A sophomore emerges as a star for Marysville Pilchuck

A sophomore emerges as a star for Marysville Pilchuck

By Cameron Van Til

Herald writer

MARYSVILLE — RaeQuan Battle began his high school basketball career last season on Marysville Pilchuck’s junior-varsity team.

He didn’t stay there long.

Even as a freshman in a senior-laden program, it took just a few games before the supremely talented guard earned a spot on varsity. Battle then eventually worked his way into a starting role and finished the year with an All-Wesco 3A North honorable mention.

Now, after the graduation of eight Marysville Pilchuck players, the spotlight is on Battle, one of the team’s few varsity returners.

And the 6-foot-4 sophomore sensation has been dazzling.

Battle is off to a scorching start, averaging a team-high 19.4 points and 8.5 rebounds per game while shooting 54 percent from the field. He has scored 23 or more points in four of the team’s seven contests, including a season-high 28 points in a non-league win over Lake Stevens on Nov. 29.

“He’s just a pure, natural shooter. (He has a) beautiful jump shot — a very pretty stroke,” Marysville Pilchuck head coach Bary Gould said. “But he (also) can handle the ball. … He hits threes with ease and he can get to the rim.

“He’s a heck of a player, especially for a 10th-grader.”

Battle’s stellar play hasn’t been a surprise to the Tomahawks (3-4 overall, 0-2 league).

“We play so much in the summer, and so you can kind of get a preview of coming attractions,” Gould said. “We saw that he was at that level last year, and he had some good games for us. But this summer, (teammates) Josiah Gould, Luke Dobler and him all kind of jelled. It’s been fun. He’s had an awesome start to the season, but it wasn’t a surprise to us.”

Battle’s length and athleticism have been on full display this season with multiple alley-oop dunks and a breakaway jam. But his greatest strength, Gould said, is a smooth shooting stroke. Battle credits that to his mother, Jacqueline, a former Marysville Pilchuck basketball player.

“My mom was an amazing shooter in high school,” Battle said. “They called her a ‘sparkplug.’ That’s where I mainly get it from. She did shooting training with me when I was young, and still does shooting training with me (today).”

Battle also praises Dobler and Josiah Gould, who excel at penetrating the defense and kicking the ball out to him for open shots on the perimeter. And Battle said Josh Bevan, a star senior on last season’s team, provided encouragement that helped build his confidence.

“Last year, I was a little hesitant whenever I got the ball,” Battle said. “Josh encouraged me a lot when I was on the court, and that’s how I’m not really scared anymore to drive the paint or shoot whenever I can.”

Growing up, Battle initially saw himself as a football player. He’d played the sport since age 6 and said that “football was my heart until third grade,” when he competed in his first basketball tournament in Lummi. His team won the championship and Battle was named the tournament’s most valuable player.

“In my head I was like, ‘Wow, I’m actually pretty good at this sport,’” Battle said. “So I kept playing and playing … and I just fell in love with the game.”

In addition to playing AAU basketball this past summer for Emerald City Basketball Academy, Battle was a regular at his community gym, where he played pickup games and lifted weights. His strong work ethic also is evident in practice — even in spite of the effortless appearance his natural athleticism can give off.

“He’s so smooth that everything (looks) so effortless for him,” Gould said. “(When running) lines, you have kids that are striving and pushing so hard, but he’s just floating. He’s a length ahead of everyone just because he’s so naturally gifted. But he pushes himself. He could coast and just kind of stay with the guys in front, but he pushes himself.”

Even as a sophomore, Battle’s sizzling start to the season has drawn interest from college programs. Gould said that a University of Washington assistant coach attended last Friday’s game against Stanwood and that other college coaches have called.

Battle currently is focused on helping a young Tomahawks team grow and progress, but said that playing in college would be a dream come true.

“I think about that all the time,” he said.

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