By Joe Slye, Gem of the Sound Sports Reporter
Kennedy Catholic 2022-23-Round Basketball Season is Underway!
While the Kennedy Catholic football team has been on a weekly crusade to win their playoff games and advance to the State 4A Championship game on Saturday, December 3rd, the basketball teams have been hard at work quietly preparing for the 2022-23 season. The boys’ team will open on the road at Stadium High School in Tacoma on Thursday, December 1st, at 7:30 PM. Originally scheduled to open on Wednesday, November 30th, against Camas, the game was canceled because the flu hit the team. That, and a few basketball players still playing football, forced the cancellation on the 30th so Camas wouldn’t have to travel for 3 hours and 170 miles from Vancouver, WA, to Burien to face a depleted team.
Kennedy Catholic may be shorthanded for the Thursday game, but the healthy available players are eager to play a real game. Besides, it is only a short 25-mile trip to Tacoma.
Kennedy Catholic is coached by Greg Caldwell, who begins his third season after taking over for long-time coach Don Hoffman who moved up to the athletic director position for the Lancers. Greg is familiar with the Kennedy Catholic family. Starting in 2012, he coached the girls’ program for 8 years. Prior to that, he was an assistant for the boys’ team. Greg has also been a faculty member at Kennedy Catholic for 17 years, teaching PE and AVID, plus some other duties. His mother and sister have also been teachers at Kennedy Catholic. “The first two years in the boys’ program have been challenging,” Caldwell said, “the third year feels like the first.”
The obstacles created by COVID almost completely wiped out the 2020-21 season. While returning to normal, the 2021-22 season still had multiple COVID-related issues. (A positive COVID test required a player to sit out for 10 days. As you can imagine, missed practices and games caused many complications.) While all teams faced similar situations, a new coach feels the loss of continuity and getting to know the players’ talents and personalities a bit more.
Last season the Lancers went 5-8 in conference games and 7-10 overall. They opened with 3 decisive wins and then 3 very close losses by a combined 8 points. In January, they hit a stretch where games were canceled and rescheduled, causing the team to get out of sync. The result was a 5-game losing streak. Kennedy Catholic was outscored by more points than they scored in some games and by double digits in all. As the season was wrapping up, the Lancers regrouped and won 3 of their last five. The 2021-22 team had 6 seniors who graduated and only 2 juniors who returned for the 2022-23 season. A group of sophomores and freshmen saw some significant playing time last year. Coach Caldwell expects those younger players, plus a few up from the JV team, to show the benefits of that game experience this season.
The struggles of the first two years helped prepare the team for year three. The Lancers have shown improvement each year. Coach Caldwell carried over some things from the Coach Hoffman era and has added some new things. He expects to see players improve week to week during the year. That could be the key to how successful the team is this season. With just 2 seniors to lead the young juniors and sophomores, everyone needs to work hard and compete this year. The team is all about hustle, and their motto is SCRAP — Sprint, Communicate, Rebound, Attack the paint, and Protect the paint. In practice or games, the SCRAP motto is the mindset.
Expect to see a hard-nosed, hustling, and competitive team. One senior player who will make a difference is Maclane Watkins, though he will be missing for the first few games — he has winning a football Championship on his mind right now. WIAA rules will allow players to compete until they have attended a certain number of practices. Watkins, and a few others coming over after the football season ends, will miss the first four or five games.
Besides the 6’-5″ Watkins, expect to see a strong 6’-4″ senior, Zach Hatcher take up some space under the basket. Lanky, athletic wing 6’-5″ Taylor Mwale and sharp-shooter Kaden Truong (a couple of sophomore players from last year) have worked hard in the offseason; they will be difference-makers this year. SaVaad Alexander, a 6’-7″ junior, who mainly played JV last year, has height and improving skills; we should see him with lots of playing time this year.
The Lancers open three games in 5 days with the Stadium game December 1st at 7:30 PM, a tournament game (played at Auburn Riverside) against Woodinville on December 3rd at 10:00 AM, and their home opener played at the Kennedy Catholic gym against Auburn Riverside on December 5th at 7:00 PM.
The team will participate in two tournaments during the holiday break. They will usually play two games weekly through the season, which ends in early February. Playoffs and the State Tournament are held for the remainder of February.
The Lancers will be an exciting team to watch this season!