Vikings have lofty expectations
Regardless of injuries or graduated stars, South Tahoe High always expects to have a banner season in boys basketball.
Last year, the Vikings (27-6) secured another division title banner and tied for third in the state tournament.
All but one starter, Travis McCollum, from that overachieving team is gone – and McCollum’s out for the season with a torn ACL – yet the Vikings haven’t started talking about next season.
“The expectations are hard, but it just makes you work harder,” said 6-foot-3 senior point guard Josh David. “If you think about all the people who have done it before you, you want to be better than them.
“Coach (Tom Orlich) always tells stories about all the players and you want to be the team he tells stories about, too. You don’t want him saying, ‘Oh, yeah, that was the year we didn’t do it.'”
For sure, McCollum’s untimely injury – in the Vikings’ second-to-last soccer match – is a major setback, but the South Tahoe program has never been centered around one player.
“At first, it kind of separated us because we kind of didn’t know what to do. We’re starting to gel now as a team. I think we’re going to come together, and it’s making us a lot stronger,” said Viking junior forward Tim Sprinkles.
Without the 6-4 McCollum, the Vikings may need some time to develop their inside game.
“It’s harder for us to post up now because we lost our big man, so we’ll have to rely more on the perimeter,” David said. “It’s going to be harder. I still think we can do it because everyone on this team is a worker. Everyone wants it bad.
“It makes you feel like you have to step up. But if you just let the game come to you, you won’t overdo it.”
Even with McCollum missing the Vikings aren’t short. Transfer guard John Giannoni III is the shortest at 5-10, but every other projected starter is at least 6-1.
“It’s a real tough loss because we had real good chemistry this summer. We have to get our chemistry to where we’re working together as a group again,” said Orlich, who is beginning his 24th season at the Viking helm. “It just means we’ll have to work harder. We’re a little bit behind in the scheme of things. I’m just hoping we’ll be ready by January.”
An abundance of capable guards should ease the transition period and make the traditional Vikings’ full-court press more annoying than usual.
“Their defensive intensity is outstanding. They really get after it and cause problems defensively,” said Foothill coach Mike Wall, whose team scrimmaged the Vikings on Saturday at STHS.
Besides David playing the point, the Vikings’ surplus of guards includes Giannoni, a junior; 6-2 senior Adam Williams and 5-9 junior Matt Williams.
“I think we’re quicker than a lot of teams because we’ve got a lot of guards. It’s going to be hard for a lot of teams to go with all of our guards,” David said.
Consequently, Orlich hasn’t named a starting lineup for Tuesday’s opener at McQueen.
“Nothing is set in stone. We’re going to go through a game and see how people step up and play big, then we might make some changes,” Orlich said.
Sprinkles, a 6-1 junior who quarterbacked the Viking football team to a 4-5 record, has seen his role change following a season-ending injury to McCollum.
“I’m starting to play inside, and that’s something I didn’t plan on, but I’m going to fill in at 4-man,” Sprinkles said. “I’m just going to play hard. They didn’t let me hit in football practice, so I’m trying to be as physical as I can on the court.”
Besides Sprinkles, the Vikings’ inside threats are a pair of 6-3 seniors, Billy Doughty and Beau Barkley.
Players have been working overtime for the past year to become a vital part of continuing “The Tradition.”
“I’m expecting what we were expecting during the summer – to win every game. That’s just the way the South Tahoe basketball tradition is,” Sprinkles said.
“Our goals are the same, but it’s just getting people to step up to fill the void. We still have good athletes. We just have to relearn some things,” Orlich said. “I have a very good group of kids. They’re very coachable. They worked very hard in the off-season and they’re working very hard right now.”
That’s never good news for the other Northern Nevada basketball teams.
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