By Mark Butcher
BREMERTON — Thirty-five male student-athletes, 17 eighth graders and 18 underclassmen laced up their sneakers in late October and stepped onto the Mountain View Middle School gymnasium for boys basketball tryouts. Six were returners from last year’s junior varsity team that finished third in the West Sound Middle School (Large School) league with a 6-4 record: Madden Benson, Trenton Bulmer, Oliver Christian, Cody Irving, Jalin LIttleraven-Oliver, and Dillon Lovestedt.
What many of the hopeful didn’t realize in their nervousness is that this year’s boys basketball program is new.
First, Bremerton alumni Marshaun Thompson has assumed the head coaching position and will oversee the entire program. The previous two seasons he guided the Squires JV team to identical 6-4 (.600) records.
“Like the boys, I was kind of nervous today too,” Thompson said after tryouts. “Now I have to do more than just come to school each day and coach the JV team. Now, I have to make sure all the players paperwork is completed. I have to write the practice schedule for the day. I have to get all the equipment together. I am responsible for both teams, not just my JV team.”
But he has an advantage that past coaches didn’t have. He works security at Mountain View.
“It is a huge advantage seeing the boys all day and they having access to me,” Thompson explained. “I can keep an eye on those that need a little more attention and I can catch problems while they are small.”
Thompson also works side-by-side with his new assistant coach, Walter Oliver.
Oliver has deep ties in the community, having coach Warren Ave Pee Wee basketball for the last eight years. Thompson and Oliver co-coached the Washington Girls D string to a Kitsap County championship two years ago. So, they have already developed their own chemistry and way of doing things.
The third new element to the program is the addition of sixth grade student-athletes. Although Mountain View has been a three-year school – sixth through eighth grades – for many years, until this season sixth graders have not been permitted to participate in after-school extra-curricular sports.
“I see the addition of the sixth graders as a big plus for the program,” Thompson said. “It gives the student-athletes more time to prepare, three years to play instead of two, and gives us coaches more options when selecting the teams.”
And the sixth graders represented themselves well against the bigger, stronger, older players opening day.
Asked to compare his new position at the middle school to coaching pee wee basketball, coach Oliver stated, “cutting players is the biggest difference I see right now. Having to turn away kids that want to play is not going to be easy.”
That process became more difficult with the addition of sixth grade student-athletes.
“There will be a couple of the sixth graders that will make the team,” Oliver added.