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Bothell basketball team has high expectations, extreme talent and depth
For Bothell boys basketball head coach Ron Bollinger this season is an anomaly. During his 26 years of coaching he has had three players continue on to play Division I basketball in college. It is a true rarity to have more than one in any season.
This year his Cougar squad has two players who have signed to play Division I basketball and a junior transfer who could make it three by the end of the season.
“Not very often are you in a position to win a state title,” said Bollinger, who is a Bothell High School graduate. “But we have to prove it out on the floor.”
Bothell found out about having to prove things last year. They came into the season ranked No. 2 in the state but finished with a 17-12 record and an 0-2 mark in the state playoffs. A good season for any team with just one returning starter.
But with seven returning players this season, inexperience nor talent will be the problem. Bothell is also ranked as the preseason No.1 team in the state by many prominent polls.
The Cougars return the top-rated player in the state with 6-foot-3 senior guard Zach LaVine, who is committed to play for the UCLA, along with 6-foot-2 senior guard Perrion Callandret, who committed to play for Idaho.
“I have told them both you have nothing to prove - improve,” said Bollinger.
Last year’s season was one of growth and dramatic lessons, winning many tight games at the buzzer. But many of those games did not need to be so close, said Bollinger.
“Everyone is a lot more serious this year,” said Callandret, who will play for the University of Idaho next year.
Bollinger said that the team kept a nagging injury, suffered in July of 2011, to LaVine quiet last season. He hopes to see a healthy LaVine reach his full potential - a scary thought for many opposing teams.
“He was probably 70 percent last year,” said Bollinger, who knows it will take a team effort to achieve his goals for the kids. “… The other guys on this team are just as important. But they have to believe and we all have to have one goal in mind. If we have the right attitude we can be very good.”
LaVine’s ability to score from anywhere on the court and his sheer athleticism will pose a huge challenge for most other teams this season.
“Our execution has to be better,” said LaVine. “We want to show everyone how good of a team we can be.”
Bollinger said that the team must improve its rebounding. This year the team will have a true center in Seattle Prep transfer, 6-foot-8 junior Josh Martin.
“Prep was expensive and we just couldn’t afford it anymore,” said Martin, whose family moved to Bothell. “I have known Zach and Perrion a long time so that made the transition easier.”
Martin has been recruited by the University of Washington, UCLA and Gonzaga, among others.
“I am trying to keep it second to school work,” said Martin. “I just want to be a junior.”
He said that LaVine and Callandret have been a big help in dealing with the issues, as they have already been through it.
“All three of these kids are capable of having great games and it will be interesting to see how teams play us,” said Bollinger. “But we have to be able to share the ball because teams are going to do things to take Zach, Perrion and Josh away.”
But the addition of Martin in the middle could make it difficult for other teams to take all three players out of their game at once.
“He gives us a third year-round player,” said Bollinger. “Of course Garfield has 25 year-round players.”
The team will face some tough tests from the likes of Rainier Beach and Issaquah this season. Garfield is a perennial state contender and Bothell will play the Bulldogs at Key Arena during King Holiday Hoopfest in January. Issaquah was a thorn in the Cougars’ collective sides last season.
“Issaquah got us last year twice,” said Bollinger.
The losses stung for Bollinger, as Issaquah head coach Jason Griffith played for Bollinger in high school.
The Cougars also have to be careful of division rivals such as Woodinville and Inglemoor, as many of the in-league games were close. But the ultimate goal for this squad is a state title.
“We want to leave a legacy for this team and this school,” said Callandret.