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By David Pan 

New-look Timberwolves should be versatile team | Boys basketball


Last updated 12/15/2017 at Noon

Fans of the Jackson High School basketball team might need a program to identify the players on the court this season.

The Timberwolves experienced the most significant turnover in school history with the graduation of all five starters and six seniors from last year’s district playoff team.

“We’re very inexperienced,” Jackson coach Steve Johnson said. “It’s not an exaggeration to say that probably in 20 years as a head coach this is about as inexperienced team as I’ve ever had. … There definitely is some talent and potential. The kids have been in the program. It’s not like they don’t know the system, but still there is a lot of newness to everything, which is exciting and challenging.”

Unlike past seasons when the Timberwolves had an idea of who would be starting, every position was up for grabs when practices started last month. The competition was fierce and that’s the way the players liked it.

“We’re excited to get our opportunity this year,” said, senior Channer Hendrickson, who was a reserve last season. “We’re ready. We want to get after it. We’re young and hungry.”

The Timberwolves’ practices are never dull.

“It’s fun. People are getting after it,” said junior Christian Liddell, another varsity reserve from last year. “Practices are intense. … People out there are running and giving it the max. It’s exciting.”

Players have to go all out if they want playing time.

“It’s necessary to work hard at practice,” said senior Paul Doney, another returning varsity reserve.

Hendrickson expects the starting lineup to change as the year progresses.

“Through the season, we can switch it up,” he said. “There’s not going to be a set five. He (Johnson) can switch it up.”

An extremely positive development is the play of junior guard Ben Olesen, who also is the Wolfpack’s quarterback. Olesen missed last year due to a torn ACL suffered during the football season. Johnson noted that Olesen would have been a key contributor last season if he had been healthy.

His return definitely has boosted the Timberwolves.

“He’s a real competitive kid. He makes the other people around him better,” Johnson said. “We really were disappointed that he didn’t get to play last year. But we’re excited he’s back.”

Jackson opened league play with a 56-48 victory over Mount Vernon and a 66-60 loss to Monroe. The Timberwolves also posted non-conference victories over North Kitsap, Meadowdale and Everett.

Liddell has scored 18 or more points in three games. But other Timberwolves are getting in the offensive mix. Hendrickson led the Wolfpack with 15 points against the Mavericks and Olsen had 17 points against the Bulldogs and led Jackson with 21 against the Bearcats. Kevin Han also scored 13 and 11 points in two contests.

Versatility is one of Jackson’s strengths.

“We have some great shooters, great ball handlers and some good down low players,” Doney said. “It’s definitely going to be spread out. There’s not going to be one certain player on the floor.”

The competitive practices seemed to have helped team chemistry, though Johnson acknowledged that it’s a delicate balance.

“I think they’re playing hard against each other for the right reason and that right reason is to help each other get better and to help the whole team get better,” Johnson said. “I do get that feeling from this team and that’s a big part of team chemistry.”

Johnson isn’t going to draw too many conclusions from Jackson’s first few games.

“It’s a process as you move through the season,” he said. “We just kind of try to have an eye on the big picture but focus on the day to day. It sounds like a cliché, but it’s really true. We just try to get better every day.”


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