The Peninsula High School boys basketball team lost its coach from a season ago. It also lost its entire starting five, from a team that won the West Central III District tournament a season ago, and had the most successful season in the school’s history.
Oh yeah, and it lost JaQuori McLaughlin, who broke — no, shattered — numerous records on his way to becoming Peninsula’s best-ever basketball player. He’s playing his basketball in Corvallis these days, contributing to an up-and-coming Oregon State basketball team.
But new coach Matt Robles, who moved back to the area this year after living and coaching in California for the past five years, said he doesn’t think about those things much.
“This is just a totally different team,” he said. “No disrespect to the previous staff and previous players. They did a great job. They had great teams. They were phenomenal. They set a bunch of records. But we’re not them. We’re just a totally different group. We’re just focused on the present and moving forward. Credit to all the guys, they’re listening and doing everything we ask. It’s really encouraging to see. It’s making our jobs a lot easier.”
For a lot of folks around the state recently, when they heard “Peninsula basketball,” one name came to mind: JaQuori McLaughlin.
“We’re stressing that it’s not one player,” Robles said. “It’s a team. JaQuori is a great young man. I got to meet him when he had his break from Oregon State. I think the world of him. He’s an outstanding individual and a great basketball player. But it’s not about one individual here. It’s about a team, about a unit. We’ve been stressing that from the start. The kids have really been buying into that: Being one big unit, one big family, one big program. It’s a lot of fun to see.”
It’s possible that practically brand-new roster could be a blessing in disguise for Robles and his staff. Implementing tends to be easier with a new roster.
Whether that message will translate into results on the court is the big question. Whatever Robles thinks of losing that record-breaking unit from a season ago, the fact remains: the program did lose those players, and it will be tough to live up to that team’s level of success in year one.
“We’re making the most of who’s here, who’s on our staff and what players are in the gym,” Robles said. “We’re not worried about losing five starters, we don’t care about that. We’re just trying to control what we can control. We’re going to play hard and play as a team.”
Peninsula remains in Class 3A this season but will enter a new league, the South Sound Conference.
“I just know the league is tough,” Robles said. “I know there are a couple good teams down in the Olympia area. We’re going to play really hard and play our tails off, and we’ll see what happens after that. I think if we play hard and play unselfish, good things to happen. We’re just going to give ourselves the best chance to compete.”
Peninsula will open its season Saturday (Nov. 26) with a jamboree at South Kitsap High School.