Under new coach Bulldogs learn the ‘science of basketball’

Under new head coach James Johnson, the Foster High boys basketball team will learn how to play the game – and understand the science of basketball.

Coach James Johnson works on positioning with his players during a recent practice

Under new head coach James Johnson, the Foster High boys basketball team will learn how to play the game – and understand the science of basketball.

The Bulldogs got a boost in confidence in their come-from-behind win Monday, Dec. 7, over Sultan High School, 59-56, at Foster. The following Wednesday night, the Bulldogs beat Tyee, 58-52.

The Bulldogs lost their first two games to two seasoned teams, Chief Sealth, 65-46, on Dec. 1 and Kennedy Catholic (where Johnson has coached) 70-30. Johnson had hoped for a least a moral victory over Kennedy Catholic, but 40 points is moral victory, he said.

In the Sultan game, the Bulldogs took an early lead but at half were behind. In the fourth quarter, behind by eight points, the Bulldogs rallied, stayed composed and won the game.

“It’s a good win. They see they can come back and win those sort of games,” Johnson said, and it’s something the team and coaches can build on.

Johnson replaces Isaac Tucker, who coached the Bulldogs for three seasons. Last year’s season ended one win short of the state tournament.

The Bulldogs lost some starters from last season. Ronnie Roberson graduated and younger brother Freddie is now a sophomore at Rainier Beach High School.

But new leaders are already stepping up.

Camet Soe, a 5-foot-9 junior guard, was an all-Seamount League running back. “He definitely looks like a football kid playing basketball. But because of his toughness – he’s willing work hard – he’s providing all that on the floor,” Johnson said.

Tyler Amin, a 5-foot-11 junior guard, hasn’t played basketball but he’s a “basketball stud,” said Johnson. “He’s playing great defense just because he’s a great athlete and a hard worker,” the coach said.

Senior Jordan Hunter, a 6-foot-1 wing, didn’t play basketball last year but played JV as a sophomore at Renton High, so this is his first action “in a long time,” Johnson said.

But he scored 16 or 17 points in the Sultan game. “He has come into his own,” Johnson said.

“The biggest thing that we are trying to preach here is showing respect for your teammates, coming every day, working hard, being on time. Those three guys have done that all year long,” Johnson said

It’s a learning year, Johnson said.

“We are just learning. We are just teaching. It’s just taking one day at a time. We are preaching progress and process. We aren’t trying to rush ahead. We are not trying to implement extra stuff. Not trying to do more stuff. Keep it simple. If you get good at simple stuff, then you’ll be surprised at how good you can be,” he said.

And it’s a rebuilding year, Johnson added, but he thinks “we have pieces that if they work together and we can learn a little quicker, I think they can shock some people,” he said.

Becasue many of his players are inexperienced and his tallest player is Hunter, Johnson said he’s keeping his offense simple. And he said everyone will get a chance to score, “playing good team basketball.”

The Bulldogs aren’t the tallest team in the Seamount, so they’ll rely on their quickness and athleticism on defense, Johnson said. They’ll extend their pressure to half-court but haven’t worked on extending the defense to full court, yet, he said.

Johnson talks about his role as coach. He has extensive experience coaching throughout the region, including at high schools.

“As far as me, any coach isn’t just a coach. He’s a friend, he’s an uncle, he’s a mentor in a sense. My way of connecting with my kids is I just try to get to know them on a personal level, other than just basketball and school,” Johnson said.

And it helps, he said, that he’s a paradeducator at Foster.

“I get to see these kids. One thing I think my kids should know is that I care about them,” he said, checking on their grades, how they are doing. His players are “buying in.

“Wins will help that too. That’s a slow process. My kids know that this year, we preach it’s about a process, it’s a process, it’s a process. We’re not really worried about wins in the month of December. We’re kind of concentrating about wins in January, when we’ve had some time under our belt.”


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