WALLA WALLA — After losing its two leading scorers from last season, the Walla Walla Community College men’s basketball team is utilizing a team-first approach to generate offense.
The Warriors lost Case Rada and Dylan Radliff, who averaged 23.9 and 17.3 points per game, respectively, last season.
But even without Rada and Radliff, the Warriors do return three starters from last year’s team and another player who started before getting injured early last season.
The team’s experience, along with its depth, has WWCC head coach Jeff Reinland encouraged about the Warriors’ prospects this year.
“He (Rada) took a lot of shots,” Reinland said. “He’s gone now, so there’s going to be other opportunities for other guys. I don’t expect one guy to score 24 (points) a game like he did. We might get two guys scoring 24 (points) a game.
“We’re going to be more of a balanced attack,” he continued. “We do have a host of players that are capable of having a big night on any given night.”
With guards Eric Harr, Dallas Reich and forward Austin Nooner back in the fold, the Warriors boast three starters from last year’s team that finished 7-7 in the NWAACC East and reached the postseason tournament.
“We know what to look for,” Reich said. “We know what to look forward to. We know how hard it’s going to be. It’s not like we’re going into it blind. We have experience.”
But the Warriors also possess a talented bench, which is capable of spelling its starters at any time, Reinland said.
The Warriors’ deep bench will also be crucial with the new hand-check rules, which may result in more foul calls this season, Reinland said.
“I think it’s good with the way it appears they’re going to be calling the games this year,” Reinland said. “Players are going to have to adapt to that. Coaches are going to have to adapt to it.”
The players also understand that more competent bodies on the bench means more balance on offense.
“It’s going to be really valuable,” Harr said. “Taking one of the starters out isn’t going to be a huge deal because we have bench guys that can get in there and hold their own.”
The Warriors are also looking to move the ball through the post this season.
After hoisting an abundance of 3-pointers last season, Reinland is looking to get the offense flowing through his post players this season. With Nooner and sophomore Nate Richards, Reinland said the Warriors have two post players capable of scoring or passing out of the post.
“Hopefully we can do a little bit better scoring down low,” Reinland said. “We can actually go down low and expect something to get done and if we get doubled, be able to kick the ball out.”
But after losing its crunchtime scorer in Rada, Reinland said the Warriors must identify a player to step up and occupy that role.
“We have several players who are candidates for that,” Reinland said. “We’ll figure that out as the season goes on. Right now we just haven’t played enough.”
The Warriors finished last season with a loss in the first round of the NWAACC tournament to the eventual conference champions, Chemeketa.
This season, the Warriors are looking to make it back to the tournament and past the first round, Harr said.
But to reach those lofty goals, the Warriors must utilize a team-first approach, Reich said.
“We’ve got to play as a team,” Reich said. “Once you get to the NWAACC (tournament), it’s win or go home. If you’re not prepared everyday then you’re going to lose your first game, lose your second and then you’re going to be done. We got to stick together as a team.”
The Warriors open the season at the Red Devil Classic in Longview, Wash., with a game against Centralia at 1 p.m. on Friday.