The coach calls it confidence. The player calls it maturity.
While the words aren’t synonymous, the coach and player mean essentially the same thing.
Coeur d’Alene High boys basketball player Casey Hoorelbeke has grown into his still-growing 6-foot-6 frame this year.
Because of it, he was one of the most dominating players in the Border League. He received the second-most votes in balloting for league most valuable player.
Because of it, Coeur d’Alene is headed to the State A-1 tournament. The Viks (19-4) open Thursday afternoon against Capital (21-4) at 2:15 at the Idaho Center in Nampa.
Because of it Coeur d’Alene stands more than a good chance of faring well at state.
“I think I’ve matured more this year - not only physically but mentally,” Hoorelbeke said. “I’m not at my full potential, but I’m getting there.”
“The biggest difference in Casey this year over last year is his confidence,” Viks coach Larry Bieber said.
Whether it’s confidence or maturity - or a combination of both - one coach thinks Hoorelbeke began to blossom last season.
“He gave us fits and it started last year,” Lake City coach Jim Winger said. “They have a lot of good pieces to their puzzle - and they have good chemistry - but he’s the most valuable piece of their puzzle. You take him out and it’s a whole different team.”
Last year, Hoorelbeke went from a role player early in the season to first team allleague by season’s end.
He made a similar progression this season. He went from a first-team all-league candidate to a contender for league MVP. And if he hadn’t missed five games in the middle of the season, Hoorelbeke may have been the MVP.
Hoorelbeke understands that playing in the state tourney this week is a wonderful opportunity to display his talent. But he would trade all the personal attention he will likely get for a state championship trophy.
“I could go the whole tournament and not score and be happy as long as we win state,” he said. “I’ll think about individual honors after the season is over.”
Hoorelbeke has had several sterling moments this season. In perhaps his most dominating game, he scored 30 points and grabbed 19 rebounds in an overtime win at Cheney.
“I knew I was going to have a good year,” Hoorelbeke said.
Then he suffered the stress fracture in his foot.
“All of a sudden I had to wait,” he said. “It was the hardest thing to do to watch from the bench. I’ve never been injured in any sport until this year. It taught me not to take things for granted. And I kept thinking about how great it was going to be when I got back.”
When CdA needs to score it frequently calls on Hoorelbeke. He led the team in scoring most of the season (15.3 points per game) until point guard Jim Rupp slipped past him during the regional tournament.
“He’s our go-to guy,” Bieber said. “He likes that challenge. He’s not afraid to fail. His consistency in finishing his shot has made him deadly.”
Winger’s glad Hoorelbeke graduates this year.
“He lulls you to sleep and then all of a sudden he’s got 30 points,” Winger said. “What’s amazed me is he’s so smooth, almost in a nonchalant way. We couldn’t defend him with one player. He gave me an upset stomach trying to prepare for him.”
A pitcher in baseball, Hoorelbeke will have a tough decision to make soon regarding which sport he’ll play in college. Or if he’ll play both.
But that’s secondary to what he’s pursing this week.
Hoorelbeke is going to state with one purpose: to come back with the state title trophy.
“The coaches say there’s not a team at state that we can’t beat,” he said. “But all the teams can beat us too. We can’t afford to look past anyone. The first game is most important.”
Hoorelbeke is one of eight seniors who have been together since they were freshmen.
“We’ve been working for this for four years,” said Hoorelbeke, who’s been dreaming about state.
In his dream he sees the scoreboard. The Viks win.
Now he hopes to live it out.
, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Color Photo