On the leafy campus of Woodinville High School, in the quiet gym where players had finished practicing, Mark Folsom closes up for the night. The basketball season may be months away, but the second-year coach makes the gym available for his boys as much as possible.
“July has been that way,” he said. “We wanted our schedule to be packed full of basketball for the two months we can work with the kids. We’ve seen tremendous strides. Both myself and my staff are more excited about the direction we’re heading than we’ve ever been.”
Last season was a different story. Folsom and his staff were hired late in the process and didn’t have the summer to work out. The resulting season produced a woeful four wins.
“We had really no idea going into the year what the kids were capable of,” he said. “We were losing games and were constantly looking for answers and giving kids opportunities to compete for spots and trying to establish some sort of chemistry among five guys on the floor.
“The benefit of this year is that we know the kids who are in the program and have a good feel for that,” he said. “We’ve had the summer to work with them. The chemistry, team-building and the wins and losses that we have throughout the year are really established now. Going into the off-season, my goal was to provide as many opportunities for these kids as possible — whether it be opening the gym and practice, which we’ve been doing since June 1, or participating in whatever games and tournaments in the immediate area that we can find.”
As for his team’s style of play, Folsom wants to play faster. He thinks the depth is there to do so.
“We really want to get the ball up the floor and allow our defense to create some of our offense for us,” he said. “Where we struggled last year was offensively in the half court. We had a tough time getting baskets. We averaged something like 43 points a game. This summer we’ve seen that climb as high as 55-60. We have some great scoring threats. They’re young, but they’re capable of putting the ball in the hole.”
Leadership will come in the form of two seniors, Tommy Wick and Jay Wyrick. Junior forward Zack Oates played a lot as a sophomore and returns. And one guy that fires up Folsom is junior point guard Mitchell Jones. “He’s a feisty, get-after-it-in-your-face defensive guy. He’s probably the best that I’ve seen in this conference as far as on-ball defense.
“And you can throw Tony Miller in there, who has gotten bigger and stronger,” Folsom said. “He played for us last year as a freshman. He’s starting to establish a name for himself. Also, Noble Cooper is a 6’3” kid who can really score. He’ll be a sophomore as well. He can play the 2 or 3 position (shooting guard or small forward).
“We talk a lot about leaving a legacy here,” Folsom said. “The kids have taken that to heart. I ask them, ‘What kind of legacy do you want to leave?’”