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Vikings shoot for return to postseason

Jim GrantNiko Klansek, a 6-foot-5 transfer from Slovenia, drives against South Tahoe High teammate Greg Williams during practice Wednesday. The Vikings open their season Tuesday at Yerington
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What is known before the South Tahoe High Vikings tip off their 2002-03 boys’ basketball season Tuesday is center and point guard are the team’s strengths. How the other positions and roles are filled will determine if the Vikings can produce a winning season and make the postseason for the first time since 2000.

“We haven’t won a lot of basketball games as a group and that’s hard to overcome,” said Viking coach Derek Allister. “But we’re better than we were at the beginning of summer when we started playing in Sacramento, and they’re great kids with great character. This is something they really want, and hopefully things will work out for them.”

In 6-foot-7 senior post Curtis Johnson, the Vikings possess one of the top big men in Nevada and an NCAA Division I prospect that should lure recruiters into the Sierra like Jerod Haase and Brian Bruso did in the early 1990s.



“There are a number of schools coming in and looking at him every week,” Allister said. “I really think he’s going to end up at a solid mid-major school.”

Eastern Washington, San Jose State and Southern Utah have expressed the most interest in Johnson, but the 2001-02 first-team all-Sierra Division center reportedly won’t decide on his future until spring.




“He’s much improved over last year, but he’s still not where he needs to be. He doesn’t sustain his efforts like he needs to sustain them,” said Allister of Johnson, who will pose double-double and possible triple-double statistical trouble for opponents. “When he first got here, he looked like me, but now he has become a good athlete.”

Ensuring that Johnson gets his share of touches in the offense is 5-9 senior point guard Chris Perry. Perry’s potential role in the Vikings’ season is huge, according to his third-year coach.

“If Chris Perry isn’t good this year, we can’t be a good basketball team,” Allister said. “He’s done everything he can and we’ve worked very hard with him. Now he needs to just get the job done.”

While Sierra Division teams can plan gimmick defenses to clog up the middle and deny Johnson the ball in the paint, the Vikings should have a variety of options to keep the offense flowing.

“We are going to pound the ball inside to the big men as much as we can, but we’re not going to center every possession around Curtis. I don’t think that’s fair to the other kids,” Allister said.

Given that Perry logged more minutes than any other player in the program last year, he’ll be looked upon to shoulder more scoring. He has a respectable jump shot and won’t hesitate to drive to the basket.

“He’s surprisingly effective inside given his size,” Allister said.

Senior Keenyn Wallace is a solid spot-up shooter and a threat to break free for layups in the Vikings’ man offense. Wallace has worked tirelessly to rehabilitate a blown-out knee from a spring snowboading accident. His quickness is returning, making him the Vikings’ best on-ball defender, according to Allister.

“He’s another kid who has worked hard to get to this point and you hope someone who works like that is rewarded with success,” Allister said.

Complementing Johnson inside will be newcomer Niko Klansek, a 6-5 senior forward from Slovenia. Klansek moved here with his family to try and realize his dream of playing college basketball in the United States.

“He has a chance to be a good player. I haven’t seen him in competition,” Allister said. “After a week of practice, he has to get tougher and get in shape, but I have high hopes for him.”

Juniors Dan Tobin, Dan Tilles and Kevin Woodman will also play key roles in determining how well the Vikings do this season. Each saw significant playing time at the end of last season when Allister addressed a disciplinary problem.

“Dan (Tobin) is the most improved player within an eight-month period of any kid I’ve coached in 27 years,” Alliser said. “I expect him to really blossom this year and relax enough to show everybody what he can do.”

At 6-3 and 6-2, respectively, Tilles and Woodman give Allister good size coming off the bench.

But it remains to be seen which one of Allister’s returning players will fill the void left by the graduation of 3-point marksman Matt Mora.

“I don’t know where the outside game is going to come from, and that’s a real concern,” Allister said. “When you have that inside-outside combination, that’s what every coach is looking for.”

Another player to watch is Allister’s first freshman varsity member ever in Jerad Wood. The 6-3 Woods has a long arm span and “has a chance to be a nice player before his career is over,” Allister said.

With 6-11 senior center David Padgett leading Reno, the Huskies will be cast as the preseason favorite to win the Sierra Division. Padgett, who has signed a letter of intent to attend Kansas, missed both of Reno’s games against STHS last year because of injury.

“They’ve never faced off against each other,” Allister said. “David is a great player, but Curtis should be able to hang in there and hold his own.”

Defending zone champion Hug doesn’t figure to be a one-year wonder and Carson, Douglas and Wooster are capable of beating the top teams on any night. Where the Vikings fit in is guesswork now.

“I think if we come together we’ll make a run at the second or third spot,” Allister said. “It’s great group of kids who want to get Tahoe basketball going again. By end of last year we had become a pretty good basketball team. I’m hoping the growth curve will be a little quicker this year because I want them to be a good basketball team by the middle of January.

“If we can get to the playoffs, I would find that gratifying for the kids. They have invested and worked far harder over the last eight months than people in this community know.”

The Vikings open their season Tuesday in Yerington, of all places. But the matchup between 4A and 3A schools isn’t so odd when you consider that Allister began his coaching career there in 1977.

“I’m just anxious to go back in that gym because I have a lot fond memories of that place,” said Allister, whose teams made it to the state tournament in each of his four years there.

Coach: Derek Allister, third year

Last year: 4-8 in Sierra Division and 11-15 overall

Keys to season: Will someone step up and become a consistent outside threat following the graduation of 3-point specialist Matt Mora?

Key returners: 6-7 senior center Curtis Johnson, 5-9 point guard Chris Perry and 6-0 senior off-guard Keenyn Wallace.

One to watch: Niko Klansek, a 6-5 senior transfer from Slovenia.

Opener: Dec. 3 at Yerington

2002-03 South Tahoe High School

Boys Varsity Basketball Schedule

12/3/02 Away Yerington 6:30 p.m.

12/4/02 Home Viking Rotary Invit. 7 p.m.

12/6/02 Home Viking Rotary Invit. 7 p.m.

12/7/02 Home Viking Rotary Invit. 3 p.m.

12/10/02 Home Galena 7 p.m.

12/12/02 Away Sheldon TBA

12/13/02 Away Sheldon TBA

12/14/02 Away Sheldon TBA

12/17/02 Away McQueen 7 p.m.

12/19/02 Home North Tahoe 7 p.m.

12/20/02 Away Ponderosa 8:30 p.m.

12/21/02 Away Union Mine @ Ponderosa 5 p.m.

01/3/03 Away *Carson 7 p.m.

02/7/03 Away *Wooster 7 p.m.

01/10/03 Home *Reno High School 7 p.m.

01/17/03 Home *North Valleys 7 p.m.

01/18/03 Home *Douglas 5 p.m.

01/24/03 Away *Hug 7 p.m.

01/28/03 Home *Carson 7 p.m.

01/31/03 Home *Wooster 7 p.m.

02/4/03 Away *Reno High School 7 p.m.

02/7/03 Away *North Valleys 7 p.m.

02/8/03 Away *Douglas 5 p.m.

02/15/03 Home *Hug 5 p.m.

2/18/03 Away Regionals 2/18-22/03 TBA

02/28/03 Away State 2/29-03/01/03 TBA

* = Division game


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