If Mt. Spokane’s girls basketball team gets out of the gate a little slow, it has a built-in excuse – not that coach David Pratt would use it.
Half his team missed the first week of basketball practice since they were busy winning a state title in volleyball.
But on Monday, Pratt had the entire squad together for practice for the first time this season. All was right with the world.
At least until the Wildcats get started for real on Tuesday playing on the road at Moses Lake.
Pratt joked that he was still putting names to faces.
“(Monday) was really Day 1,” he said. “With our volleyball kids doing so well and winning that championship – which they bring into here. They add a lot of excitement. So it was fun to have everybody here today.”
Not only does Pratt have to reincorporate the two-sport athletes, but he has three varsity transfers to work into the program: 6-foot senior forward Sophia Bertotti-Metoyer (Gonzaga Prep), 6-foot junior forward Jaimyn Sides (Lewis and Clark) and 6-1 junior Kyara Sayers (North Central).
“It’s (tough). I think summer helps for that,” he said. “But we didn’t have all of them in the summer. I think this is the first day we’ve had all these kids on the same court at the same time.
“They’ve got to learn how we do things – our philosophy and our program and our style – but they’re willing to do so. And I think that speaks volumes of those kids.”
Despite the challenges of short practice time and the transfers, Pratt has a strong point of reference to start with: Returning first-team all-Greater Spokane League wing Jayda Noble – herself a transfer following her sophomore year at Medical Lake – who was a reserve on the volleyball team.
“I’m so ready,” Noble said. “I mean after such a great volleyball season, I’m just ready to be back in basketball season – to be back in practice, whether we’re running, no matter what we’re doing. I’m just ready to be back.”
Noble isn’t concerned with the short training period.
“I think we’ll be just fine,” she said. “It’s not like we didn’t have our players because they weren’t doing anything. We were off playing a sport, winning a state title. Now we’re here. We’re athletes – it’s what we do, we’re ready. We’re back to it.
“She’s such a game changer in so many ways, right?” Pratt said of Noble, who has already orally committed to the Washington Huskies. “I mean, as a leader, she’s constantly enthusiastic – that enthusiasm never goes away. Even if I get on her, you know, and try to teach and coach and she’s so enthusiastic and anytime someone else makes a mistake or whatever, she picks them up.”
It’s a rare kid that takes open criticism enthusiastically.
“I just think it raises the level of intensity,” Pratt added. “ ‘I’m okay, if that kid does something, no big deal. If I do something wrong, she’s already picked me up. I’m not gonna worry about it.’ You know? So it’s nice to have her and then of course, her skill set – she’s such a skilled kid – but she has all the intangibles.”
Last year’s team, which reached the state title game but fell in a two-point heartbreaker, was led by a cadre of seniors, most of whom are off playing college basketball right now – including first-team all-league guard and leading scorer Aspyn Adams.
Noble was admittedly deferential to the seniors above her last season, playing a complementary role concentrating on defense, rebounding and energy – she had 20 boards in the state title game.
“She did everything she could to will us to that and just fell short,” Pratt explained. “So you can imagine how much we’re going to rely on her, and how much she’s gonna feel like, ‘Let’s get back there and and win this thing.’ ”
This year Noble will have to adjust her game as she’ll be counted on to lead the offense. She’ll be helped by the transfers, and returning shooting guard Emma Main and post Gracey Neal.
“That’s where it comes into just my own mindset,” Noble admitted. “I don’t think I’m ever gonna be a player to do too much and be a ball hog. But I can be more aggressive. If we come out and I’m aggressive right from beginning teams aren’t going to be ready for that off film from last year, you know?
“That just has to be my mindset this year – just be aggressive.”
“I think we can spread it around still quite a bit,” Pratt said, “but I think she is a focal point though. She does such good things off the dribble, she can post, she can shoot. We’re definitely going to look to her to put the ball in the hole for us. But she also affects offensive rebounds and can do that.
“We’re gonna rely on her but I don’t think she’s gonna feel like she has to do it all. We have a lot of really talented kids in the program and I think we’re all in it for the same reason.”
Noble is all about the “dubs” – Washington and winning.
“Having U-Dub and just signed already that just takes so much off my shoulders and I’m just so excited to start that,” Noble said. “But, I mean, senior year, I’m not concerned about my points. I’m not concerned about MVP. I couldn’t care less about that stuff.
“It’s my team, I want to win state with my team. I want to have fun with my team. That’s all that matters to me.”
Pratt explained that Noble is more than his skill leader.
“She understands our program and understands what we’re looking to do. She has a deep passion to win whether it be a drill or a game or a state title. And because of her charisma, I think that just raises that level of everybody. She goes ‘All right then, if that’s absolutely what we need to do, that’s what we need to do.’ ”
“She’s almost like a coach out there, right? She just keeps teaching and coaching and encouraging – and non-stop too. And that’s just awesome leadership.”
Pratt said he doesn’t mind all the extra scrutiny a state title game run brings – not to mention having a high-profile player committed to UW.
“I love it. Thank you,” he said. “I don’t know if East Side teams get enough credit. At least, I can only speak on the girls side, right?
“You look at look at the history. I mean, GSL has done really well, or the Big 9, or the MCC. These groups have done pretty well in the past 10-15 years. But I don’t worry about that. We just want to come in and do what we can do. It’s nice if people are on the West Side are looking to us and saying, ‘Wow, this program is doing really well.’ So thank you.”
But the road back to a title game is going to be bumpy.
“The second is the hardest one,” Pratt said. “If you look at it, we had a great record – 24-2. And that’s nothing to look down on by any means. And I was so proud of our kids. But all of us have looked at it and we’ve actually had to tell each other ‘We’ve got to get over this.’ We’re still talking about it. At some point, by the time we get to Moses Lake on Dec. 3, we’ve got to be done with that thing, right? I mean, it’s gone. But it might fuel our fire a little bit, right?
“I think we’ve all at some point said ‘We’re done talking about this. Let’s just go play.’ ”
Alphabetic order, last year’s record.
North Central (13-11, 6-6): Coach Tim Lamanna is back for his second season, without NC’s all-time leading scorer Quincy McDeid, who’s starting at Whitworth now. He does have eight letter winners coming back – who have all been in the program for four years – led by wing Dakotah Chastain and fellow seniors Taylor Cain, Kailey Crockett, Gabby Mason and Perris Plummer. “We will be a team that defends well and plays really hard,” Lamanna said. “We have a lot of length and experience that are our strengths that will help us play great defense. To be competitive we need every player to come in and play as hard as they can.”
Rogers (0-19, 0-12): Coach Lindsey Hernandez had it tough in her second season last year. “We have a lot of heart and we have girls that are hungry to get better,” she said. “We will see a lot of improvement throughout the season.” Two starters and four letter winners are back, including senior guard Savanna Wickering and junior guard Dyani Sijohn Pascal. Sophomore guard Sydney Vining and junior Destiny Cosner should provide reinforcement.
Shadle Park (2-20, 2-10): Scott Kelley takes over at the helm for the Highlanders. He has three returning starters and nine total letter winners back, including honorable mention all-league junior point guard Izzy Boring. Despite all the returning players, there’s not a ton of experience. “We are young. Very young,” Kelley said. “Our roster consists of only three seniors, two juniors, a freshman and the rest sophomores. We are working hard at rebuilding the program with fundamentals and defense. In order for us to compete, we need to minimize turnovers, play tough defense and control the mental side of the game.”