The Battle Ground boys basketball team is entering the 2023-24 season with high hopes, new coaches and a new starter player.
New head coach Brett Johnson brings years of experience, along with previous coach of the year awards for coaching excellence with Prairie girls basketball and Skyview girls basketball.
“I was taking a little break because I’m a superintendent at Oregon Electric, and we’re building that PeaceHealth Hospital,” Johnson said of his work life. “So I was going to take a break, and these guys came and asked me if I’d come coach their kids. So I met with four of the boys because I told them I wasn’t a coach here unless I met with the boys.”
After Johnson met with some players on the team, he added that they seemed like good kids which made Johnson even more interested in coaching at Battle Ground.
After recruiting his son, Squeeky, to coach, as well, Brett Johnson agreed to be the Tigers’ next head coach.
“That’s the only reason I said I was going to do it is because he knows a lot more than me,” Brett Johnson said of his son. “He does everything I taught him, but then he went to college and played up at Edmonds and learned what they were teaching him. He has a calmness to him where I’m, like, hyper.”
Tiger senior Noah Currie is on board with the new offense that the father-son coaching duo is bringing.
“The new plays being put in, we’re working really well with them, and I think all of us are getting pretty locked down with all the drills we’re running,” Currie said. “I think we’re ready for the season.”
Brett Johnson mentioned he’s looking forward to the fast-pace defense and offense that the Tigers will be utilizing this season.
The Tigers’ sniper, Trey Spencer, is all about three-pointers and defense. Last year, Spencer racked up plenty of blocks and steals leading to three-point looks on the other end.
“I’m really looking forward to just playing ball, man,” he said. “I’ve been fishing all summer and not playing basketball, and I’m ready to get out there and come out here with the student section and get loud and get rowdy and you know, just play ball and have some fun.”
Spencer added that he likes the idea of a fishing-themed student section for a home game this season.
Despite Spencer not focusing on basketball this off-season, Johnson ensured that the player can still “shoot out of this world” from beyond the arc.
Of the four seniors slated for the starting rotation, three are returning: Currie, Spencer and Austin Ralphs. New to the starting lineup is Ian Ebinger, who has quickly become one of Brett Johnson’s top players.
“Ian, he start last year, but I really like the way he’s coming on strong, and he’s one of my favorites,” Brett Johnson said.
The Tigers’ team is tall this season, something that Johnson hasn’t worked with before.
“We always were short, fast and quick, but these guys are tall and still fast and quick,” he said.
“The starting five is slated to feature 6-foot-6 Ralphs, 6-foot-5 newcomer Boston Walker, 6-foot-4 Ebinger, 6-foot-3 Currie and 6-foot-2 Spencer.
Walker, a junior and a new face for the Tigers, transferred from La Center High School, and as a sophomore received first team all-Trico League honors.
Walker has been making a splash with his athleticism in practice this season as a centerpiece for the tall Tigers.
Johnson said that Walker has the ability to dunk everything and get some huge rebounds.
Ralphs has the potential to bring down some boards, and Johnson said Ralphs has “a lot of court vision” and can quickly scan the floor after a rebound and find the right outlet to keep the offensive possession alive.
“There was a little bit of tension between seniors and juniors [last season], and I feel like this year we’re more of a cohesive unit,” Ralphs said. “So I’m ready to go out there and kind of just see what we can do. We got Boston [Walker] coming in from La Center, and so I’m excited to see what this team can do and how far we can take it without Tait [Spencer].”
The Tigers’ lone first-team all-league honoree from last season, Tait Spencer, opted to play for Great Futures Prep for his senior season.
The Tigers began their campaign on Tuesday, with a road matchup against Columbia River High School. Results unavailable at time of print. They next play the Evergreen Plainsmen at 7 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 30 in “The Cage” at Battle Ground High School. The Tigers will then host Glacier Peak at 7 p.m. on Friday, Dec. 1.