SVSJ preview: Wildcat boys’ hoops looks to rebound from bad offseason to compete in tough Kingco 3A

EDITOR’S NOTE: This continues our series of previews for winter sports teams for Mount Si and Cedarcrest High Schools. Look for these throughout this week and next here at the SVSJ.

Mount Si’s boys basketball team had maybe the worst possible offseason, as it lost three top players, but the Wildcats look to be competitive this winter despite all of that adversity.

Coach Steve Helm (center) leads the Mount Si boys' basketball teams at a recent practice. The Wildcats will look to fill several huge voids this season as it seeks to return to the playoffs in a tough Kingco 3A conference. (Rhett Workman/SVSJ)

Coach Steve Helm returns after leading his team to a 10-13 record and a berth in the SeaKing District Tournament last season in his first as Wildcat coach. Helm, though, will have some big pieces to fill, as his two top scorers from last season’s team, Mason Bragg (returned home to Australia) and Trent Riley (knee injury) are out and sophomore post Tyler McCreadie, who looked to possibly be in the mix to be the backup post player this season, is also out after hurting his knee during the Wildcats’ fall league season at Bellevue College.

League coaches don’t have very high expectations for this Mount Si group – they picked the Wildcats to finish in the lower half of the league – but Helm thinks the rest of the league may be surprised with what they see. “They’re going to have a team to reckon with. They’re going to have a team that’s coming to war every single game,” he said.

Leading that group are several seniors. Among those is post player Anthony McLaughlin. McLaughlin expects his team to leave it all out on the floor. “What this team has is heart, so we’re going to go out there and give it our all,” McLaughlin said. Miles Zupan and Ryan Atkinson are other seniors who look to be key this season. Atkinson, who was the starting quarterback for the Wildcat football team this fall which made state for the fourth straight season, leads a group of half-a-dozen football players who turned out and made varsity this season, and Helm thinks their presence could be important. “They bring a whole new attitude,” he said.

For the second straight season, Helm was able to land a coveted holiday tournament spot for the Wildcat team. Last season, it was a prestigious event in Boston; this year, it’s a pre-holiday event in Hawaii. There is a lot of work which goes into securing those spots; chief among that is fundraising. The Mount Si program, through its well-run booster club, actively raises money throughout the year, but two signature events – a summer golf tournament and the big Wildcat Shootout youth boys’ club tournament this past weekend – raise the bulk of that money. Helm understands the importance of that fundraising effort.

“It’s huge,” Helm said. “The economy is hurting, families are hurting, so my goal is not to have go to parents and say ‘Hey, we need another hundred bucks for a spring league, we need another $300 for this.’ We get $2,000 from the district, that’s what our budget is. You can’t run a basketball program on $2,000, so we have a fantastic booster club and (for) our players, this particular fundraiser, this is how they give back to everybody else in the community.” For the players, this included performing many of the game operations roles, such as clock operation and statkeeping, during the many games throughout the weekend, which were held at several sites both within the Valley (Mount Si High School in Snoqualmie, North Bend Elementary and Chief Kanim Middle School in Fall City among other locations) and outside of it (the Emerald City Basketball Academy facility in Preston and Bellevue College).

McLaughlin is thrilled with all the community support. “It’s amazing how many people put in tons of hours to help one program. It’s great to see everyone come together like that for a good cause like the high school basketball team,” he said.

Among the teams expected to compete this season for the Kingco crown include Mercer Island, Lake Washington, Bellevue and Sammamish. “I think the league is stronger than it was last year,” Helm said.

Another element to building a strong high school program is developing a strong feeder system through the local youth programs. Helm credits Si View youth sports program head Aaron Colby with helping in that effort. “He has stepped in and done a great job to work with me and try to bring both programs together a little bit,” the coach said.

Mount Si opens the season with a non-league game November 29 at home against Kingco 4A Issaquah, then opens the league schedule December 2 with another home game against the Islanders. From December 13 to January 3, 2012, Mount Si will not have a home date, as it tunes up for the Hawaii event with a road game against Jackson December 15.

Rhett Workman

About Rhett Workman

Rhett Workman is the editor of the Snoqualmie Valley Sports Journal. Workman is a veteran sports journalist, having covered Snoqualmie Valley sports for nearly a decade with the Snoqualmie Valley Record newspaper before starting up the SVSJ. Workman's coverage has earned the support and respect of Valley coaches, players, parents and fans, and the SVSJ continues the standard of coverage that Workman brought to the Valley Record.
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