By David Krueger Herald Writer
Basketball isn’t the only thing that runs in Cannen Roberson’s family.
Along with his father, Gunnar, and uncle, Stanwood assistant coach Harlan, the Roberson’s also share unique names. Cannen Roberson isn’t sure where his name came from, but he’s grown to like his unique moniker.
“I’m not really sure,” Cannen Roberson said. “I think they just liked the name.”
Roberson, a senior for the Stanwood basketball team, moved with his parents to Stanwood before his sophomore year of high school. The Robersons lived in Spokane, another hoops hotbed, before Gunnar Roberson got a job out west.
Gunnar and Harlan played basketball at Lake Stevens High School. However, Harlan was an assistant coach at Stanwood, so when Gunnar asked him where Cannen should go to school, Harlan said the choice was obvious.
“My brother (Gunnar) called me the summer before Cannen’s sophomore year and asked me, ‘Where should he go to school? Where should I start looking for a house?’” Harlan Roberson said. “I said, ‘Duh! Stanwood’s a good place to live.’”
That was all Gunnar needed to hear.
“It was pretty set that I was going to go to Stanwood because my uncle coached here,” Cannen Roberson said.
The timing couldn’t have been better. Stanwood head coach Zach Ward, who was best friends with Harlan, had graduated eight seniors from his varsity team. With more than half of the team gone, Cannen Roberson, Mason Garcea — another sophomore — and freshman Josh Thayer were all thrown into starting roles for the Spartans.
“It was kind of unique how it all works out,” Ward said. “It’s kind of cool how it came full circle. … He came in as a sophomore and started. We had eight seniors the year before so we were kind of in a rebuilding mode. He was really young, but you could tell he had the skills.”
Roberson quickly made the transition from role player to leading scorer in his junior season, going from 10 points per game to an average of 18. Ward said the Spartans “leaned on him more” as a junior, and began to work a lot more of their offense through Roberson.
The summer before this season, Roberson worked with Harlan and a few other players to elevate his game even more.
“It’s a special deal to coach your nephew,” Harlan Roberson said. “He’s worked so hard in the offseason. I had the privilege of training him and a couple other guys. He probably gained 20 pounds of muscle in the offseason. I pushed him as hard as I possibly could and he just answered the call.”
The results have been undisputable.
Roberson, despite drawing constant attention from opposing defenses, is averaging a Wesco 3A North-leading 16.3 points per game, while averaging 6.5 rebounds. The versatile 6-foot-5 guard/forward can post up defenders smaller than him, and shoot from long range — or really anywhere else on the court — while playing against those that have a height advantage.
“He’s our glue,” Ward said. “He’s not a vocal leader but you hear people say he does everything on the court. He’s the equivalent of a 5-tool baseball player.”
It’s not just his scoring that makes Roberson, who used to pitch when he played baseball, so valuable.
“Even nights when he’s not shooting well, I know he’s going to get seven or eight rebounds, a few assists, a steal and a block,” Ward said. “It’s really nice to have that.”
Roberson had 16 points in Stanwood’s regular season-ending win over Shorewood last Friday that capped a six-game winning streak. The game before that, Roberson finished three assists short of a triple-double in the Spartans’ 75-37 win over Everett.
“He played 16 minutes (against Everett) and was three assists short of a triple-double,” Ward said. “He’d be fantastic on my fantasy basketball team if I could get him. If only he was eligible to be drafted.”
Roberson, along with the rest of the Stanwood team, appears to be peaking at just the right time. Roberson said the team is really tightly knit this year, and that’s translated into a successful — and fun — season.
“We’re doing really well and enjoy playing with each other and have great chemistry,” Cannen Roberson said. “It’s been a lot of fun. This year’s probably the best one that we’ve had. We’ve got a lot of guys that know their roles and utilize those roles.
“Our goals at the beginning were win the league. Then going into the postseason district championship and then obviously getting to state.”
Along with Roberson, Stanwood has many pieces in place to have a good postseason run, Harlan Roberson said. Drew Sears (6-feet-10) and Drew Stang (6-8) provide height, Thayer and Garcea, two more three-year starters, take care of the guard position and there’s depth coming off the Stanwood bench to go along with the league’s leading scorer.
“We feel great. We went 12-1 in the regular season in our league,” Harlan Roberson said. “(Mountlake) Terrace was our only loss and we were up (by 11 points) at half and for some reason the ball wouldn’t go in the basket in the third quarter. We feel like we’re in a really good spot. We feel like we have the pieces at every position to make a good run. It’s as complete a team as Zach and I have had when we have been here.”
A 15-5 regular season record has the Spartans dreaming big. Cannen Roberson said Stanwood has its goals figure out.
“Getting to the state tournament would be nice but also bringing home some hardware would be perfect,” Cannen Roberson said. “We’re pretty confident about it. We realize that we have a good team and when we’re on, we’re pretty good.”
In order to do that, Stanwood is going to have to navigate a loaded 3A District tournament that features two teams in the latest Associated Press Top 10. Mountlake Terrace (No. 8) and Glacier Peak (No. 10) enter the tournament, along with the Spartans and Shorewood — both of which also received votes in the poll.
“We realize that there’s some really, really good teams in the league. But I think we’re good as well,” Roberson said. “We’re not afraid of them or anything, but we respect them. We played with them in the regular season and I think we can do some damage.”
Stanwood is playing in the 3A tournament this season after being a 4A team the past several years. During its last two 4A district tournaments, the Spartans have had some early exits and heartbreaking losses.
Harlan Roberson thinks that Stanwood has learned from those games, and is ready to make sure history doesn’t repeat itself.
“I think they feel like it’s their time this year,” Roberson said. “They’re definitely aware of the past, but there focused on only one thing. And that’s Wednesday night and that game against Shorecrest.”
While it’s Cannen’s final season for the Spartans, he won’t be the final Roberson at Stanwood. Two more uniquely-named Spartans will continue the trend of Robersons. Cannen’s brother Skout is a sophomore, and is “probably going to be bigger than Cannen,” according to Harlan.
Then there’s Harlan’s son, Cannen’s cousin, who is also aptly named for basketball: Cort.
Said Harlan: “When you grow up in a family with pretty unique names you pass it on.”