W.F. West coach Chris White has his team gathered in a circle at the Pacific Athletic Center in Chehalis last week.
It’s the fourth day of practices for the 2021-22 season and just one day after making varsity cuts. For the first time this early season, he has all his varsity players together in one group.
White begins firing off compliments to each player, telling them their strengths and what they can bring to this team that features seven new faces. He’s not only pumping them up, he’s also taking inventory of the pieces he has after losing a key group of seven seniors from last season.
Gone is reigning 2A Evergreen Conference MVP Carter McCoy, who’s now playing for Lower Columbia, as well as Whalen Deskins and Gabe Cuestas who are both now playing for South Puget Sound. Also graduated are Max Taylor, Cade Haller, Brit Lusk and Camryn Bostwick.
That group led the Bearcats to the 2A Evergreen Conference title with a 9-1 league record, finishing 11-4 overall with a loss to Mark Morris in the district championship.
While losing a group that large certainly changes the dynamic of the team, the Bearcats are far from depleted.
The biggest returners, literally and metaphorically, are 6-foot-4 senior wing Dirk Plakinger and 6-foot-10 junior Soren Dalan.
Plakinger, who was a constant threat of posterizing opposing defenders with crowd-pleasing dunks last season, was the Bearcats’ second-leading scorer beyond McCoy, averaging 12 points per game. He assed 3.4 boards, 1.8 steals and 1.8 assists to earn second-team all-2A EvCo honors.
“Dirk is a special finisher,” White said.
Dalan, like Plakinger, spent his summer in the AAU circuit. Dalan, who plays for International Elite, averaged 6.6 points and 4.3 rebounds last season as he was still finding his footing as a sophomore. After summer league, Brooks Scouting Report named him the 25th-ranked prospect for the class of 2023.
“Soren is a great scorer, rebounder and shot blocker in the post,” White said. “He shares the ball well, too.”
The Bearcats also have three seniors who will mix in, including Seth Hoff, a jumping and throwing track star who is an electrifying athlete and can score in bunches. Charlie Mallonee and Austin Snyder are solid, all-around players who can play and guard a variety of positions on the floor.
Junior Cameron Amoroso, the starting wideout for the Bearcats’ state-qualifying football team, is a sharpshooter who is also crafty in the mid-post.
Freshman Gage Brumfield, who quarterbacked the Bearcats’ football team to a win over Mark Morris in the district crossovers and a close loss to Prosser in the opening round of state, is already dunking.
“Gage is an exciting and super-athletic guard/wing who will improve quickly,” White said.”He defends and finishes at a high level.”
Junior post Joe Mathews figures to see some court time in the four or five position.
“He is an exciting post player who has solid post moves, defends well and can finish above the rim,” White said.
The Bearcats open the season with a non-league game at home against Class 2A White River on Tuesday, Nov. 30. They then head to Ridgefield, a team they beat in the district semifinals last season, on Dec. 1.