Blaine boys’ basketball began practice last week on Tuesday, November 14, for the 2011-2012 season. After finishing last in the Northwest Conference last year, the Borderites have high hopes with nothing to lose. Head coach Dougal Thomas, now in his second year at the helm, said he is pleased about his team’s performance so far this season.
“Friday was probably the best practice that I’ve been a part of in three years. The guys were really intense. They were working hard and trying to push each other to make each other better in practice,” Thomas said. “There are no set spots. While we have three returning starters, that doesn’t mean they are automatically going to start again. I think everybody sees that. It’s making practice really competitive.”
Blaine’s returning starters include junior point guard Mario Gobbato and senior Andrew Price, whom readers might recognize as key players in the Borderite football program. Senior Chase Speelman is also returning to the squad. Thomas said he is excited for Speelman’s potential this season.
“Chase worked really hard on his game all summer. I think he has a chance to be good for us this year,” Thomas said. “He has really come on and is finishing around the basket.”
Another exciting prospect lies in 6-foot-10-inch Serbian transfer student Dejan Stefanovic. With Speelman and Price both standing tall at 6’7”, Blaine has got some serious height to work with.
“With those three guys, we are pretty big,” Thomas said. “We are looking at changing things up a bit. I think we are going to be harder for teams to guard, especially inside.”
Thomas also said Stefanovic is a very good shooter, which will open up more options and make defending him much harder for opposing teams. Thomas is counting on Price to continue dominating inside the key like he did last season.
“Price is a beast inside,” Thomas said. “He is a definite rebounder-finisher at the rim.”
Price logged 15 points and a whopping 21 rebounds in Blaine’s final game of last season, lifting the Borderites over higher-ranked Nooksack Valley 47-46 to end the season on a high note.
Finally, Blaine has another promising acquisition in junior Gabe Trump, who transferred from Squalicum High School this year. Thomas said he anticipates Trump helping quite a bit.
Blaine finished 2-17 last year, occupying last place in a tough league. However, the Borderites can take solace in having defeated Nooksack Valley in the last game of the season. Nooksack would later go on to finish sixth at state. Thomas said that while he believes his squad will be much improved from last year, he remains “guardedly optimistic.”
“Our league, and schedule, are just so darn tough,” Thomas said. “In looking at the success that our conference schools have had in the different (class) state tournaments, it’s clear that if you can get through the conference, you are going to have a pretty good shot once you get to districts – if you can get there.”
With some coaching continuity from last year and numerous practice games held over the summer, Thomas said he has started to see real improvement in his squad.
“We are starting to see the tide change a little bit in the way our kids feel about basketball and how much they are willing to put in,” Thomas said. “We are starting to put in a lot more, so we should get a lot more back out this winter.”
The Borderites kick off their 2011-12 season at home on Tuesday, November 29, against Nooksack Valley, whom Blaine narrowly defeated 47-46 in the final game of last season.