Daniel Young stands out as soon as he steps onto a basketball court. Ryan Johnson’s importance to the team doesn’t appear until the first time he hits the floor for a loose ball.
But the two Valley seniors will play key roles this season as the Vikings again try to finish among the Sunrise Region’s best teams.
“Me and Ryan being seniors, we have to show more leadership and just push these guys,” the 6-foot-8-inch Young said.
Young averaged 7.1 points and 7.9 rebounds last season, and the lanky, long-armed post player is a force on the defensive end. He’s signed with Cal State Fullerton.
“Danny’s made huge strides since last year,” Valley coach Brian Farnsworth said. “He’s probably one of our most improved players. Defensively, he’s probably one of the best if not the best shot blocker in town. If we can keep him out of foul trouble, he’s going to have a tremendous year for us.”
Johnson was Valley’s leading scorer last season, averaging 13.9 points. He also averaged 3.2 rebounds and 2.3 assists.
“He’s one of those tough kids that you just like to have on your team, one of those ultimate tough guys,” Farnsworth said. “He’ll dive on the floor for every loose ball; he’ll run through a pick to make sure the guy doesn’t score.
“I don’t know if he’s a shooter, I don’t know if he’s a rebounder, but he’s a winner. He’s one of the toughest kids I’ve ever coached and will do whatever you ask him to help the team win.”
The Vikings lost second-team all-state forward Caleb Carter to graduation, but that was supposed to be the only major piece lost from last year’s Northeast League championship squad. Instead, two other returning starters transferred to other schools.
“We had seven players that left our program for various reasons, but we’re not going to lower our expectations,” Farnsworth said. “We still expect just as much out of the guys that are here. I like the group we have. I think we have good chemistry. As long as we stay focused and determined, I think we should have some good success.”
Spencer Mathis, a 6-6 junior swingman, should lend help to Johnson and Young. Farnsworth said Mathis never fully recovered after injuring his ankle in December but has grown 2 inches and continued to improve his game.
“He’s jumping out of the gym,” Farnsworth said. “His shot’s getting better, he’s knocking down the jumper, and we’re expecting huge things from him both offensively and defensively. He’s going to make people really have to defend him, which should open up a lot of things for his teammates.”
Sophomore Cameron Burton saw quality minutes as a freshman but will take over at the point with the departure of all-league point guard Chris Swanson (9.6 points, 6.1 assists).
“That’s my favorite point guard,” Young said of Burton. “He’s always getting me the ball. He’s one of the best passers in the state. By his senior year, he’ll be one of the top players in the state.”
Eric Burrell, a 6-4, 220-pound football standout, will lend strength on the interior, and sophomores Shea Garland (6-4) and Nick Brannon (6-3) will offer additional help up front for a team with high expectations.
Johnson said the team’s goals are simple.
“Basically just to win conference again and become state champs,” Johnson said. “We’re trying to defeat the (Bishop) Gorman team. The name of their team doesn’t mean anything. We’re just trying to beat them, trying to get our rep up here.”