By David Pan Weekly Herald sports editor
BOTHELL — The Lynnwood boys basketball team faces some significant challenges when the 2012-13 season rolls around this winter.
New head coach Michael Richards, who was hired in May, has been hard at work addressing some of these concerns.
At the top of the list are the effects of back-to-back two-win seasons for the Royals. Richards, a former assistant coach for the Edmonds-Woodway girls basketball team, could tell his players had not experienced much success on the court. That was a sharp contrast to the Warriors, who advanced to the state tournament in 2010 and 2011.
“Being at Edmonds-Woodway, those girls expected to win. So when they lose, it’s a big deal to them,” Richards said.
Richards didn’t see the same type of attitude from his Lynnwood players, which wasn’t surprising considering that the Royals lost 34 of their last 39 games, spanning two seasons.
The new coach did see progress from his players at last month’s team camp at Western Washington University. The Royals played a number of games against other teams and, in particular, two contests against Oak Harbor and Capital indicated to Richards that the players’ mind-set was starting to change.
“We were in the games … probably down to the last couple of minutes and we couldn’t close it,” Richards said.
The Royals lost by four points to Capital and nine against Oak Harbor.
“When they’re in a game, it’s a totally different feeling,” Richards said. “They don’t know how to close a game.”
Richards hopes by putting his players in simulated situations in practice, they will learn those closing skills.
“We’ll do situational stuff in practice where they get used to it, so they know they can actually do it,” Richards said. “We put time on the clock and say ‘here is what we’ve got.’”
Another significant challenge for Lynnwood is the lack of returning varsity experience.
Junior Montique Thomas noted that the team’s returning seniors don’t have a lot of court time.
“It’s pretty young,” Thomas said of the squad. “They’re all going to be seniors, but they haven’t had much varsity time.”
Richards is looking to Thomas to be a leader.
“He’s going to do a lot by example as far as working hard on defense and putting the ball up,” Richards said. “He’s going to continue to push everyone else. As he pushes people in practice and works hard in practice, people will follow.”
The other key leader is senior point guard Modou Janneh. Richards likes the way Janneh directs the offense.
“He’s real vocal on the court … as far as getting people where they are supposed to be,” Richards said.
Richards plans to have Lynnwood spread the floor on offense.
“The philosophy basically on offense is to move the ball fast,” Richards said.
Lynnwood’s tallest player is 6-foot-2, so the Royals are going to counter with speed.
“We’re going to be short and we’re going to have to be quick,” Richards said. “We’re going to have to press and get up and down the court.”
Richards wants the Royals to be aggressive and physical on defense. In a scrimmage against Everett at Lynnwood High School, the Royals went up against a 6-8 center.
“We’re going to put a lot of pressure on the ball,” Richards said. “They had a 6-8, 6-9 guy and we were all over him.”
Lynnwood ended up getting called for more fouls but that was to be expected.
“We’ll probably have more fouls than everybody because we’re more physical than anybody,” Richards said. “We really get on people.”
Conditioning is going to be important, as well as having a deep bench with Lynnwood’s aggressive defense.
“These guys come and they work hard and they see the results as far as pressure and getting themselves aerobically fit,” Richards said. “When they play defense against people they enjoy it. They like it. They want to do it.”
In addition to the Western Washington University camp and scrimmages against Everett, Lynnwood also played in the Seattle Pacific University summer league.
“Our goals for the end of summer are to be communicating on the court and to work hard. We want to be the hardest-working team out there,” Richards said. “Everything else will all fall into place.”