Seasoned Skyline boys basketball team looking to take next step
Dec 01, 2017 08:00AM
● By Jana Klopsch
Nifai Tonga, senior small forward, catches a pass against Park City last season. (mylocalradio.com)
By Josh McFadden
It’s been six years since the Skyline boys basketball team tasted victory in the postseason. Head coach Kenny James is hoping to put an end to that streak this season.
The Eagles finished in a three-way tie for third place in Region 6 last year, finishing 6-6. Skyline lost to Springville 44-43 in the first round of the Class 4A state tournament, closing out its 11-13 season. Skyline opens up the 2017–18 campaign the day before Thanksgiving, Nov. 22, at home against Alta, followed by a game at Woods Cross Nov. 28.
James is eager to see what this group is made of, starting with a slate of non-region games. His goal is to be in the thick of the Region 6 race and have some success in the playoffs.
“As a team we would hope to have a good preseason, compete for the region championship and qualify for the state tournament,” he said. “We would hope to win some state games, be competitive in all our games, be a good defensive team and have fun doing it.”
He has some solid pieces to work with, too, including several returners from last season. Skyline brings back seven seniors, four of whom who saw varsity action and two who started. Seniors Nifai Tonga, a 6-foot-3-inch guard, and Andrew Clark, a 6’ 5” center and two-year starter, will provide leadership on and off the court. Two more seniors, 6’ 4” post player Hollan Schweitz, and 6’ 2” guard Tommy McGrath, will also start.
“(Tonga) is a solid defender, strong scorer and physical player, who is also a good passer,” James said. “(Clark) is very mobile and agile. He’s a good rebounder and finisher going to the basket. (McGrath) is a strong shooter, scorer and playmaker. (Schweitz) is a long, athletic shooter and solid rebounder.”
James also said juniors Adrian Wilde, Tim Lont and Will Holmes should play a big part and hope to make a big splash this year.
Though James and his team have lofty ambitions this season, James acknowledges that several things need to happen if the Eagles are to post a winning record for the first time since the 2011–12 season.
“We need to come together as a team, share the ball and play as a cohesive unit,” he said. “The most important thing will be our willingness to defend. If our guys exert themselves on defense, we can play and defeat anyone. Our energy and effort will define our season.”
Not only do the Eagles bring experience and a variety of options at key positions, but James also believes his players have the athleticism to compete in Region 6 and at state. Skyline wants to push the ball in transition and play with a lot of energy and pace.
“The strength of our team is our length and athleticism; we have long-armed athletes who can really run up and down the floor,” he said. “Rebounding, scoring and inside play should be strengths of this team. I am excited to see these guys play and show their improvements. Our style of play should be fun to watch. I think people will enjoy the way we play and share the ball, and will enjoy our up-tempo style.”
Leading up to the season opener, James has been pleased with his players’ attitudes and eagerness for the season to get underway. If all things go according to plan, James is optimistic this could be a special year for Skyline boys basketball.
“We have had great attitude and have been working really hard,” he said. “The practices have been really competitive, and if we play like we have been practicing, then we should get off to a good start. The effort and attitude have been tremendous. The guys have been working hard and giving a great effort. We have a great group of young men who are trying to work toward their goals. I believe they can accomplish anything they put their minds to. If we come together as a team, nothing can stop us.”