Team Spotlight: Walla Walla Blue Devils

The last time a team from Eastern Washington won the 4A state championship was in 1999. Coach Jim Thacker's Walla Walla Blue Devils did the deed in a title game win over Ferris.

Thacker would like to see another big gold ball in the trophy case at Wa-Hi. The Devils won the very first two state championships in 1923 and 1924. They also took home gold in 1934, 1937 and 1952.

2003 saw Walla Walla return to state and take home the eighth place hardware. For 2004 Thacker returns a pair of starters in 6-0 senior guard Bryce Pendleton (12ppg) and 6-4 senior post/forward Craig Mettler (8ppg/10rpg).

He expects 6-1 senior Ryan Mitchell, 6-5 senior Kevin Graybill, 6-3 senior Eric Anfinson, 6-3 senior Tyler Carter and 6-3 senior Matt Thomas to all step up for their final seasons wearing the blue and white.

Thacker told us of his team's strengths heading into the season. "Our overall shooting, rebounding and the depth of our senior class are our strong suits."

He has concerns on the defensive end with the Devil's man defense and stopping penetration.

Thacker also spoke to how his team's off-season work. "Our summer went well. We played over 40 games and attended the Gonzaga team camp. I was surprised by the depth we showed."

"I'm not sure we'll be as strong as we were last year but we could develop some toughness and may be a factor in district and regionals."

"The Big Nine should be very even and strong," Thacker said. "Five or six teams could contend. It's tough to pick a winner! Richland, Pasco, Davis, Southridge and Eisenhower all look to be in good shape coming in." He also placed his own squad in that mix and added Moses Lake as a possible team coming in under the radar.

Thacker also alerted us to Richland's duo of James York and Tim Bussman as well as Roby Clyde at Pasco as Big Nine players to keep an eye on.

The Coach likes Bethel, South Kitsap, Snohomish, Franklin and Lincoln as possible contenders for the state title.

And the coaches bottom line; "Our league will be very tough. There are five or six teams that will be right there at the end of the season. I don't especially think the league will have a team that can contend for the state title. We do have some good players, though."


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