North Tahoe Boys looking strong this season " and fast | SierraSun.com

North Tahoe Boys looking strong this season " and fast

Alex Close
Sierra Sun
Alex Close/Sierra SunNorth Tahoe High's Kona Murray goes for a block against teammate Michael Forte at practice earlier this week.
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The North Tahoe boys basketball team is looking strong this year.

Actually, more than anything, the Lakers are fast ” real fast.

Of course, senior monsters like Michael Forte and Kona Murray will be on the court bringing down boards and blocking shots, but other than those two, North Tahoe doesn’t boast a whole lot of size.

But with players like Michele Basile, Brent Marple and newcomers Scott Smelser ” who took fourth in this year’s cross country state championship ” and North Tahoe running back Ernesto Mendoza, speed is definitely on the Lakers’ side.

“If I put these guys in a 100-yard dash they would all come in under 12 seconds,” Lakers head coach David Hansen said.

Fresh off an annual four-hour team bonding and trust building session with former St. Mary’s and Cal Poly basketball coach Dave Bullwinkle, Hansen said his team has been having intense training sessions, and while it hasn’t been tested in a game situation yet, the energy level has been high and the players’ desire seems strong.

Hansen said he has a lot of diversity when it comes to experience this year.

Players like Forte and Murray are both returning senior starters, and players like Basile, Taylor Goode, Marple and Carlos Lara all return as juniors with some varsity experience as sophomores.

Hansen said he also had some surprises this year in players like Smelser, Mendoza and Jaime Negrete, all of whom are great senior athletes but haven’t played basketball at the high school level until this year.

“I wish they had played as underclassmen, but I’m happy to have them now,” Hansen said.

The inexperience of some of the newcomers will be balanced out by the multi-year veterans such as Forte, who was named league MVP last year as a junior.

According to Hansen, Forte’s leadership and skills will be key this year.

According to Forte, honors like MVP are secondary this season.

“I just want to make it back to playoffs,” Forte said. “I don’t care about the individual stuff, I just want to get back to state.”

Hansen didn’t want to give away any secrets, but said that he would be using the team’s speed in his overall strategy, and that they would be working on their full court press.

Hansen cited rebounding as a challenging issue for the Lakers this year.

While Murray and Forte are both very strong on the boards, Hansen said ideally he would have two or three more big boys to help bring the ball down.

One of Hansen’s question marks came up on this subject in Smelser, who Hansen said has a great vertical leap as well as great speed, meaning he may come in handy on the boards as well.

“I’m encouraged,” Hansen said. “They work hard.”

Hansen looks to traditionally strong teams such as Dayton and Spring Creek as notable challenges in the upcoming season but, as always, he says that defense is the key in the end.

“We’ll go as far as our defense takes us,” Hansen said.

North Tahoe’s first game is Nov. 27 at Whittell, and the Lakers play on Dollar Hill Dec. 4 against South Tahoe.