High School Sports

Federal Way might have most athletic basketball team in the state

D'Jimon Jones (left), Jalen McDaniels, and Christian Jones of the Federal Way Eagles basketball team, December 12, 2015.
D'Jimon Jones (left), Jalen McDaniels, and Christian Jones of the Federal Way Eagles basketball team, December 12, 2015. phaley@thenewstribune.com

Of all the athletes on the top-ranked, defending Class 4A state champion Federal Way High School boys basketball team, just which is the most athletic?

Jalen McDaniels is 6-foot-10, signed his letter of intent to play at San Diego State University and jumps like he’s using a trampoline.

Christian Jones — another returning senior starter — is a University of Washington baseball signee and is considered the top major league draft prospect in the state by Baseball America.

Then there is D’Jimon Jones, who committed to play football at Washington State, might have been the best off-the-bench basketball player in the state last season and placed second in the high jump at the state track and field championships (his season-best mark being 6 feet, 9 inches).

How can you choose?

“I think it’s a three-way tie,” Christian Jones said. “It would depend on the day.”

Not all agreed.

“Me, Jalen McDaniels,” McDaniels said.

Though he said he’d go with returning starter and the Eagles’ top 3-point threat Ferron Flavors (so did Flavors) in a combined football, basketball, baseball and soccer tournament.

Coach Jerome Collins had to chime in.

“D’Jimon is the best overall athlete,” Collins said. “But it’s hard because Jalen — he’s a heck of an athlete. And Christian is so strong. He’s a big kid and he power lifts and that’s why the pros are after him.”

There’s a reason this basketball team seems to outrun and outjump every opponent.

Few programs can have an NCAA Division I-bound basketball signee, a football star or top baseball prospect lead their basketball team in scoring any given game like Federal Way.

The Eagles run-and-gunned and alley-ooped their way to the state title last season and return four of their five starters this year — not including D’Jimon Jones, who came off the bench but played starters minutes.

“Coach says that if somebody is outrunning us, then something is wrong,” Flavors said.

Federal Way lost Viont’e Daniels, who has since started games for Washington State University in his freshman year, but it added McDaniels’ little brother Jaden, a freshman, Mount Rainier transfer Malcolm Cola, a junior who was a first-team 4A SPSL Northwest selection last year, and Etan Collins, a sophomore transfer from Eastside Catholic.

D’Jimon Jones said they had a run of “like four or five” consecutive dunks in the second half of a 104-52 win over Decatur, where Collins spent his first three years as an assistant coach before taking over Federal Way’s program in 1984.

“We have a few plays where we look back and we’re like, ‘Wow,’ ” Christian Jones said. “Even on the defensive side, just steals and getting in the passing lanes. Sometimes you’re just like, ‘Wow, that’s impressive what we’re doing.’ 

“When we get in that mode, it’s over with,” said Jalen McDaniels, whose cousin, former NBA player Juwan Howard, played for current San Diego State coach Steve Fisher at Michigan.

“I don’t know what the other team can do. When we get turned up and hyped, I mean, I don’t think we’re beatable.”

Federal Way’s high-octane pace is all part of a system, which Christian Jones and D’Jimon Jones have been a part of for four years now (McDaniels and Flavors transferred from Todd Beamer before the start of last year and starting point guard Marcus Stephens transferred from Curtis).

But fast-break basketball doesn’t always work as well later in the season, when the opposing teams get progressively more athletic and structured.

“I want to be the most structured team, and I want to be the most disciplined,” Collins said. “Because when you’re as athletic as we are, it’s to no avail if you don’t know how to use it.

“We can move and we can jump — but there are a lot of teams that can move and jump. But when you add structure and discipline — that’s one of the areas we have to continue to grow.”

He also added that his five core returning players all have a 3.0 grade-point average or better.

Two of them had plenty of reasons not to play basketball this year.

Flavors and Jalen McDaniels said they wondered whether D’Jimon Jones or Christian Jones would even return for the basketball season considering D’Jimon’s injury-riddled football season and Christian’s rising MLB draft stock. But both Jones’ said their future college coaches encouraged them to play multiple sports.

“I just consider myself an athlete, not a baseball player,” Christian Jones said. “I’m definitely not thinking about baseball, yet. It’s just about focusing on playing our best basketball right now and making sure in March we are back in the state championship game playing for our next championship.”

“This only helps us,” D’Jimon Jones said. “In track, I jump so that’s what I’m out here working on on the court,” D’Jimon Jones said. “In football, I have to be physical, I have to play defense. When I get on the court, that’s what I’m doing, too. So I mean, playing multiple sports definitely helps me. I’ll take a bunch of athletes over one specific-sports player any day.”

And Federal Way certainly has a bunch of athletes.

TJ Cotterill: 253-597-8677

SOUTH SOUND BOYS BASKETBALL PREVIEW

CLASS 4A

Team to watch

Federal Way returned four of its five starters from last year’s 4A state title team (Marcus Stephens, Ferron Flavors, Jalen McDaniels, Christian Jones), and that doesn’t include super-sixth-man D’Jimon Jones. It also added 6-foot-6 junior Malcolm Cola, a transfer from Mount Rainier who was a first-team 4A SPSL Northwest selection last year. But Curtis, Bellarmine Prep are both looking improved from last year.

4A NARROWS

(Staff file.) 
(Staff file.)

Fab Five

Guard – Demanche Booth, Stadium, 6-2, sr.: Coach says Wilson transfer is almost too nice. But so is his athletic ability and pull-up jump shot.

Guard – Christian Davis, Yelm, 6-4, sr.: Averaged 19 points, 11 rebounds per game last year, then scores 44 points in this year’s season opener and 41 the next game.

Guard – Malachi Flynn (pictured), Bellarmine Prep, 6-1, sr.: Jumper is deadly, but can also get to the glass. Averaging more than 30 points per game so far this season.

Guard – Erik Stevenson, Timberline, 6-4, soph.: Sharp shooter came off the bench last year, now is a focal point.  

Guard – Eric Wattree, South Kitsap, 6-3, sr.: Can shoot from behind the arc, but size makes him tough to stop when he drives to the basket. A consistent scorer.

League prediction

1. Bellarmine Prep (15-10 last year), 2. Timberline (18-8), 3. Olympia (4-16), 4. Yelm (6-14), 5. South Kitsap (11-10), 6. Stadium (10-11), 7. Gig Harbor (16-10)

Mark the calendar

Jan. 27: Timberline at Bellarmine Prep, 7 p.m.

4A SPSL NORTH

(Staff file.) 
(Staff file.)

Fab Five

Guard – Romaine Jackson, Kent-Meridian, 5-8, sr.: Defenders can’t be caught falling asleep. Explosive first step, great ball-handling – who cares that he’s 5-8?

Guard – Darius LuBom (pictured), Kentwood, 5-11, jr.: Proved he can lead team with state-tournament play last year. Can score, create but best attribute is on-ball defense.

Forward – Darius Anderson, Thomas Jefferson, 6-7, sr.: On pace to finish as one of TJ’s top career scorers and rebounders, with much-improved 3-point shot.

Forward – Jalen McDaniels, Federal Way, 6-10, sr.: San Diego State commit runs the floor. Always an alley-oop threat. Will play more on the perimeter this year.

Forward – Joran Ticeson, Kentridge, 6-7, sr.: Returning first-team 4A SPSL Northeast big man a mismatch most nights. SPSL’s top returning post player.

4A SPSL Northeast prediction

1. Kentwood (24-5 last year), 2. Kent-Meridian (10-10), 3. Kentridge (18-7), 4. Kentlake (15-11), 5. Tahoma (6-14)

4A SPSL Northwest prediction

1. Federal Way (26-2 last year), 2. Todd Beamer (12-12), 3. Thomas Jefferson (11-13), 4. Decatur (5-15), 5. Mount Rainier (3-16)

Mark the calendar

Jan 12: Kentwood at Federal Way, 7 p.m.

4A SPSL SOUTH

(Staff file.) 
(Staff file.)

Fab Five

Forward – John Moore, Curtis, 6-3, jr.: Can't sag off on versatile post. Scores in the paint, or with mid-range jumper. 

Guard – Deven Neff, Puyalllup, 6-1, sr.: Can score in bunches. Led Vikings in scoring last season and hit 55 3s.   

Forward/Guard – Aushanti Potts-Woods (pictured), Curtis, 6-2, sr.: Lefty and reigning league MVP a physical guard with much-improved perimeter play.

Guard – Isaiah Turner, Spanaway Lake, 6-3, soph.: Returning starter a long wing presence with 3-point range. Averaging 16.3 points, and has made 16 of 31 3s to start season.

Guard – Jaden Vollmen, Puyallup, 6-1, sr.: Three-year starting PG set school single-season assist record last year (8.2 per game) and set career assist record this year (395 so far).

League prediction

1. Curtis (20-7 last year), 2. Puyallup (13-11), 3. Spanaway Lake (12-12), 4. Emerald Ridge (8-14), 5. Rogers (11-10), 6. Bethel (9-10), 7. Graham-Kapowsin (5-15). 

Mark the calendar

Jan. 15: Curtis at Puyallup, 7 p.m. 

CLASS 3A

Team to watch

Peninsula returned four its five starters, including one of the top guards in the nation in Oregon State signee JaQuori McLaughlin, and it seems like every player on its roster can dunk. At 6-foot-4, McLaughlin is on some nights the shortest player on the Seahawks’ starting lineup, which also features 6-9 Jimmy Ritchie and 6-5 Garrett Kingman, an athletic senior wing who should actually be a sophomore. Peninsula gets slight nod over Wilson, Lincoln and Auburn Mountainview.

3A NARROWS

(Staff file.) 
(Staff file.)

Fab Five

Guard – Trevante Anderson, Lincoln, 6-1, soph.: Returning starter already has NCAA Division I offer from Montana. Skillful guard gets to basket at will.

Guard – Trevion Brown, Lincoln, 6-1, sr.: Unselfish playmaker runs the show, but can also score in bunches, and when team needs it most. 

Guard – Montre Brown-Lofton, Wilson, 6-2, sr.: Has length and athleticism to guard any position. Also looking at football scholarships.

Guard – David Jenkins Jr. (pictured), Wilson, 6-1, sr.: Four-year starter will play more point guard than ever this season. An elite scorer, but also a mature distributor.

Forward – Roberto Gittens, Foss, 6-5, jr.: Will be the best athlete on the floor most games. Had 36 points, 16 rebounds, eight blocks against Mount Tahoma.

League prediction

1. Wilson (20-5 last year), 2. Lincoln (20-5), 3. Foss (19-6), 4. North Thurston (9-14), 5. Mount Tahoma (5-18), 6. Central Kitsap (8-13), 7. Shelton (7-16), 8. Capital (3-17).

Mark the calendar

Feb. 3: Wilson at Lincoln, 7 p.m.

3A SPSL

(Staff file.) 
(Staff file.)

Fab Five

Guard – Ryan Lacey, Auburn Mountainview, 6-3, sr.: Western Oregon commit and reigning first-team 3A SPSL player averaged 18 points, six rebounds, four assists last year.  

Guard – Rakeem Hughey, Lakes, 6-0, sr.: Three-year starter an explosive scorer. Averaging more than 23 points per game, including season-high 34.

Guard – JaQuori McLaughlin, Peninsula (pictured), 6-4, sr.: Oregon State commit doesn’t need to take on scoring load like first two years. Expect more distribution.

Forward – Tristan Miguel, Auburn Mountainview, 6-10, sr.: Western Oregon signee a towering defensive presence. Averaged double-double last year.

Forward – Jimmy Ritchie, Peninsula, 6-9, sr.: Good luck keeping out of the paint. Averaged double-double last year and can rise underneath basket for two-handed dunk. 

League prediction

Peninsula (18-7 last year), Auburn Mountainview (19-5), Auburn Riverside (13-10), Auburn (8-14), Sumner (13-8), Lakes (2-18), Enumclaw (7-13), Bonney Lake (2-18). 

Mark the calendar

Feb. 2: Auburn Mountainview at Peninsula, 7 p.m.

CLASS 2A

Team to watch

Last season, River Ridge finished third in Class 2A. And now the Hawks are primed to make a state championship run with five seniors and five juniors. Kobe Key is as reliable as point guards come, and this year’s squad has more inside beef with Jordan Skipper-Brown and Kellie Sanders. Coach John Barbee knows he has all the pieces to tangle with anybody. 

2A EVERGREEN

(Staff file.) 
(Staff file.)

Fab Five

Guard/Forward – Hodges Bailey, Centralia, 6-1, jr.: Averaged more than 20 points per game last year and broke almost every season free-throw record the school has.

Guard – Ty Gentry (pictured), Tumwater, 6-5, sr..: Sure, he’s a two-time defending state singles champion on the tennis court, but coach calls him a “dynamic guard” on the basketball court.

Guard – TJ Mickelson, Black Hills, 6-1, jr.: Reigning 2A EvCo co-player of the year back to lead young Wolves squad after averaging 26.5 points per game last season with eight assists per game.

Forward – Adam Schwarz, W.F. West, 6-7, sr..: Can step out past the wing, or play big in the paint, and he’ll need to be big for Bearcats, who snapped a 25-game losing streak this year.

Forward – Weston VandenHazel, Tumwater, 6-9, sr.: Set the school’s single-season blocks record last season with 75. Towering paint presence will have big role down low again this season.

League prediction

1. Tumwater (20-3 last year), 2. Centralia (13-12), 3. Black Hills (13-10), 4. W.F. West (0-20)

Mark the calendar

Feb. 2: Tumwater at Centralia, 7 p.m.

2A SPSL

(Staff file.) 
(Staff file.)

Fab Five

Guard – Isaiah Hampton, Steilacoom, 6-0, jr.: Sentinels will run, run and run – and Hampton will be crucial scoring threat on the wing.

Guard – Kobe Key, River Ridge, 5-11, sr.: Who wouldn’t want four-year point guard running the show for 2A state contenders?

Guard – Alex Wallen, White River, 6-2, jr.: Coach thinks he is a "junkyard dog" – tough as nails, and reliable inside-outside scorer.  

Forward – Semaj Booker, Clover Park, 6-4, sr.: Curtis transfer is beast on boards; should end up as league’s most dominant big man. 

Forward – LaBrandon Price (pictured), River Ridge, 6-1, sr.: Most difficult matchup in the league because of his ability to play above the rim.

League prediction

1. River Ridge (22-6 last year), 2. White River (11-14), 3. Steilacoom (4-16), 4. Clover Park (14-9), 5. Fife (16-11), 6. Washington (18-7), 7. Orting (3-17), 8. Franklin Pierce (7-12)

Mark the calendar

Jan. 22: River Ridge and White River, 7 p.m.

SMALL SCHOOLS

(Staff file.) 
(Staff file.)

Team to watch

Life Christian’s state-title hopes ended in the state quarterfinals (though the Eagles bounced back to take home the fourth-place trophy). But they return reigning 2B Pacific MVP Luke Lovelady, a 6-foot-7 junior who last year led the team in points (15.1), rebounds (10.4), assists (3.4), steals (3.4), and blocks (1.7), as well as 6-5 shooting guard Reid Roelofs and four-year starting point guard Wyatt Dunlap.

Fab five

Guard – Jesse Howells, Cascade Christian, 6-0, sr.: Does a little bit of everything for Cougars, including score, distribute, rebound and knock down 3-pointers.

Guard – Luke Lovelady, Life Christian (pictured), 6-7, jr.: How do you guard a 6-foot-7 wing? Coach’s son and returning 2B Pacific MVP averaging about 22 points, 15 rebounds so far.

Guard – Ray Springer, Eatonville, 5-10, jr.: One of Cruisers’ four returning starters was a second-team all-league selection as a sophomore. Coach says he’s a great floor leader.

Guard – Sam Yates, Vashon Island, 6-4, sr.: Returning first-team 1A Nisqually player takes over lead role after graduation of Jessie Norton (now at Northwest University).

Forward – Henry Cheney, Charles Wright, 6-0, sr.: Not just a leader on the football and baseball fields. Hoping to lead team to return trip to 1A state tournament.

Mark the calendar

Feb. 5: Cascade Christian at Vashon Island, 5:30 p.m.

tcotterill@thenewstribune.com;tmilles@thenewstribune.com

Related stories from Tacoma News Tribune

  Comments