-time defending cross-country champion Noah McDermott, who, like his older brother, is quick, scrappy and competitive.
Sophomore post Nick Joslin, who saw significant playing time as a freshman last year, also improved his game while gaining some size in the offseason, Wright said. Joslin is 6-4, with long arms that contribute to his deft shot-blocking ability.
Joslin is joined in the post by 6-3 junior and co-team captain Mitchell Myers, who boasts a solid all-around game that earned him All-League honorable mention recognition last season.
“We’re tough. Our big men are big and strong,” Wright said. “Between the two of them, our post game is pretty good.”
Senior Omar Vargas, whom Wright described as “a shooter,” and last year’s Division III Mount Rose League MVP, point guard Alex Tyler, round out the starting lineup.
Tyler, who suffered a knee injury during soccer season, was cleared to play Monday in North Tahoe’s season opener at Quincy. Despite some soreness in his knee, the quick-slashing, sharp-shooting senior scored a team-high 22 points to help lead the Lakers to a 63-55 win.
“My knee is getting better,” said Tyler, North Tahoe’s co-captain along with Myers. “It’s not 100 percent yet, but it’s getting there.”
Tyler has a capable backup in junior Kolya Kelly, who transferred from Incline after serving as co-captain of the Highlanders’ JV squad last season.
Wright also expects good things off the bench from junior James Palacio and freshman Trent Lingruen, both guards, while senior guard Alex Bourriague has impressed the coach in the early going with his athleticism and energy. Bourriague, who was one of the Lakers’ main playmakers in football this past season, is the sixth man.
“He entertains the crowd,” Wright said of Bourriague, who’s relatively new to basketball. “He’s a defensive specialist and a fantastic athlete. He came out and he hadn’t played basketball, but he’s playing now, and he’s doing a really good job.”
As for the Lakers’ competitive Northern Division III — they no longer compete in the mixed-division Mount Rose League — Wright expects defending regional champion Pershing County to be strong once again, as well as ROP, West Wendover and Silver Stage. Neighboring rival Incline also boasts a talented team, while others could very well be in the playoff hunt as well.
“It’s not going to be a cakewalk for anybody,” Wright said. “This league from top to bottom is a pretty tough league. I think anybody that thinks they are going to win this league easily had better think twice, because every game is going to be a war.
“We’ll be competitive. Add us to the mix somewhere.”