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Super sophomore Lavine is stepping up for Bothell High Cougars/ Basketball Spotlight

Bothell High
Bothell High's Zach Lavine is averaging 26.1 points a game this season.
— image credit: TIM WATANABE, Bothell-Kenmore Reporter

If Zach Lavine is not a household name yet, Bothell High boys basketball coach Ron Bollinger says his super sophomore guard soon will be.

Lavine, currently with a sizable lead in the 4A Kingco scoring race at 26.1 points per game (University of Washington signee Tony Wroten is second at 23.9), has been coming to Bothell High’s Cougar basketball camps since he was in first grade, and something about him immediately caught Bollinger’s eye.

“Around third grade I knew he was going to be a real good player, and probably seventh grade I knew he was going to be special,” said the 16th-year Cougar coach. “What sets players apart from good to great is the balance that they have. The really great players can stop on a dime and go up, and they’re on balance all the time. He’s got balance to go with his quickness and speed.”

SPACE JAMMER

Lavine got his start in the sport at a young age, practicing on a hoop in his father’s basement garage when he was just 4 years old.

“I started watching ‘Space Jam,’ and since then, it’s been my favorite thing,” Lavine recalled. “I used to spend hours down in the basement just practicing. When I got older I started honing my skills, and it just went from there.”

Playing on top select and accredited Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) teams up through junior high, Lavine got the experience he needed to be successful at the high-school level.

He started attending varsity camps and practices last summer, and once the team saw his uncanny quickness and ability to scorch the nets, the transition went pretty smoothly.

“I’ve known them all since junior high growing up,” said Lavine on his current teammates, adding that he had a busy summer of AAU ball. “I just practiced a lot, put a lot of shots up. I tried to work on my strength a little bit, get my conditioning down. I hit the weights a little bit, I’m not the biggest (guy), but this summer I will.”

A lanky 6 feet and 150 pounds, Lavine does have a bit of muscle and height to gain, and his coach warns that when all is said and done, his star guard will be the man to beat not just in the league, but the entire state.

“I expect real big things out of him,” Bollinger said. “I think he’s grown three inches since spring... when he’s 6-3, 6-4, I mean, he’s almost unguardable right now by one person. When he gets those inches, he will be unguardable.”

A number of colleges, including some high-profile Division I schools, have shown interest in Lavine, a rarity for an incoming sophomore.

“UW’s looking at me, Portland State, WSU (Washington State University), Baylor, Wake Forest a little bit, San Diego State, (University of) San Diego, San Francisco (State),” Lavine noted, admitting that while it’s still early, he would love to play at the next level. “I’ve thought about it. I’ve been going on little, unofficial recruiting trips.”

OVER THE HUMP

Lavine’s performance has been the lone bright spot in a struggling year for the Cougars, who are currently 0-11 in league play after Tuesday night’s 69-54 loss to Roosevelt.

Bollinger noted that his team has been in nearly every game with a chance to win in the fourth quarter, but the team hasn’t been able to respond down the stretch when Lavine gets teamed and someone else has to step up.

“We hope to get over the hump,” Bollinger said. “We’re about four minutes away from winning six or seven of the games. There’s just a stretch there when teams put the double and triple team on Zach... and the ball’s just not going down and we’re not making the plays.”

With six games under his belt this year where he scored 29 points or more, Lavine is a prime defensive target for opponents — especially on the perimeter where he does a lot of his damage.

Even with his high scoring pace, Bollinger noted that he often has to tell Lavine to take a shot instead of trying to find an open man and risking a turnover.

“Hopefully next year, when he’s surrounded by good shooters, they won’t be able to (double team) him,” he said. “We need him to score, so he’s doing a lot more than we had anticipated at this point.”

Although the 2010-11 season is a lost cause as far as a playoff berth is concerned, Lavine has high hopes for the upcoming seasons as the Cougars’ confidence, and team chemistry, grow.

“State would be good, but the finals would be the major goal,” he said of his ultimate goal in a Cougar uniform.

“This season hasn’t been going as planned so far, but we’re still holding true and trying to get some wins under us.”

Added Bollinger, “It’s a confidence thing. When we get the confidence going again, we’ll win those games.”

The Cougars play Friday in a marquee matchup against Wroten and the No. 1-ranked Garfield Bulldogs at home, tipoff at 8 p.m.

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