High school basketball is still months away, but like many sports, it has become an almost year-round vocation for some players, and a young group of Timberview Wolves can be counted among them.
Timberview finished last season with three freshmen and a sophomore in its regular rotation, and that young core will be the building blocks of the program’s foreseeable future.
“We’re going to be young, but with some varsity experience,” Wolves coach Duane Gregory said.
Chris Mullins started every game last season as a freshman. Fellow classmate Isaac Likekele joined Mullins on the varsity roster just as district play started.
“We wanted to see if he sinks or swims, and he swam,” Gregory said.
Likekele became the first guard off the bench for much of the remaining season.
A third freshman, Kameron Marshall, moved up during the district schedule and earned playing time off the bench.
That trio, along with sophomore William Owens, have Gregory pumped about the future of Timberview basketball.
“I’m excited about this group,” he said. “Yes, they are young, but there is some returning experience. And those freshmen will still have two more years after [next season].
For the summer, they’ve largely gone their separate ways, at least as team basketball goes. Mullins, for example, is traveling with his AAU club Lone Star Elite, while Likekele is playing with North Texas Thunder.
But no matter who they’re lining up with over the summer, they all feel team chemistry will be a strength come September.
“We hang out a lot, either at the school or at somebody’s house,” Mullins said. “We have a lot of chemistry and we just love being around each other.”
“The way this team is set up, we have chemistry already,” Likekele added. “We love each other on and off the floor. And that helps us on the court.”
Both Mullins and Likekele had similar experiences getting used to varsity basketball, even if they came at slight different timing. Mullins was a starter from day one.
“There were a lot of nerves at first, but as I got support from my friends and teammates and family, it got easier and more comfortable,” Mullins recalled.
Similarly, Likekele noted that it was his teammates, including Mullins, that made the transition easier.
“It was a pretty easy process with the teammates I had because [graduated senior] Jokwon Bagby just guided me throughout the season,” Likekele said. “And also, Chris being another freshman, he helped me out a lot.”
Bagby was the undisputed leader of the Wolves last season and his captaincy will be missed, but his influence will likely be noticeable.
“He did a good job of mentoring these young guys,” Gregory said. “I always tell these guys, if it’s just us coaches coaching, we’re not nearly as strong as we can be as far as a program goes. Jokwon was a good example of how to be a player and also a mentor and basically coach these younger guys. They benefited from that.”
And while young on paper, this team won’t let its age serve as an excuse for any shortcomings.
“It seems just like a regular team,” Likekele said. “We feel like we can ball up at that level. With Coach Gregory, it doesn’t matter if you’re young or old, if you can play at the varsity level, he’s going to put you up there. So if he feels we’re prepared and has confidence in us, that just helps us build confidence and play to our maximum potential.”
And with years still to grow, it’s to be seen what exactly that potential can be, and how soon it can be reached.
“As we grow up we’re going to be very experienced as we’re growing through the steps,” Mullins said. “We could really make a run later. Or soon.”