John Graham had high expectations for his Freeman boys basketball season coming into the season.
The Scotties were coming off league and district championships, falling short of a State 1A berth.
With senior point guard and first-team all-league selection Kellen Miller back, Graham figured his team would make a run at a state berth.
Those hopes began to unravel rapidly the third game of the season when Miller suffered a season-ending knee injury. Things continued to spiral downward thereafter.
Graham watched his roster flip before his eyes. Only two of the original 10 full-time varsity players listed for the Scotties’ season-opening game remain. The last two games he has started four freshmen and a sophomore.
“I’ve never seen anything like it,” said Graham, in his third season at Freeman after assisting former West Valley coach Jamie Nilles for 11 years.
In the second game of the season, Freeman fell to Granger 54-52 at the SunDome in Yakima. Miller, who averaged 17 points per game last year, had a game-high 21 points.
“Their coach said to me after the game ‘We’ll see you back here in March’,” Graham said of the state tournament.
“Now we have a bunch of guys who were playing junior high basketball last year trying to play varsity basketball,” Graham said.
Interestingly, the Scotties started the year with the biggest turnout in Graham’s three years. That team consisted of three seniors and four juniors.
Graham had no doubt Miller’s place in the league going into the season.
“He was the best player in the league,” Graham said. “He could have been the league’s most valuable player.”
After Miller’s injury, Freeman started falling apart one player at a time.
Junior Colin Ayers was lost to a broken nose. Then another junior, Brady Unfred, suffered a season-ending tendon injury in a finger.
“Those three were my top three returning scorers,” Graham said.
Two others quit to focus on football. That left Graham with sophomore Jake Phipps, who was a starter at the beginning of the season. He’s the team’s veteran now.
“We’ve been starting three freshmen since the middle of the holidays,” Graham said.
Just one senior is left, Preston Primmer, and he comes off the bench.
Graham is hopeful the Scotties can qualify for the district tournament. The top six out of seven teams in the Northeast A advance to district.
Freeman scored a big road win last Friday, topping Newport 49-46. The Scotties have won two out of their last three and are 3-14 overall, 3-6 in league and in fourth.
“The wheels have wobbled a few times,” Graham said. “We would have had a very good junior varsity team, but now they’re having to play varsity. Our freshmen have potential. And we have a good eighth-grade class coming in.”