2018-19 Team Preview: Wenatchee Panthers
SF Darius Carlson - Only returning All Conference player on the team. As good of an athlete as you’re going to find in the Big Nine. Will play tenacious defense, drive to the hoop, and lead the team. He’s the whole shebang.
PG Garrett Long - On the fast track to be a four year starter for the Panthers. Burst onto the scene as a freshman last year and didn’t look out of place. Is disciplined to execute the game plan, while also taking over at times.
SG Nathan Blauman - His primary job will be to put up big point totals. A nightmare to defend if you don’t have the right guys. Had a great summer and will build on it in his junior campaign.
It’s become a theme for the Wenatchee Panthers to be an undersized group. The lack of size has definitely hurt them the last couple years.
They’ve gone 18-26 in that span, and haven’t made it to the playoffs.
Head Coach Travis Williams knows if that’s going to change, they’re going to need to turn the physicality up a notch.
With just one senior on the roster, he’ll be relying on a young core to carry the workload.
The lone senior is a good one though. Darius Carlson is the only remaining piece left from the 15-16 state finalist squad. He’s going to be a stat sheet stuffer this season.
The backcourt combo of Garrett Long and Nathan Blauman still hasn’t reached their full potential. If they can take the next step, they’ll make a nice scoring trio alongside Carlson.
A healthy addition to this team is going to be junior power forward Riley Kunz. He showed real grit in football season as an all league tight end. His toughness as a 6-3 235 pound athlete will translate well in the low post.
A player coming off the bench that Williams is high on is sophomore JJ Jelsing. He’ll bring an energy spark, especially on the defensive side.
Joining him on the second unit is junior Evan Smith. He proved himself on JV last year, and will be leaned on heavily to score from all parts of the floor. He’s a rare bench player that can be counted on for double digit points regularly.
A guard with a similar skillset to Smith is sophomore Joe Dorey. If Wenatchee is to compete, they’ll need a guy like Dorey to progress quickly.
The name of the game for this year's Panthers is evolving. They have a couple different lineup configurations they’re comfortable rolling out.
The combination of inexperience and lack of size is never ideal on paper. But Williams plays a different brand of basketball where he utilizes the strengths of his players.
Projection: With only one team representing the Big Nine at state this year, Wenatchee is going to have to play every game like their season is on the line. Injuries absolutely can’t happen to this group. Losing a guy like Carlson or Long for even a short amount of time could be detrimental to their season goals. It’d be easy to categorize this year as a developmental year, but that’s not Wenatchee's style. If newcomers like Blauman, Kunz and Jelsing play to their potential, there’s enough pieces here to win a Big Nine title.
@ Moses Lake 1/12
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