Montesano graduate, Trevor Ridgway, pulls up for a shot during a Grays Harbor Chokers basketball practice in September. (Hasani Grayson | Grays Harbor News Group)

Montesano graduate, Trevor Ridgway, pulls up for a shot during a Grays Harbor Chokers basketball practice in September. (Hasani Grayson | Grays Harbor News Group)

Men’s College Basketball Preview: Grays Harbor hopes to turn fortunes around for 2018-19 season

ABERDEEN – Matt Vargas is eager to increase the win total entering his first season as head coach of the Grays Harbor College men’s basketball program. He believes a high-energy style of play as the path to success.

“It’s cliché because coaches always say they want this but I want ball pressure. I’m talking about 94 feet of hell; organized chaos,” he said. “We have 12 freshmen on the roster and a lot of these kids have not been pushed and if I can get them to focus and compete in the early part of the season then we’re going to be pretty tough.”

The Chokers had a tough time in the Northwest Athletic Conference last season, going 1-13 finishing the season with 4-24 record overall.

Vargas took over the program from Kevin Williamson on July 1. Though the program made the coaching change late in the recruitment season, Vargas stayed involved in the talent evaluation process and helped get a number of players signed in the offseason.

This year’s roster features a few more local players than the previous season with the addition of Montesano’s Trevor Ridgway, Rodney Washington from North Beach and Taholah’s Zach Cain.

Williamson expressed frustration last season at not being able to lure players from the I-5 corridor, but Grays Harbor will have three players from the area on the roster this year.

Jonothan Sealey and Jeremiah Williams from Tacoma signed on this summer as well as Jordan Garner from Spanaway.

With only four returners on the roster, Vargas will be leaning heavily on players like Cornelius Holifield.

Holifield averaged 12.9 points and almost two assists. The sophomore guard split time Russell Tillery as the primary ball-handler and Vargas anticipates an increased roll for Holifield this season.

“To be successful he has to be fast and strong and he he is extremely fast and extremely strong,” he said. “He’s had a tremendous offseason. He and Carl (Fischer Jr.) both have a chance to be all-conference. I wouldn’t be surprised if he averaged 16 or 18 points a game.”

Another player Vargas is expecting big things from is big man Carl Fischer. Fischer started from the bench but worked his way into the starting lineup by the end of the season.

Fischer averaged just over five points a game in the 2017-18 campaign, but by adding more refined post moves and an improved mid-range game has him confident he can contribute more offense this season.

“I’m really confident with that 18-foot shot,” he said. “I know I put in a lot of work and I feel like I can shoot that shot and I deserve to shoot that shot. It’s nothing but confidence when I put that up.”

Experience at point guard position and improved play in the post has Vargas feeling like his team could be a challenge to its NWAC opponents this season. He also anticipates the Grays Harbor gym being a tough place to play.

“As soon as you walk in that gym and see us play, you’ll know we’re the real deal,” he said. “We’re extremely deep and we’re just going to wear people out and I think as the season goes on we can go pretty deep.”

A 1-13 record in conference has left a lot of room for improvement for the team but Fischer isn’t too concerned the Chokers will have a repeat performance of last year. He believes this team can win a lot of games this year if everyone commits to the gameplan.

“We can only beat ourselves at this point. We can be as good as we want to be.,” he said. “We need 100 percent of our team bought in and the sky is the limit for us. When everything clicks I feel like we’re going to be dangerous. It’s going to be something serious.”

 

Taholah’s Zach Cain, right, drives around a screen during a Chokers practice last month. (Hasani Grayson | Grays Harbor News Group)

Taholah’s Zach Cain, right, drives around a screen during a Chokers practice last month. (Hasani Grayson | Grays Harbor News Group)