2017-18 High School Basketball Preview: West Valley Rams
Micah Chen, who will be joining veteran play-by-play broadcaster Mike Bastinelli on a number of our 2017-18 High School Boys Varsity Basketball broadcasts this winter on 1460 ESPN Yakima, logs this preseason capsule:
"West Valley Quietly Preparing to Build on Successful 2017 Season"
When you think of Yakima Valley Basketball, a few teams come to mind… You’ve got the 2017 state champion Zillah Leopards, State runners-up Selah Vikings, and the powerhouse program at AC Davis. Then, there are the West Valley Rams.
West Valley is actually coming off their best year since 2012, finishing 14-6 and second in the Columbia Basin Big Nine.
“We had a good year last year, we lost a couple pieces in four-year starter Justin VanDeBrake and now Yakima Valley CC player David Lindgren. We lost some heart-and-soul guys. We have some question marks for sure going into the season,” said West Valley Head Coach Jon Kinloch.
Two crucial pieces that West Valley is building around is 5-11 senior PG Dallin Cluff and 6-1 senior forward Spencer Bailey.
Dallin Cluff is returning for his third season on varsity, and second season as starting PG. This past season he was the team’s third leading scorer, a year where he finished as an all-league honorable mention.
“I’m a good outside shooter and can create my own shots. I’m going to need to be a scorer again this year, while also generating open shots for my teammates,” said Cluff, analyzing the strengths of his game.
Spencer Bailey is a jack-of-all trades forward that will be relied upon to fill several roles in West Valley’s gameplan. But on a team that lost eight seniors, perhaps the most important role Bailey has is his leadership.
“We’ve got a bunch of young guys and I feel i have to reel them in, along with Dallin Cluff and myself, and get them going and show them what it’s really like to be out there,” said Spencer Bailey.
Joining Dallin Cluff in the backcourt will be first year starter 6-1 sophomore Trey Funk. Funk will be expected to pour in buckets with his exceptional three-point abillity. Trey Funk is the son of Yakima Valley athletic director Ray Funk.
A force to look out for in the low post will be 6-4 250lb PF Alex Rojas, a man that plays like a young Zach Randolph. Rojas will have to get a lot of rebounds and score the hard-earned put back points. The “dirty work” role seems to be something Rojas has embraced.
“There’s a lot more to basketball than just scoring, I am expected to pull down every rebound that comes my way. I love the compeition of posting up against other guys my size or larger. Nothing will come easy against me,” said Alex Rojas.
Also projected to start in the front court is 6-1 senior Isaac McDonald. his skills are similar to Rojas, except McDonald is able to stretch the floor with his solid three-point shot and excellent mid-range accuracy.
The concept of a sixth man or even a designated starter is not in West Valley’s vocabulary.
“It’s a free for all at this point, whoever has the hot hand is the one we’re going to go with. (Coach) Kinloch is going to be mixing and match different rotations and starting lineups to give us the best chance to win,” said Dallin Cluff.
The second unit is where the inexperience starts to show, featuring three sophomores and a transfer from Moses Lake.
Sophomore PG Malachi Caffrey will rotate in behind Dallin Cluff at the PG position. Caffrey is only 5-7, but makes up for it with blazing quickness and his superb ball-distribution. Caffrey is going into his second year on the varsity roster.
Junior PF Spencer Jolley is also returning for his second year on the varsity roster. His game is built in the similar mold to Isaac McDonald where he can play physical, but also has the finesse to shoot the three.
A center that West Valley is really hoping will be available this season is 6-10 sophomore Conner Turner. Turner is currently dealing with a stress fracture in his ankle with no set timetable to return. It will be how he feels during the season that determines if he will play this year.
Rounding out the bench will be 6-1 sophomore Anthony Carascio and first year transfer from Moses Lake John Duncan.
Anthony Carascio is described by his teammates as really quick, a super hard worker, and a potential breakout candidate for this season.
John Duncan has been welcomed with open arms into the West Valley family, and is slowly but surely learning the playbook. Duncan has limitless range as a shooter, frequently taking and making deep threes.
Going into the regular season, there’s a lot of things that we know about the Yakima Basketball Scene. But West Valley is one of the most wide open question marks.
“We’ve been working on team chemistry, we’ve been messing around a little bit, but once it comes down to February the bonds are going to be huge. This year we’re going to have to spread the ball a little bit more, get everyone working together, and develop that trust in each other,” said Spencer Bailey.
When asked if West Valley set team goals prior to the season, Coach Jon Kinloch said, “We don’t identify a record we’re trying to achieve, for us it’s trying to maximize our ability. There’s a few teams in our league with a bunch of guys back, I’m really eager to see how our younger guys match-up with these returning players.”
Signature games to look out for is West Valley vs South Ridge on December 2nd (opening night), West Valley vs Davis on January 5th, and West Valley vs Eisenhower on February 6th.