Following an appearance in the 2021-22 district playoff tournament and a heartbreaking last second loss to Mountain View High School, the Yelm boys basketball team is set to return to action for the 2022-23 season.
With an impressive trio of athletes making their return and good “up and comers,” the team has its sights set on districts and beyond.
Head coach Dave Wasankari said he is excited to see the progression of Trevontay Smith, Damian Aalona and Marius Aalona during the 2022-23 season. Wasankari said those three are capable of scoring in high volumes, but they also play significant roles when the ball isn’t in their hands.
“Damian as our point guard, sets the tone defensively and the pace of how we’ll play the game. His leadership ability on and off the court is just second to none,” Wasankari said. “Tre is the type of kid who has the opportunity to be an all-area player, that’s the amount of strides he’s made this offseason. Marius’ ability to score in different areas and defend multiple positions will be huge for us, too.”
The coach believes sophomore Alex Segarra and junior Damien Williams-Butler will help propel the Tornados forward this season.
Wasankari said another year of experience will be helpful for Segarra, who he expects will take on a defensive leadership role. For Williams-Butler, Wasankari said he will take some pressure off of Smith and the Aalonas by scoring eight to 10 points per game. He also expects “WB” to stretch opposing defenses, provide a solid mid-range game and strong finishing abilities.
The Tornados first games were originally scheduled for Tuesday, Nov. 29 and Thursday, Dec. 1 against Rainier and Spanaway Lake high schools. Those games had to be rescheduled since “two-thirds” of the basketball roster are in the football program which is heading to the state championship game, Wasankari said.
Their first game, with a full roster, will take place on Wednesday, Dec. 14 in a home contest against the Peninsula Seahawks. They will play again on Friday, Dec. 16 for their second South Sound Conference matchup of the season as they host the Capital Cougars. Tip off for both games is scheduled for 7 p.m.
“Our league is really, really deep this year. Timberline, Capital, North Thurston, CK are all good teams and could beat anyone on any given night,” Wasankari said. “We want to win our league, but we also want to be in a position where we’re playing our best basketball by the time the district tournament starts.”
The Tornados were eliminated in the 2021-22 district tournament. Wasankari believes his team will build off of the loss and gear up for a potential run to the state tournament.
“We played a really good game and lost in the last second in the playoffs. With our group of kids, they’re winners. They win in multiple sports and I think they have the ability to place in the top three in the league,” Wasankari said. “They’re always going to compete at a level that gives you the opportunity to win.”
Wasankari said he has already seen the team take tremendous strides during the summer basketball season. He said “the ball tends to find the open guy.”
He wants the team to lean on good and consistent passing throughout the season. In an offense built off of selflessness, the Tornados have plenty of playmakers who will do damage with an open shot.
“We tend to win a lot more games and we’re difficult to guard when we’re moving the ball around,” Wasankari said.