Foster boys basketball Coach Isaac Tucker has his players sized up.
They’re not particularly tall but they’re quick.
They’re talented in many ways, making it possible to assign specific roles to specific players.
This is Tucker’s second year as coach of the Foster boys. He grew up a coach’s son and played basketball for two years at a community college. He “left the sport alone for years,” he says.
Then he spent several years coaching youth teams in Renton and was involved with Next Step Athletics, where he coached his step-son’s AAU team. Khalfani Carter is now a freshman on Foster’s JV team.
“It wasn’t until I was sitting at the state tournament at the Tacoma Dome with my Dad six years ago that I realized I wanted/needed to coach high school basketball,” he said.
His father Rich is a volunteer assistant coach; his assistant coach is David Montoya. Coach of the junior varsity team is Joel Green.
He sees his team as a family.
Tuesday night, the Bulldogs had an intense practice to prepare for the Wednesday league opener against Lindbergh at 7 p.m. at Foster.
Tucker is shaking off the loss of two key players from last year’s team, scoring threat Adem Suta and top defender Tyerel Brown who earned Tucker’s “Glove” award last year.
“On any given night he was easily the best shooter in the gym and competed every time he stepped on the floor,” said Tucker of Suta.
He’s still hunting for a replacement for Brown, who didn’t show up in the stats in every game but “was my lock-down defender all season long,” Tucker said.
Four varsity players are returning but only two spent much time on the court, he says. Only two players play basketball year round, which means the Bulldogs have to work to catch up with other teams in the Seamount, he says.
“But the guys are working hard every night and I have no doubt they’ll be rewarded come the end of January,” says Tucker.
And then there is 5-foot-7 Isiah Lewis, whom Tucker calls his “dynamic freshman guard.”
“He could easily be a four-year starter and I expect great things from him as we progress through the season,” said Tucker.
Tucker his main returner from last season is junior Ronnie Roberson, who led the Seamount League in rebounding, but for some reason, he says, didn’t make an all-league team.
“He’s got a nose for the ball, quick off the floor and plays with energy most people can’t match – Ronnie never takes a play off,” he says of his 6-foot-4 forward.
The team is still a bit “height-challenged,” Tucker says. As of early this week, Roberson still needed to meet the minimum number of practices to play and junior Dzenan Cosic, a 6-foot-3 forward, was still out with a knee he injured at the first practice.
But senior forward Randy Tippins, at 6-foot-1, was cleared to return from a concussion he suffered in the fall, according to Tucker. Tippins was the starting quarterback for the Bulldogs’ football team.
“Our first two games we’ve had to put wings down on the blocks and play a lot of zone defensively,” Tucker said. “Hopefully over the course of the season our quickness will pay dividends for our lack of height.”
In the season opener, the Foster lost to Kentwood High School, 70-31. Senior Rashad Sang led he scoring with 11 points. The next game Dec. 6 was much closer with Chief Sealth edging Foster 66-62. Senior Cory Covarrubia was the leading scorer with 14 points
What’s new this year is a “clearer mix of talent” compared to last year, when players were similar (with Roberson the exception) and interchangeable, Tucker said. Roles and style of play were “very general,” he said.
But with that clearer mix, he can define specific roles for individuals, such as point guard, shooting guard and forward, “that I think will make us a stronger team in the long run.
“There were a lot of gray areas last season, but I think this year the kids will benefit from knowing exactly where they fit in, and what’s expected of them, on the court,” said.
All that boils down to this:
“I still expect our overall playing style to be defense-oriented, relying heavily on being quicker than the other team,” he said.
The Bulldogs will play a predominately man-to-man defense, but Tucker says there is always “a time and place” for a zone defense.
“I like to mix things up as needed so the other team never gets too comfortable on offense,” he says.
On offense, the Bulldogs will primarily run a continuity/motion offense in half court.
“But if I can get them to kick the ball ahead and get shots up quickly, that will be our preference,” he says.
All that boils down to this:
“Work hard on defense, have fun on offense,” he says.
And don’t read too much into last year’s 11-13 record.
“Sometimes records can be deceiving; I thought last year was a major success for my group of kids. They over-achieved, represented themselves well, and grew together as a team and family. That’s how we measure ourselves each year.”
His goal, moving forward, for the team is to advance deeper into the postseason than last year.
“That’s what it’s all about, that’s why we do what we do in November, December and January is to get ready for February,” he says.