Revamped Warriors want to run and gun
Whittell High’s boys plan to hit the hardwood running this season – both literally and figuratively.
After a tepid start to the 1998-99 season, Whittell is making sure there’s nothing bland about the new season. Win or lose, the Warriors are ready to run, gun and get in their opponents’ faces on defense. The Warriors knew they were a good team last year, and expected to cruise to a league championship, according to senior guard Chris Markt. This season is different.
“We know we have to work this time,” Markt said.
So, it’s little surprise the Warriors have kicked off the season in practice with lots of running and conditioning drills. The team is getting more used to the style of fifth-year coach Steve Maltase, which means the Warriors will need all that conditioning down the stretch. As usual, Maltase will look to build his offense off defense.
“This year’s team is probably the deepest and most athletic of any team I’ve had,” said Maltase, who guided the Warriors to a 10-14 season last year that included a 5-7 mark in Northern Nevada 3A Division II. “That’s kind of our goal. We have a lot of guys who, hopefully, can get out on defense.”
Maltase hasn’t made all of his assignments to junior varsity yet, but Markt, Gordon, Dustin Fox, Avery Norman, Todd Echan and Matt Miller all return from last year’s program. Gordon, Norman and Echan are the squad’s returning starters. Markt seems likely to take over as point guard, and Richard Fore to step into the post. While the Warriors will miss the presences of center James Putnam and point guard Dusty Apocotos – both since graduated – Whittell has more players familiar with the program than ever before.
“We should know what we’re doing, and it shouldn’t take us as long – I hope – to get in the midseason flow,” Maltase said. “How well we played will depend on how in shape we are and how we practice.”
Flow probably is the best term for the fast-breaking Warriors. And so far, practice has impressed Gordon and Markt.
“There’s a great attitude on our team right now,” said Gordon, who should start on the wing along with Norman. “Everybody’s working hard. I see a lot of maturity.”
“Everyone has a lot of confidence,” he said. “We’re all draining our jump shots. You can see it clearly.”
How well the Warriors can come together may be apparent early. In addition to a Dec. 3 matchup with traditional power Truckee – a team Whittell defeated last season – the rest of Lake Tahoe’s teams will test Whittell early. Incline, North Tahoe and Truckee all visit for the Dec. 15-17 Lake Tournament, a rare home hoops tournament for Whittell.
“We want to win the Lake Classic,” he said. “We beat Truckee at Truckee last year, and we want to show it wasn’t a fluke.”
After the winter break, the Warriors launch right into the league schedule when they travel to Incline for the Division II opener. The Jan. 25 and Feb. 9 games with Manogue – where Whittell hit the rocks last season – also loom large. In contrast to last year, Whittell will try to establish a strong league presence early.
“I think it’s wide open,” Maltase said. “I think, from top to bottom, it’s going to be competitive.”
With that competition in mind, Whittell’s preseason record shouldn’t be the most important result of its early games. Rather, how the Warriors play in the early going should be the most important measuring stick.
“We’re not really concerned with how we do in terms of wins and losses,” Maltase said. “This year, we’re just looking to play well and improve every game.”
Team: Whittell Warriors
1998-99 record: 10-14 (missed playoffs)
Coach: Steve Maltase, fifth year at Whittell
Key losses: James Putnam, 6-5 center; Dusty Apocotos, 6-1 guard
Projected starting lineup: G Chris Markt, 5-7 senior; G/F Avery Norman, 5-11 senior; G/F Trent Gordon, 6-1 senior; F Todd Echan, 5-11 senior; C Richard Fore, 6-4 junior
Outlook: Whittell lost the top two scorers, center Jay Putnam and point guard Dusty Apocotos, from last year’s streaky team, but return the rest of the lineup. In their absence, head coach Steve Maltase expects someone – perhaps senior wing Avery Norman – to step in.
“Avery’s the guy we’ve had a lot of expectations for in the past couple of years,” Maltase said. “We’re hoping he can step in and pick some of the (scoring).”
As far as positions, Whittell can fill in for Putnam and Apocotos with 6-4 junior Richard Fore in the post and senior Chris Markt – like Apocotos, a quick player who excelled on the soccer field – in the backcourt.
But the key for the Warriors appears to be defense and hustle, as Maltase plans to build the offense off an aggressive defense.
“We have a lot of guys who, hopefully, can get out on defense,” he said.
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