Many high school basketball coaches spend preseason practices looking for new players to fill big roles and getting familiar with the talents of their team.
Not Valley’s Brian Farnsworth.
With 10 of 12 players returning from last year’s team and another who played on the varsity two years ago, Farnsworth has a pretty good idea of what he has.
Now he just needs to get the Vikings to play to their potential.
“Our biggest problem is just chemistry and jelling,” Farnsworth said. “You have 12 guys that can play and there’s only one basketball. We try to mix and match teams every day in practice and let everyone know that every spot’s always open.”
In addition to experience, the Vikings also have plenty of talent. Valley finished second in the Northeast League last year and advanced to the Sunrise Region semifinals.
Senior guard Khristian Kirkwood is back after averaging 14.3 points, 5.2 rebounds, 4.0 assists and 2.8 steals. Senior guard Christian Kessee should provide more scoring from the wing after averaging 13.8 points last season.
They are just two of several capable players for Valley. Angelo Coleman (9.6 points, 5.6 rebounds) and Royce Finley (7.0 points, 5.6 rebounds) are also returning starters, and Farnsworth expects big things from 6-foot-6-inch junior Caleb Carter.
“We’re just scorers,” Kirkwood said. “Everybody puts the ball in the hole.”
The Vikings were often undersized last season, with Coleman frequently forced to man the post. But at 6-3, he’ll seldom be the team’s tallest player on the court.
O’Neil Brauthigam, a 6-7 senior, returns along with 6-6 senior Job Williams, who has grown 3 inches since last season.
But Carter brings the most excitement.
“He’s going to be special,” Farnsworth said. “We don’t necessarily need him to score a lot of points to win, but we need him to get double digits in rebounds. And he’s thriving in his role and he’s just out here having a good time.”
Farnsworth said he wouldn’t be surprised to see one of his bench players lead the team in scoring some nights — as long as the players are unselfish enough to share the ball.
“The kids just have to realize who’s hot that night and keep feeding them the ball and thrive off that,” Farnsworth said.
Few teams will be able to match Valley’s depth, and that should help the Vikings go all-out, especially on the defensive end.
“When our bench is in, our team doesn’t fall off,” Kessee said.
Farnsworth said defense will be the key to jump-starting the offense.
“Our philosophy around here is if you play great defense, you don’t need to run an offense and you can just score off your defense,” Farnsworth said. “The most fun you can have is scoring off the break and off your defense. Team’s that are athletic like us, when you have to set up and run an offense, that’s when things become stagnant.”
Valley’s depth should help the team keep up its defensive intensity.
“I’m in a good position where if a kid decides he doesn’t want to play hard, I’m not short-handed,” Farnsworth said. “I can set him down and give someone else a shot who’s willing to do it. You don’t have a chance to take a play off, or you’ll find yourself looking from the sidelines.”
Farnsworth thinks that depth can help his team compete with the top teams in the Northeast League.
“We have a nice group of seniors, but these other teams have a good nucleus, too,” Farnsworth said. “It should be a fun conference run.”
NATIONAL NOTICE — A pair of local boys basketball programs have gained national attention to start the season.
ESPN RISE ranked Findlay Prep No. 1 in the nation after it went 32-2 last season. Bishop Gorman, which captured the Class 4A state championship last season with a 30-2 record, is ranked No. 9 to start the season.