The squeaking of sneakers and sound of bouncing balls continues to echo off local gymnasium floors as local high school basketball squads prepare for the season to start.
All six of the local AAA and AA boys and girls squads have the potential to make life difficult for their opponents, but do any of them have the goods to compete for a provincial title?
The Chilliwack Progress surveyed the coaches for a look at how their respective squads are shaping up. Their answers are below in the 2011-12 Chilliwack Progress basketball preview.
CHILLIWACK SECONDARY SCHOOL BOYS:
If some breaks go their way, the Storm could be a force to be reckoned with in the Fraser Valley East.
Grade 12 veteran Gary McCrea will lead and lend versatility to the Storm lineup with his ability to slide from forward to guard.
Erik Neels is another returning player who has made big strides in the offseason.
Physically stronger, Neels is holding his own against McCrea in practice and will be a lot tougher for opponents to shove around this year.
Kyle Hamilton will run the offence from the point guard position while talented shooter and ball-handler Brendan Janz looks to bounce back from an injury-marred 2010-11.
Zach Fleming could be the unsung hero. Fleming works hard, never quits and will be a go-to guy defensively. Stephen Norrish is the team’s top ball handler and another defensive demon.
CSS will try to work a couple youngsters into the lineup. Mitchell Wierks and Jake Foley are both entering their first year of senior ball. Wierks is the younger brother of current UFV women’s basketball stars Sarah and Nicole Wierks.
“Our goal is to make the playoffs,” Mauro said of his team’s outlook. “We will focus heavily on how the guards handle and distribute the ball, and it can be a very exciting year, if the pieces fall into place.”
CHILLIWACK SECONDARY SCHOOL BOYS:
After a one year absence, Joe Ogmundson is back behind the wheel of the CSS girls team, determined to restore it to its former glory.
His current group must endure some growing pains to get where he wants them to go.
Kelsi McLean will co-captain the team. From her point guard position she will handle the ball a ton and be depended on to make good decisions for a team that needs a floor leader.
Christina Vandenbrink will be the another co-captain, relied upon to score for a team that doesn’t figure to score much.
Grade 11 Megan Wierks tries to follow in the footsteps of older sisters Sarah and Nicole, both of whom have gone on to UFV. She plays a totally different style, but could end up just as good as her siblings.
Kylie Gauley is an excellent rebounder and dependable defender.
Nicole Bartel will be the emotional leader on the team and Rachel Vandenberg will be a key contributor off the bench.
“The season depends on getting quality minutes from a group of forwards — Peyton Norrish, Natalie Hoogeven, Megan Johnson and Janine Leijen,” Ogmundson noted. “They need to contribute 15 rebounds and points as a group for us to do well. I expect a long learning phase, but I think we’ll be difficult to beat come playoff time in the spring.”
SARDIS SECONDARY SCHOOL BOYS:
The Falcons hope an infusion of youth will help them make noise in the Fraser Valley East.
Towering Grade 10 center Hayden Lejeune didn’t look out of place in a couple of late-season appearances last year.
Standing six-foot-six, Lejeune has game-changing size. He can run the floor and displays a soft shooting touch.
Teams will have their hands full trying to stop him.
But if they worry too much about Lejeune, they may find themselves torched by the dynamic duo at guard. Logan Rogers mans the point as the only returning starter from last year.
Shooting guard Jason Kroeker has developed quickly and will be relied upon for both scoring and leadership.
Unsung hero Josh Enns will play multiple positions and bring toughness to the Falcon lineup.
The top newcomer could be Eric Rogers, a Grade 10 player capable of playing guard or forward.
With 14 Grade 11’s, the Falcons are a team that could make waves this year and next.
Head coach Kyle Graves believes his program is on the right track.
“This year our goal is to place second in our league and get into the Fraser Valley tournament,” he said. “We want to continually get better, to the point where we can knock off a tough team in the Valleys.”
SARDIS SECONDARY SCHOOL GIRLS:
Returning players will be the key to the Falcon fortunes in 2012.
Multi-sport standout Robyn Kempers enters her final season of high school basketball looking to build on an excellent 2010-11 campaign.
Grade 11 stars Lauren Kempers and Haley Lightle join Kempers as the core of the team.
For Sardis to succeed this season, they’ll need contributions from everyone on the bench.
It would also help if Grade 10 rookie Michaela England could get comfortable quick at the senior level. England is a good shooter and ball handler who could help take the heat off the big three.
Mariam Shaukat will eventually be an impact player for the Falcons at the shooting/point guard position.
A returning starter, Shaukat is currently injured, but she is expected back before Christmas.
Ken Heise guided this crew last year and went heavy with younger players, hoping it would pay off in the future.
But the longtime Sardis athletic director retired over the summer, handing the coaching duties to Richard Tagle.
Tagle has held the coaching reigns before and knows what to do.
“Our expectations are to finish at the top of the top four teams in tier two,” Tagle said of his team’s forecast. “That will qualify us for the Fraser Valley championships.”
G.W. GRAHAM MIDDLE-SECONDARY SCHOOL BOYS:
The Grizzly boys go gunning for a AA provincial title this year, returning a talented and veteran-laden roster.
Lucas Mannes is G.W. Graham’s floor general and co-captain.
He may be one of the most talented guards in the province.
Josiah Cockrill, brother of ex-GWG star Micah Cockrill, provides a counter-balance to Mannes from the power forward position.
Cockrill is a legit threat in the paint and also has three point ability from the oustide.
Adding two inches of height over the summer, Ryan Tempel brings the same sort of ability, giving the Grizzlies three go-to guys offensively.
Hank Derksen is the unsung hero, bleeding blue and white and doing all the little things to help his team.
Austin Uy (Grade 11) is the only rookie on the veteran roster.
The only other Grade 11 player is returnee Cody Hansen, who has looked very good through the preseason.
“Our team goal this year is to do everything in our power during the regular season to give us the best opportunity to win the AA provincial championship,” said coach Jake Mouritzen. “If we work together as a family over the next four months, we have an excellent opportunity to reach our ultimate goal.”
G.W. GRAHAM MIDDLE-SECONDARY SCHOOL GIRLS:
The Grizzly girls start the season banged up, but the hope is they’ll be healthy enough to make a playoff run in the spring.
Breena Wirtz will be a leader once again for GWG.
The Grade 12 post player is a strong rebounder and one of the team’s leading scorers.
Kaitlyn McDonald is another offensive force, moving from the post to the outside this season. McDonald is sidelined until January with an ankle ailment, but should provide lethal three-point shooting when she returns.
Grade 10 star Jenika Bannerman is a natural athlete with a rare combo of speed, strength and agility. A breakout season from Bannerman would help GWG immensely.
Returning guard Aveen Rezends will quietly do her thing at point guard while the team breaks in a six-foot-one rookie in the post. Jolene Slootweg will be a force, it’s just a matter of how quickly she adapts to life at the senior level.
She could bring the type of paint presence not yet seen in the five years of G.W. Graham girls basketball.
“We are starting the season with two starters (Kayla Unger and McDonald) injured,” said GWG coach Sarah Mouritzen. “But once we are healthy, I expect we will make a deep run into the Fraser Valley playoffs, with a team goal to finish top three.”