Tuesday, December 2, 2003 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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High School Sports

Boys basketball 3A/4A preview: Franklin unfazed by success

Seattle Times staff

1. Kentwood 26-3
2. Bethel 22-6
3. Franklin 25-2
4. Mount Tahoma 17-7
5. Prairie 22-8
6. South Kitsap 26-3
7. Shorewood 14-9
8. Redmond 15-10
9. Mountain View 18-7
10. Snohomish 22-4
11. Davis 17-7
12. Auburn 14-10
13. Kent-Meridian 15-10
14. Pasco 21-7
15. Lewis & Clark 13-9
16. Gig Harbor 18-9
1. Rainier Beach 26-3
2. Meadowdale 19-8
3. Mark Morris 20-6
4. Renton 21-7
5. O'Dea 21-9
6. Bellingham 21-7
7. West Valley (Yakima) 23-6
8. Clarkston 14-12
9. Seattle Prep 17-8
10. Mercer Island 23-6
11. White River 20-7
12. Cleveland 16-8
13. Selah 17-7
14. Clover Park 17-8
15. Columbia River 14-10
16. Evergreen 20-7

Jason Kerr knows all about the necessary evils of preseason basketball: expectations and state rankings.

Especially for a school that is coming off a Class 4A state boys basketball championship.

"We let the fans and media worry about that," said Kerr, who guided the Quakers to the school's fourth state title in his fourth season as Franklin's coach. The Quakers capped the 2002-2003 season by beating Mead 67-55 in the championship game at the Tacoma Dome for a 25-2 record.

So, what will Franklin do for us lately?

"We're using the same approach we always take," Kerr said. "We tell our players, 'Control the things you can control. Don't worry about March right now.' "

Come March, most observers expect Franklin to be at the Tacoma Dome again bidding for a repeat title — although it first must survive the torrid KingCo Conference, where only two state berths are available.

"We have a very young team," said Kerr, who counts four sophomores and one immensely talented freshman, 6-foot guard Venoy Overton, on his varsity. "We're fairly talented, but at the same time pretty green in knowledge of the game of basketball."

Gone are eight seniors, including state player of the year Aaron Brooks, now a starter at the University of Oregon.

Two starters return for Franklin — 6-3 senior guard Lyndale Burleson (8.8 ppg.) and 6-5 senior wing John Rogers (7.0 ppg.). Add Richie Phillips, a 6-7 wing Kerr calls "a monster junior," and Hassan Finch, a 5-11 junior guard, both of whom saw varsity action.

The four sophomores with sizzle: Jordan Daisy, 5-11 guard; Walter Washington, 6-2 wing; Nate Jackson, 6-5 wing; Zach Williams, 6-2 wing.

So, how good is this outfit?

Good enough to beat Rainier Beach in the championship game of a fall tournament at Highline Community College. The Vikings are the two-time defending Class 3A state champions and preseason No. 10 in USA Today's national rankings.

Franklin's strengths: speed and depth. The weaknesses: youth and inexperience.

The 2003-2004 season tips off with Franklin at No. 3 in The Seattle Times' 4A preseason state rankings.

No. 1 goes to Kentwood, not just a football school anymore. No. 2 goes to Bethel, ditto.

Kentwood, 26-3 and third at the 2003 state tournament, returns three starters — 6-5 senior guard Rodney Stuckey (22.2 ppg.) and his brother, 5-9 senior guard Ronnie Stuckey, plus 6-3 Aaron Boyce.

The Conquerors also have 6-2 Blake Solomon and Matt Mgebroff, a 6-7 junior who is the brother of the graduated 6-10 Jason Mgebroff, now at Lehigh.

"We've got high expectations," admits Kentwood coach Dean Montzingo.

"This is a talented group. But I always remind our guys that we've got to go and play the game. You've got to do the work and win."

Bethel welcomes back six of its top nine scorers from last season, including three players who started as the Braves qualified for the state tournament and finished 22-6. And then there's the Bethel trademark: defense.

Class 3A

• So, who's going to be chasing Rainier Beach in Class 3A?

Probably Meadowdale, Mark Morris, Renton, O'Dea, Bellingham, West Valley of Yakima, Clarkston, Seattle Prep and Mercer Island. Among others.

Mercer Island, 23-6 and third at state last season, returns no starters — except Ed Pepple, back for his 43rd year of coaching, 36th at MI. Don't expect the Islanders to go away quietly.

• Seattle Prep would have been a top-five contender and the favorite in the Metro League's Mountain Division. But Martell Webster (20 ppg., 12 rpg.), a 6-7 superstar who has been labeled the second-best junior in the country by several recruiting Web sites, may be sidelined for the season — although there is hope he may return by mid-January. He suffered a foot injury in the fall while scrimmaging in an open-gym workout.

The Panthers, who missed the state tournament last year with a 17-8 record, have two players who have signed for colleges: Michael Knight (14 ppg.), a 6-3 guard who is going to University of Maryland-Baltimore County, and Chad Troyer (12 ppg.), a 6-4 guard headed for Miami of Ohio.

O'Dea, 21-9 and a state-tournament participant last season, inherits the favorite's role in Metro's Mountain Division. And look who O'Dea plays tonight in a Metro League opener: at Rainier Beach. Seattle Prep plays host to Cleveland in another Metro opener.


• Micah Downs, a 6-8 junior guard from Bothell, is being recruited heavily by Kansas, Utah, UW, WSU and many others, according to coach Ron Bollinger.

• Franklin ended last season on a 20-game winning streak. That and the state title weren't the only things that brought a smile to the face of Kerr. He topped that by getting married.

• Bremerton's Marvin Williams may conclude his high-school career without a state-tournament berth. The Knights are underdogs again in the Narrows League, but Williams is generally regarded as the best player in the state — maybe in state history. The North Carolina-bound 6-9 forward averaged 24 points and 12 rebounds last season as Bremerton finished 11-9 and missed the playoffs.

Times preseason state basketball rankings

Class 4A boys

On the bubble — Lincoln 18-12, Richland 15-10, Garfield 16-7, Bothell 11-11, Inglemoor 15-8, Federal Way 18-11, Foss 13-10, Kentridge 11-11, Curtis 11-10, Mariner 17-6, Gonzaga Prep 5-16, Mountlake Terrace 16-10, Mount Spokane 18-8, Mount Vernon 15-10, Puyallup 13-8, Rogers (Puyallup) 15-12, Roosevelt 9-13, Skyview (Vancouver) 16-8, Lake Washington 8-15, Bellarmine Prep 9-11, Eastlake 17-9, Eisenhower 5-15, Walla Walla 20-10, Jackson 15-10, Bremerton 11-9.

Class 3A boys

On the bubble — Squalicum 13-10, Ferndale 8-12, Grandview 16-9, Issaquah 21-7, Interlake 7-13, Mount Si 12-10, Newport 20-7, Timberline 9-13, West Valley (Spokane) 23-4, Skyline 16-11, Sehome 16-9, Bellevue 14-12, Sequim 14-6, Burlington-Edison 10-12, Sammamish 5-16, North Mason 21-6.

Copyright © 2003 The Seattle Times Company


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