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West Valley Happy To Take Breather As Favorite Transfer Students Give EV An Unexpected Boost

Frontier boys basketball

After five successive Frontier League championships, West Valley’s boys basketball team isn’t favored to win a title this year.

That’s blessed relief for WV coach Joe Feist, who seems more at ease than he has in years.

Teams such as Cheney and Pullman are getting the nod over the Eagles and he even rates newcomer Riverside highly.

But that doesn’t mean his competitive fire is diminished or that the WV won’t be in the hunt.

“We’re not bad, we’re just really young,” said Feist. “You’ll never know where we’re coming from or if we’re coming at all.”

The Eagles and new-look East Valley, under second year coach Rich King, both begin the new season with non-league games Dec. 1.

Only two players return from last year’s Knight team. They are joined by four junior varsity players and half a dozen newcomers.

“We’ve taken a step back size-wise,” said King of his Knights, “but we are twice the shooting team and much quicker.”

WV depth takes load off Schillinger

The Eagles will only be as good as four-year varsity player David Schillinger.

But this year his supporting cast will ease the burden Schillinger carried a season ago.

WV has better depth with a predominantly junior team. It will play better defense and may even be better rebounders and shooters.

“The big key is how David plays, if he can make the transition from scorer to leader,” said Feist. “It looks like he’s willing to give up the ball and play defense.”

Schillinger has been an often-spectacular shooter the past two years. But the pressure of being on the floor too long and trying to do too much last season was evident.

Juniors Josh Sweet and Austin Gerrells, a transfer from Valley Christian, will provide offensive and ball-handling help, along with Scott Wacenske and senior Jason Whitney.

Inside, the rugged Joe Bonner returns, joined by junior Vinnie Pecht. Newcomers are Mike Schroder and Aaron Mortensen.

The absence of Ty Gregorak, who is not expected back from his football knee injury until January, will be felt.

“He’d been improving,” said Feist, “and would have helped us from a physical standpoint. Losing an athlete of his caliber is a negative.”

Still, it will give inexperienced players game time and that could mean good things later in the season.

“I think we can be very competitive,” said Feist. “We have to see how the (new) kids respond to game situations.”

New EV players manna from sky

East Valley lost two players expected to be their franchise when the pair transferred down the road to CV after their freshman season.

But two newcomers have been welcomed with open arms by King.

“What’s been a pleasant surprise is the fact two kids dropped out of the sky,” said King. “It may be bold to say, but they are kids with all-league potential.”

Junior Brad Wilson moved here from Sioux City, Iowa, which King said is a basketball hotbed.

“He’s a 6-foot-1 lefty who can stroke it,” said King.

Another 6-1 junior, James Spotted Horse, a transfer from South Dakota, is a player with quickness and leaping ability.

“Those two will help us out quite a bit,” said King.

They will team up with returning starter Kyle LeGrant and varsity veteran Russ Freund, along with sophomore point guard Mitch Johnson.

“We’ll make Kyle a two-guard when Mitch is in,” said King. “Johnson has become a basketball addict and made a huge step up.”

East Valley’s only size is 6-foot-3 sophomore John Unser, still recovering from a broken foot incurred last basketball season. He re-injured it last summer.

Also on varsity are seniors Donny Snyder, Nick Robinson and juniors players Troy Hansen, Jon Anderson and Trevor Eastman.

“Ball control was a problem last year,” said King. “I think the kids will make smarter plays and give us 10 more shots a game at the basket. Rebounding is a matter of determination.”

The team will continue to play an uptempo, pressure game and there are kinks to be worked out. But King said he’s excited for the season.

, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Photo