Risen Johnson prepares to take off during a running drill. (John Fisken photos)

Risen Johnson prepares to take off during a running drill. (John Fisken photos)

Johnson shadows Wolf freshman Nick Etzell.

Johnson shadows Wolf freshman Nick Etzell.

He’s learning from the best.

Risen Johnson, who transferred from Oak Harbor to Coupeville for his junior year and is in contention to earn a slot on the Wolf boys’ varsity hoops squad, tabs “Bad Boys” as his favorite film.

No, not the Will Smith/Martin Lawrence cop shoot-em-up, but the ESPN 30 for 30 documentary on the Detroit Pistons of the late ’80s and early ’90s.

That squad, led by Isiah Thomas, Bill Laimbeer and Dennis Rodman, won back-to-back titles, dominated the NBA and frustrated the crud out of Michael Jordan with their five-fouls-per-play rule.

With Coupeville coach Anthony Smith putting an emphasis on defense, having the Pistons as role models should benefit Johnson.

But defense is not the only thing he brings to the floor.

Bouncing between the guard positions, Johnson, who also plays baseball, says his strength is “probably my handles,” though he would like to work a bit on his left-handed layups.

Having picked up the game at age five, he’s a firm believer in playing the way the Bad Boys always did — as a team, a five-man unit that moved together, played together, lived and died for each other on the court.

“I started because my older brother and uncle played, so I wanted to play with them and it always stuck with me ever since,” Johnson said. “I enjoy the whole team part and getting wins.

“Without the team, what’s basketball?”

While he’s new to the Wolf squad, he already had connections on the team before the jump to Coupeville.

Friends with CHS players Dante and DeAndre Mitchell, Johnson wanted a chance to suit up with them.

Now that he’s here, Johnson, who picks U.S. History with Randy King and conditioning with Brett Smedley as his favorite classes, has quickly bought into the team-wide goal of making a strong debut in the new 1A Olympic League.

“My goals for this upcoming season are to get that trophy, the banner, and to have fun with the team,” Johnson said.

While his distinctive first name is likely to catch people’s attention, he’s not sure if it has any special meaning.

“I actually do not know the story behind my name,” Johnson said. “I just know that I was named after my uncle.”

Give him a little time in a Wolf uniform and he should more than make a name for himself.

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Joel Walstad is one of four seniors on this year's Wolf hoops squad. (John Fisken photos)

  Fresh off an outstanding football season, Joel Walstad is one of four seniors who will lead this year’s Wolf hoops squad. (John Fisken photos)

Ryan Griggs drives on Matt Shank.

Ryan Griggs drives on Matt Shank.

Aaron Trumbull has been the one constant on the varsity for the past four seasons.

Aaron Trumbull is the only Wolf who has been a varsity player in each of Anthony Smith’s four seasons as CHS coach.

“Our goal is to put a flag on the gym wall.”

As he enters his fourth year at the helm of the Coupeville High School boys’ basketball squad, Anthony Smith is thinking big.

Having endured three years of growth in the tough 1A/2A Cascade Conference after inheriting essentially an all-freshman team his first year, Smith sees the upcoming season as a potential breakout year for the Wolves.

Coupeville has increased its win total the past three seasons, from zero to one to three, and is leaving behind juggernauts like King’s and ATM as it opens play in the new 1A Olympic League.

Facing off with Port Townsend, Klahowya and Chimacum puts CHS on a more level playing field, and the Wolves want to return to the days of hoisting league championship banners.

And why not this season, as a reward to the seniors who have been with Smith since day one and taken their lumps to rebuild the program.

“I want it for those guys,” Smith said. “Those kids have worked hard all the way, have bought into the program we put in and have believed. They put in a solid foundation and they deserve to go out strong.”

The core of the Wolf team is comprised of three of those seniors — Aaron Trumbull, Joel Walstad and Aaron Curtin — in addition to junior Wiley Hesselgrave and senior Matt Shank, who transferred from Utah before his junior year.

Curtin is returning after taking his junior year off, but, even when he didn’t play, he showed up for every game and remained close to his teammates.

Now he’ll slide back in alongside Trumbull, who has been a rock every step of the way for four years.

The Wolves lost their biggest scorer when Anthony Bergeron graduated (they’ll also have to replace big man Nick Streubel, sweet-shooting Gavin O’ Keefe and the always-hustling Morgan Payne).

But, while Coupeville may not immediately seem to have a 20-point-a-night guy, the Wolves will be able to kill you a thousand different ways.

“We may have a different guy going every night and we’ll get that guy the ball,” Smith said. “I’m pretty excited. We came together close in the summer time, played big-time teams and we were very, very productive.”

The hallmark of the team will be defense, which should open up the offensive end of the court, as well.

“We will get after it on ‘D’, especially in the half court setting,” Smith said. “We have good athletes and we will compete.

“We have a tight-knit group on the varsity and they are taking things seriously,” he added. “There won’t be much of a drop in production when we go to the bench, and everyone has a chance to be productive.”

The core five will be backed by a mix of players all fighting for prime playing time.

Sophomore Gabe Wynn saw varsity action as a 9th grader, while junior Dalton Martin started last season on the varsity but missed most of the year with injuries. If he’s healthy, he should be a big contributor.

Junior Ryan Griggs, who played for the Wolves as a freshman before a family move to Arizona took him away for his sophomore year, is back and bigger.

Toss in junior Jared Helmstadter, who was the leading scorer on the Wolf JV a year ago, speed-demon junior CJ Smith, who is in his first full basketball season for CHS and junior Risen Johnson, a transfer from Oak Harbor, and the battle for playing time will be intense.

And don’t sleep on freshmen Hunter Smith and Ethan Spark, both tabbed as young players to watch by their coach.

Gwen Gustafson

Gwen Gustafson rains down pain from long distance. (John Fisken photos)


“You want to take our photo? Well, OK, if you insist…”


Emma Hargrave keeps her eyes locked on the basket.


Izzy Wells leads the break.


Kiara Contreras (4) soars high for the opening tip.

Maybe the only photo in which t

  The future of Wolf hoops includes (back row, l to r) Contreras, Kylie Van Velkinburgh, Wells, Hargrave, Kaela Meffert and (front) Stella Johnson, Alita Blouin, Maddie Georges, Gustafson and Ryanne Knoblich.


Contreras directs traffic.

Give the readers what they want.

And what they’re asking for right now is more photos of the future of Wolf girls’ basketball.

After we ran a series of pics Sunday from a SWISH game involving the young guns of Whidbey, the response was loud and clear.

More, more, more!

So, it’s a good thing I actually had more photos than I ran the first time around. And now, thanks to coach Lark Gustafson, I have a roster so I can ID the players.

They’re back, by popular demand.

"Indiana, prepare to be invaded!"

So much ‘merica.

Best lean in the biz.

Stretching his body across that finish line like a boss, Coupeville’s Tyler King officially stamped himself an All-American.

King’s 40th place finish at Saturday’s NCAA D-1 Cross Country Championships in Indiana sounded great when Coupeville Sports first reported it that afternoon.

Turns out it was even better than thought.

Not only was King’s run (he covered 10,000 meters in 30 minutes, 56 seconds) his best performance in his time at the University of Washington, but it nabbed him the final All-American spot available.

The redshirt junior joined senior teammate Aaron Nelson (21st) in earning that status. It was the first time in school history that two Husky men were honored at the same championship.

Nelson was also an All-American in 2013, and his feat of being a two-time honoree will be one that King can eye in 2015.

U-Dub actually netted three All-Americans, as speedy junior Maddie Meyers also grabbed the honor on the women’s side.

Who has the snazziest cup in all the land? You, it could be you. (Amy King photo)

Who has the snazziest cup in all the land? You, it could be you. (Amy King photo)

Wolf girls' hoops -- kickin' butt and takin' names. Get behind a winner and buy a mug! (John Fisken photo)

   Wolf girls’ hoops — kickin’ butt and takin’ names. Get behind a winner and buy a mug! (Shelli Trumbull photo)

So, there you are, about to enjoy a tasty beverage but faced with a dilemma.

If only you had a cup that could handle hot and cold beverages with equal aplomb, a cup that was microwave and dishwasher safe but also looked stylish and reflected your support of all things Wolf Nation, life would be great.

Well stop right there, before you give up and pour said drink into your bare hand and try to cup it long enough to get it your mouth before it hits the floor.

There is an answer!

I kid you not. Seriously, put the drink down and lean in close and I’ll whisper the answer to you.

Tervis Insulated Drinkware.


But where would I get something like this, you ask?

It’s a good thing I’m around, I guess, cause I can point you in the right direction.

The Coupeville High School girls’ basketball team is currently selling the chosen cups of all discerning drinkers.

It’s part of a team fundraiser, with proceeds going to buy equipment for the Wolf b-ball program.

And yes, that would be the very same Wolf girls’ hoops program that had the best record of any of the six Whidbey Island high school basketball programs last season.

So, you’re funding success.

Hot to buy one (reasonably priced at $18), especially as we head into the holiday gift-giving season?

Contact Wolf coaches David and Amy King at dking@coupeville.k12.wa.us or aking@coupeville.k12.wa.us or talk to the next CHS girls’ hoops star you see.

Since I’m doing most of the work around here, I’ll even tell you who those players are:

Kacie Kiel
Hailey Hammer
Madeline “Maddie Big Time” Strasburg
Monica Vidoni
Julia “Elbows” Myers
Wynter Thorne
Makana Stone
McKenzie Bailey
Kailey Kellner
Tiffany Briscoe
Lauren Grove
Mattea Miller
Skyler Lawrence
Mia Littlejohn
Lauren Rose
Kyla Briscoe
Allison Wenzel
Brisa Herrera

Now go and do the right thing. The civic thing. The supporting-the-best-basketball-program-in-the-land thing.

And stop trying to drink out of your cupped hand. It doesn’t work that well.


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