Eagle River boys basketball set sights on state

First-year coach looking to change Wolves’ ‘culture’


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Junior Brandon Parrish brings the ball up the court during Eagle River’s game against Point Hope at the Service Tip-Off Tournament on Dec. 15, 2011. Eagle River won 66-16.

STAR PHOTO BY MIKE NESPER

First-year head coach Fred Young doesn’t care that Eagle River High only won two games last year. He doesn’t care that 10 of his 12 players are new to the team.

His sights are set on making the state tournament and changing the attitude of the boys basketball team.

“We’re looking to change the culture,” Young said. “We want to make state and get what we can on the way there.”

The entire team feels the same way, Young said.

“Their work ethic is out the roof right now,” he said.

Making state will be more difficult this year because only the top two Cook Inlet Conference teams earn automatic state berths. Other automatic Class 4A berths include two from the Northern Lights Conference and one from the Southeast and Mid Alaska conferences.

The final two spots will be determined by Winning Percentage Index standings. This is the first time WPI will be used to determine who goes to state.

There is no room for casual attitudes on the court, Young said.

“You have to buy in. That’s from the really, really small things to the really, really big things,” he said.

Young, a longtime coach at East Anchorage, said the Eagle River job opening gave him a chance to make a much-needed change.

“I applied because I had served East as much as I could,” he said.

Young, the father of Eagle River basketball alumni Dominic Young, replaced four-year coach Craig Harrison.

Seniors Kelechi Madubuko and Kevin Waterman are the two returners for Eagle River.

Developing the top eight players will be key for success, Young said. The bench, too, will play a major role for the Wolves, he said.

Due to the team’s small numbers, Young said, the three underclassmen (Chaz Jenkins, Daniel Houser and Thomas Jones) will be relied on.

“The young guys are really gonna have to bring it,” he said. “I told them, ‘You have to grow up today.’”

The team’s speed is one area in which the Wolves shine, Waterman said.

“We have a lot of potential,” he said. “We have people that really love the sport.

“We’re looking pretty strong this season,” Waterman said.

Eagle River started its season off well. The Wolves placed second at the Cougar Tip-Off Tournament on Dec.15-17 at Service High.

Eagle River finished the preseason tournament 2-1, and wants to keep the momentum going heading into the season, Waterman said.

“We want to have that winning feeling this year,” he said.

The Wolves, who lost 77-30 to Service in the tournament championship, also lost to the Cougars 81-41 in their season opener Jan. 3.

Eagle River received a boost in talent from transfer student Chris Parker. Parker, who moved from Virginia, scored 51 points in three games in the Service tournament.

Parker, a senior, was named to the all-tournament team. Junior Shaquan Rhoades, who scored 39 total points in the Tip-Off, was also named to the all-tournament team.

Prior to the tourney, spirits and ambitions were high on the team, Parker said.

“We’re feeling good about this year,” he said. “We’ve got a lot of athletes.”

Parker said Eagle River should be deadly shooting the ball this season.

“We’ve got a lot of shooters,” he said.

Young said he’s excited about starting a new season with a new team.

“I feel like I can coach and teach again,” he said. “I feel refreshed.”

 

Contact Mike Nesper at 694-2727 or mike.nesper@alaskastar.com

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