Boys Basketball: Rebuilding Bothell shoots for success

Bothell High’s Kurt Stottlemyer goes to the hoop last week in practice. - Fumiko Yarita / Reporter
Bothell High’s Kurt Stottlemyer goes to the hoop last week in practice.
— image credit: Fumiko Yarita / Reporter

Last year’s 16-9 Bothell High Cougars that finished the season one win away from making the state tournament for the first time since 1997 had a lot going for them.

A tremendous amount of senior leadership from athletes that have played hoops together for many years, even beyond the time they’ve spent at Bothell.

Players like fearless guard Neddy Dirini, the team’s leading scorer at 13.5 points per game, or 6-foot-5 multi-sport star Johnny Hekker, the Reporter’s Male Athlete of the Year at 12.5 points per game.

All that is gone now for the Cougars, who graduated eight seniors off last year’s team. But longtime head coach Ron Bollinger still believes that Bothell has a chance to make a splash in Kingco in the midst of changing the team’s style of play.

“It’s a young team. We’re very athletic, but young — not a lot of experience coming back,” Bollinger said. “Sometimes that’s a bad thing, but in this case I think it’s a good thing since we’re changing our offense and defense this year.”

The Cougars’ 2008-09 campaign will feature a few talented returners, a couple of which will get a chance to shine this year after battling injuries.

Leading the attack will be 6-4 senior guard Devin Willis, who started as a sophomore, sat out most of last season with an injury and is now back to full strength.

“He has a chance to be one of the better players in the league,” Bollinger said.

As one of the few senior returners on an inexperienced team, Willis knows how important it will be to establish a leadership role in the Cougar squad.

“For the team this year, I’m going to have to score, get rebounds and run the offense,” said Willis. “We’re looking pretty good, but we’re pretty young. We just need to get some games under our belt.”

Football star Kurt Stottlemyer is coming back as a guard and fellow gridiron mate Michael Hartvigson, who scored two touchdowns in the Blue Train’s season-ending loss to Issaquah Nov. 22, will be a force down low as a 6-6 center.

“Those guys have good experience in basketball and football, which helps at the varsity level to be able to perform in front of people,” Bollinger said. “And we’re getting Kyle McAllister back, he tore his ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) in June. When we get him back, he’ll be a key player for us, as well.”

Bollinger, who has coached at Bothell for 14 years, believes that while Garfield is the odds-on favorite, rival Inglemoor should also be one of the top teams in the league.

“Inglemoor’s got Todd Campbell, (Adam) McElwee and (Benji) Bryant back, they should be favorites in our division,” he said.

The fact that league-dominating Franklin, which ran a perfect 14-0 record last year in league play, left the Kingco conference should help a little. But at this point, Bollinger’s goals are set high for his young squad.

“Try to duplicate what we did last year, overachieve, make the playoffs and have a shot at state,” said Bollinger of his team goals for the season. “That’s always gotta be your goal ... If you’re going to be rebuilding, this is the year to do it.”

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