Usually at any one time of a preseason basketball practice, one might see shooting practice or a scrimmage. That hasn't always been the case for the Borderites this year under new boys varsity head coach Dougal Thomas. Practices frequently consist of running drills to improve conditioning and intense drills centered around defense.
“It all starts at the defensive end of the floor,” said Thomas in an email, “getting the defensive stop and rebound is key to being able to get out and run. I think our personnel is suited for this style of play.”
Up tempo is something that Thomas is familiar with having worked with Rob Ridnour as an assistant with the Bellingham Slam for the last two years, while also being an assistant coach for the Borderites last year.
Thomas began his coaching career in Stone Plain, Alberta as a JV coach, before becoming head coach at Southridge School in Surrey. He was a graduate assistant at Delta State University and then spent two years as head coach at Delta Community College.
The Borderites will be putting a practically new starting lineup this season led by four seniors: Todd Bird, Sean Allen, Dustin Dhanani and Andrew Miller.
“I think our seniors will all play major roles for us this year,” Thomas said. "I look for Andrew Price to be one of the best players in the conference.”
Football injuries to Price and Cliff Crews have caused concern for the Borderites not having a true big man in early practices. Price, who broke his hand, has been practicing with a cast and is having it removed this week.
Hopes are that he will be ready by the season opener at Nooksack Valley. No return date is set for Crews who is still on crutches for a non-surgical but slow healing knee injury.
“These injuries completely changed the way I had hoped to play and what we had planned," Thomas said. “Crews was going to play a big part in what we had planned this year.”
Thomas sees underclassmen rising to the fore to make significant contributions.
“I think that Luke Feenstra and Chase Speelman (both juniors) may have breakout seasons and really surprise some people,” Thomas said, “we also have a pretty solid group of sophomores that may put some pressure on our upper classmen.”
Ironically, the coach sees the Borderites’ strength, balance at the guard position, as one of the biggest challenges as well.
“We have a number of guys that can get it going on any given night,” Thomas explained. “It may make it difficult to make a decision on who to play on any given night.”
The injuries to the Blaine big men could also be amplified early on by an unforgiving schedule. Four of the Borderites’ first five games are on the road, including long excursions to La Conner and Lakewood. The first three games of the season, will be played with little turn around in only five days.
“I think the biggest challenge will be how we handle adversity," Thomas concluded. “Are we going to let it keep rolling downhill or find a way to get a win when we really need it? Will the boys continue to buy into hard-nosed defense throughout the season? Time will tell.”
The time is almost upon the Borderites as the opener against the Pioneers, at Nooksack Valley comes Tuesday November 30, followed by a home game against Sehome on December 2. Then the boys join the girls in a double header at La Conner, that Saturday December 4.
Photo by Jeremy Schwartz