There are great expectations for the Camas High School boys basketball team in 2016.
The Papermakers captured the 4A academic state championship in 2015, and competed in the state tournament for the first time in 51 seasons.
“Last year was the first time the culture was exactly where I always wanted it to be,” said head coach Skyler Gillispie. “This year, it’s already there. These guys are carrying on that tradition and adding their own layer every single day.”
The rise ended after a 55-53 loss to Kentwood in the first round, but these boys embraced the journey and the culture they established. Now, it’s time for them to take the next step.
“If you would have told me at the beginning of last year that we would finish the season just two points away from the Tacoma Dome, I wouldn’t have believed you,” said junior guard Jake Hansel. “That’s just a great thing for us to build off of. Our goal is to get back there this year, and beyond. Just leave it all on the court and in the classroom, like we did last year.”
Hansel and senior Ethan Unger learned the Camas way from graduates Jayce Allen, Jordan Anderson, Andre De Los Rios, Trevor Jasinsky, James Price and Kantas Zalpys.
“The Camas basketball culture is about hard work, selflessness and being grateful for what you have,” Unger said. “Every time I put on that jersey, I remember the people I’m playing for. The fans, the school and the community. We’re focused on working as hard as we can for all those people watching.”
Unger and Hansel have formed a strong bond with seniors Brock Fielding, Matthew Murphy and Cam Vega. Juniors Tanner Fogle, Alex Glikbarg, Cooper McNatt, Logan Miller and Bryan Nguyen have been playing together since elementary school.
“It’s great to watch these younger kids making an impact,” Gillispie said. “Their goal was to play high school basketball together, and they’re having a lot of fun.”
Gillispie has also matured during his six seasons as a coach, four with Camas. After just turning 27, he is the longest tenured coach in the 4A Greater St. Helens League.
“I’m the old guy, now,” Gillispie joked.
“I have better relationships with the players,” he added. “I have a great coaching staff, and that helps a lot. I’ve been able to surround myself with great coaches and great players.”
Denny Huston returns as the varsity assistant. Ryan Joesphson and Ray Donalde lead the junior varsity squad. William Ephraim coaches the freshmen.
Besides Union being the most complete team, Gillispie believes the rest of the league is wide open.
“I couldn’t put second or third on the map,” he said. “Hopefully, we’re right up there fighting for those top spots.”
Although expectations are higher for the Camas boys basketball program than they have been in a long time, Hansel learned from the Papermakers before him that time on and off the court with his teammates is precious.
“I look forward to just being with these guys and grinding with them. Basketball is supposed to be fun. To be able to play it with the guys you love is special,” Hansel said. “This is brotherhood. We’re going to take those little victories every single day to get to where we want to be at the end.
“Even after the ball is done dribbling, we’re still going to have each other,” he added. “That’s what basketball is all about, building friendships that will last a lifetime.”