Plenty of fresh faces for Knights | Boys basketball

Pressure is off for young King’s team

By David Pan | Dec 07, 2017 - Edmonds Beacon

Junior Hunter Reeves takes over at point guard for King’s.

King’s heads into the season a far different team from a year ago.

The Knights, who placed third in the 1A state boys basketball tournament, graduated their entire starting lineup, a total of seven seniors and four players, who currently are playing college basketball.

Coach Rick Skeen said that King’s feels no pressure for the first time in five or six years.

“The expectation isn’t to win every game and win a state title,” Skeen said. “That’s kind of how we felt for a while now.”

The Knights, led by Corey Kispert won back-to-back state titles in 2015 and 2016 and finished second in 2013 and 2014. King’s might well had captured a third straight title last year had Kispert, who is now starting at Gonzaga University, been healthy. He missed most of the regular season and all of the playoffs with a foot injury.

“Word on the street is we’re not going to be very good,” Skeen said. “We’re trying to use that to motivate us to get better. … We lost a lot, but we like this group. We’re very long and we’re going to get better every day.”

The Knights lost their tallest player in 6-foot-8 Chewy Zevenbergen but has good height among their top eight players.

At any time, King’s might have five guys who range from 6-3 to 6-6.

“We don’t have a 6-8 guy, but we’ve got more long athletes than we had last year,” Skeen said

Junior co-captain Nate Kleppe, a 6-5 guard, swung between varsity and junior varsity last season. He feels he’s ready to step up to a larger role on varsity.

“I think over the summer playing at the varsity level has helped me a lot to prepare for this year,” Kleppe said.

The Knights are counting on Kleppe.

“We’re going to need Kleppe to score for us,” Skeen said. “He’s got to be a double figure scorer for us. Hunter Reeves is going to have to score for us from the point guard positon.”

Senior co-captain Levi Bundrant, junior Luke Bobin, senior Taylor Schoenfeld, sophomore Tyler Durbin, junior Elyon Zevenbergen, Chewy’s younger brother, are other players who should get their fair share of points.

Skeen isn’t anticipating having a player consistently putting up 20-plus points per night. The King’s coach will be happy with a lineup that has players with 12, 10, 8 and 7 points per game.

“We’re going to have seven guys that have a double-figure game sometime in the first 10 games,” Skeen predicted. “We’re not going to have a 20-point guy. We’re going to have share the load.”

Skeen said that he would rather game plan against one standout offensive player rather than five legitimate offensive players. The Knights appear to be closer to the latter than the former.

“All five starters can score in different ways,” co-captain Reeves said.

All of the Knights, however, still need to fine-tune their shooting, Bundrant said.

“We have a lot of great dribblers on our team and great drivers,” Bundrant said. “But our shooting is an aspect that we need to work on.”

Reeves said that developing team chemistry is important, especially with so many new starters. A recent team retreat helped to forge bonds between the players.

“We know what we can be. We’ve just got to put in the work and come together,” Reeves said. “That’s the biggest thing – being like brothers. The theme for this year is ‘I’ve got you bro.’”

King’s had a solid off-season with good participation from all of the players.

“The work ethic in some guys really came out and stood out,” Reeves said. “They used all the time in the gym to the maximum potential.

Kleppe also was encouraged by all of the hard off-season work.

“We have a lot of heart this year,” he said. “Everyone wants to play basketball. They love basketball. So that’s really helpful growing as a team.”