When Gonzaga Prep point guard Sam Dowd passes the ball to a teammate – especially to Reed Hopkins, Brendan McClary, Ryan Alexander or Frankie Hoerner – he expects immediate action.
Dowd punctuates every pass with an oral declaration: “Shoot it, man.”
“I say the same thing to everybody,” Dowd said.
They shot it well last Saturday in a state-qualifying win against South Kitsap. G-Prep (21-4) faces Todd Beamer (21-4) tonight in a State 4A tournament opener at the Tacoma Dome at 7:15.
But what the Bullpups do better than shoot is play defense.
G-Prep returns to state for the first time since winning the State 4A championship three years ago. That team featured two future NCAA Division I players, but more than anything that team flourished because of defense.
So do this year’s Bullpups.
No wonder coach Matty McIntyre believes his team is on the verge of accomplishing something memorable this week.
“I really feel like there’s something special happening here,” he said. “You can’t really put your finger on exactly one or two things. The chemistry is great. The kids are feeling good and playing with a lot of confidence. Our mentality is we’ll take on anybody anywhere and let the pieces fall where they may.”
That’s exactly the mentality that carried G-Prep past teams three years ago featuring DaVonte Lacy, Tony Wroten and Gary Bell – all future Division I standouts. The Bullpups shut down each player.
“Every team is different, but I feel good at this stage,” McIntyre said. “Regardless of the outcome, it’s going to be an incredible memory.”
Hopkins sat on the bench as a freshman three years ago.
“I love these guys and I’m so happy with where we’re at,” Hopkins said. “What it comes down to this week is rebounding and playing defense – our staples. That’s what did it (three years ago).”
Alexander is G-Prep’s best individual defender, but he knows it takes more than him to play defense.
“We’re not the biggest team, so it has to start with defense,” Alexander said.
McClary specified what the Bullpups’ defense must do.
“We have to play tough on-ball defense,” he said. “And we have to be aware of our rotations defensively.”
Dowd was even more specific.
“We’re going to turn our games into halfcourt games,” he said. “We don’t allow straight-line penetration like the West Side teams like to do.”
Any one of six players can score in double figures, and they all do it out of the flow of the offense.
“We really like our team’s balance,” McIntyre said. “It’s hard to game plan against us. That balance just makes us stronger.”
Dowd said many times the Bullpups’ practices are tougher than their games.
“We just beat the mess out of each other,” he said. “Somebody is always bleeding, diving on the court and getting court burns. Coach tells us many times to bring it down a little bit, because we get after each other too much at times. It’s the brotherhood that we have. We’re going to be ready to play (at state). I can’t wait.”