Gateway: Sports

Optimism high for Gig Harbor High School boys basketball team in summer season

Optimism is in the air this summer for the Gig Harbor High School boys basketball team, coming off an appearance in the Class 3A West Central III/Southwest bidistrict tournament and returning a strong core group of players to build around. Here are some questions and observations for Billy Landram’s squad this summer.

What’s the plan to replace point guard Kaden Garnaas?

Gig Harbor lost its primary point guard to graduation, and will have some scoring production to replace. But the scoring production is a secondary concern, as the Tides have plenty of players who can fill up the stat sheet. The bigger concern with losing Garnaas to graduation is replacing the poise and distribution ability he brought to the table, as a steady presence for Gig Harbor over the course of his career.

“A lot of the fun is summer is always figuring that out,” Landram said. “Kaden was around for a long time. We were so confident in him. But that’s part of the fun in that. It’s a new chance for somebody else.”

The most obvious candidate to step into the role is junior Joe Owens, who started a handful of games for the Tides last season and earned plenty of playing time as a sophomore. He’s a confident ball handler with good scoring ability.

“He’s pretty battle tested, as well,” Landram said. “He’s got a great shot and is getting better at slashing to the rim. He’s a really good defender. He’s just a tough kid. It’s just about getting to have the ball more this summer. We’re just continuing to improve individually and collectively.”

Players like Zach Toglia and Asher Raquiza had breakout seasons. How have they grown this summer?

For Toglia, a junior, that answer will have to wait until the winter. The star baseball player has been plenty busy this summer traveling and playing club baseball. The 3A SSC second-team selection in basketball made some appearances in the gym a few times but hasn’t seen a lot of the floor during summer league at Curtis High School for the Tides.

“For those guys, it’s just about conditioning to get bigger and stronger, continuing to improve their game. Zach hasn’t played with us but he’s been at the gym. He’s got a big future in baseball so he’s been pretty busy.”

Raquiza was an instant scoring option for Gig Harbor in his freshman season. The 6-foot-1 wing was one of the league’s best 3-point shooters and showed some slashing ability, also.

“He’s just a good player,” Landram said. “He’s played a lot of basketball. He’s smart, expanding his role into some more ball handling, helping bring it up the floor. Just the continual maturation of his body — getting taller, bigger, stronger. Those things will benefit him. … I see him doing a little bit of everything for us. He can just flat out score.”

No shortage of optimism for Tides this summer

While the summer is largely a time to test things out and offer a chance for exposure for some of the younger players, Landram can’t help being optimistic when he sees the core group of players the Tides have going into the season.

With Owens, Toglia, Raquiza and senior center Drew Parrish all returning, Gig Harbor has a solid group to build around after a couple years of having young rosters.

“We’re all extremely optimistic,” Landram said. “It’s a great group of kids personality wise, character wise. The skill level is rising every year. I think there’s an excitement and belief that if the kids put in the work, they can accomplish what they set their minds to.”