Jordan Ford (left) and Jared Helmstadter work on a defensive drill in the early days of practice. (John Fisken photo)
They have speed. They have talent. They just don’t have a lot of bodies.
A combination of injuries, lack of practice time and players who chose not to return from last year or dropped off in the first week of practice this year has left the Coupeville High School boys’ basketball squad thin in numbers.
Of Coupeville’s 18 players, three started late and likely won’t be eligible on opening night (Monday, Nov. 30), while two others are injured.
That could mean the only way the Wolves play a JV game in the early going would be to have five guys be 32-minute men, while stealing a swing player from the varsity just to get that starting five.
The low numbers could also affect the varsity, especially if any more injuries crop up and deplete the front-line guys.
For now, at least, CHS coaches Anthony Smith and Dustin Van Velkinburgh are looking on the bright side, however.
They may not have great depth, but the guys they do have offer nothing but upside.
“If we shoot the ball well, we’ll be hard to beat,” said Smith, who is going into his fifth season as head coach. “Teams will probably play a lot of zone against us and we need to make them pay.
“If we take care of the ball, keep the turnovers down, we’ll be right in there every game.”
Coupeville is a bit undersized, with relatively few big bangers, but they do have quickness and offensive explosiveness, and will look to ride whichever player has the hot hand on a given night.
They also have experience, with eight of what’s expected to be the top ten players being seniors.
Senior Wiley Hesselgrave, a First-Team All-Conference player a year ago, is “our gun,” and the Wolves will look to exploit his toughness on both sides of the ball.
Senior Risen Johnson and sophomore Hunter Smith will handle the ball for CHS, while seniors Jared Helmstadter and Ryan Griggs and junior Gabe Wynn round out the returning varsity players.
“Gabe is our X factor,” Anthony Smith said. “With the energy he plays with, he can cause a lot of havoc for us.”
Seniors DeAndre Mitchell, Desmond Bell and Dante Mitchell slide up from last year’s JV team, while the real X factor might be senior Jordan Ford.
A transfer who can claim long athletic bloodlines in Coupeville, the bearded one was an immediate hit during football season, where he was a solid two-way player.
Now Ford will take his game to the hardwood, where he’s expected to join Griggs as the team’s only real inside players.
Also fighting for positions are senior Beauman Davis, junior Brian Shank, sophomores Luke Merriman, Ariah Bepler, Hunter Downes (who may have suffered a season-ending injury Tuesday) and Cameron Toomey-Stout and freshmen Gabe Eck and Ty Eck.
However the roster ends up shaking out, Coupeville will look to continue heading back upwards in the standings.
After a winless first season under Anthony Smith, when the new coach inherited virtually an all-freshman roster, the Wolves have increased their win total in each of the last three seasons.
Last year they went 7-13 overall, 3-6 in 1A Olympic League play.
A number of their losses were close ones, and one of the wins came against Chimacum, the eventual league champs.
The Cowboys and league mate Klahowya had senior-dominated rosters last year, so their turnover could mean good things for Port Townsend and Coupeville.