Defending state basketball champion Incline eyes repeat performance in 2019-20
INCLINE VILLAGE, Nev. — Incline basketball coach Tim “TK” Kelly just knows his Highlanders have a shot at repeating as state champs.
Talking about his 2019-20 roster, he’s thrilled with everybody and wishes he could start eight or nine players.
Incline ran away with the state title last year with a team that had 10 seniors.
This year’s version of the Highlanders will include eight more seniors, new additions and an underclassman who may be the best player in the state.
The school hasn’t won back-to-back state titles in 45 years, but that is the goal this season.
“We’re trying to repeat for the first time since 1974-75, that’s definitely our ultimate goal,” Kelly said.
Sophomore TT Valosek was one of the top players in Nevada as a freshman.
The point guard who drove to the rim pretty much at will, added 25 pounds to his frame and is a “legit” 6-foot-3.
He led the Highlanders with over 15 points per game and was second with over five rebounds.
“TT has worked harder and is bigger and stronger,” Kelly said. “Those layups last year are now turning into dunks. He’s a stud.”
Tyler Knight (6-3) is a senior returner and Kelly is thrilled he has also developed into a leader. Knight was one of the team’s top 3-point shooters but missed the second half of last year due to arm surgery. He averaged 6.4 points per game.
“Tyler started every game last year until he needed surgery on his arm,” Kelly said. “He’s as athletic as anyone I’ve coached and has become a senior leader.”
Kelly received an early Christmas present this summer when the Gottlieb family moved to Incline Village from Charleston, S.C.
“They said they are a basketball family, and boy, they sure are,” Kelly said.
Finn Gottlieb, a 6-1 senior, made an instant impression on Kelly and made him think of last year’s MVP of the team, Ian Smith.
“When looking to replace Ian, and let’s be honest, Ian put on a show last year, but Finn is going to be really good for us,” Kelly said. “Finn has two younger brothers that will also play with us (Gannon Gottlieb at 6-foot is a freshman).
Gottlieb, Valosek and Knight are the team captains.
Junior Brad Rye (5-10) is one of the best defenders on the team. He relentlessly hounds opposing guards and gave the Highlanders big time energy during the playoffs last year.
He averaged about five points per game and three rebounds.
Sophomore Brody Thralls (5-11) is another athletic, dead-eye shooter that Kelly said nearly goes unnoticed. He was one of the best 3-point shooters last year making 40% of his attempts
“Brody is our undercover assassin. He will always be one of the best players on the floor and nobody will notice,” Kelly said. “Brad is an animal and super competitive. He’s a defensive bulldog. But TT, Brody, Tyler and Brad, those guys are all going to be a gigantic part of what we do this year. The thing I’m excited about is that they are all way better than they were last year. We’re gonna be tough to beat.”
And then Kelly looks at his bench and smiles with all the options. He’s got seniors, former starters and players that have put in the time and effort.
“We’ve got super athletic kids on the bench in Kai Martinez (6-0, senior) and Kris Smith (6-0, senior),” Kelly said. “Emerson Fleming (6-4, senior) has played with us for awhile and now it’s his time. Marco Barazza (6-1, junior) is a big body and more skilled than people think. Andrew Bilotti, a sophomore at 6-6, is still a bit of a project but he’s working hard.
Tommy Ornburg (5-11) a senior with a great attitude. And Zach Pexa, as a sophomore he was a starter. He could be a big x-factor. He didn’t play last year and he’s trying to find his way back.”
Kelly also mentioned Brayden Hock, who was right in line to get a bunch of playing time, is probably out for the season with an injury.
The Highlanders (1-0) started the season with a bang Tuesday, beating Sierra Lutheran 69-29 in a non-league clash in Incline Village.
Valosek led the way with 19 points, eight rebounds, three steals and three assists in just three quarters, Gottlieb added 12, Rye and Knight each had nine points and thralls netted five points and grabbed seven boards, dished four assists and made five steals. Knight hit three 3-pointers and Incline hit nine overall.
The Highlanders next will play four games in three days at the Whittell Tournament from Dec. 12-14.
“We run, we fly around, we’re athletic,” Kelly said, “It could be a lot of fun to watch Incline basketball this season.”