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Enick praises Tulalip players, looks forward to next year
TULALIP Boys and girls basketball are the only sports offered all year round at Tulalip Heritage, so Tulalips run to the state title game created quite a stir at the school of fewer than 50 students.
The Hawks season ended at the hands of Sunnyside Christian in the Class 1B state championship game in Yakima Feb. 24. After the teams return, Hawks coach Leon Enick sat down with The Marysville Globe to reflect on the state recognition of his program and his fashion sense.
The Marysville Globe: What has it been like just from the beginning of the season until now?
Leon Enick: Well, the beginning of the season was tough. I had three returning starters that I knew of. And I had eight newbies. So like I said out there, I had to make those eight believe in my program, my coaching and my style of play. If you cant get them to do that, youre not going to succeed. After a couple weeks, three weeks into the program, they started coming around.
MG: It sounds like (Tulalip) is a young program. Can you go into the history of it?
LE: The school here opened up in 2000. The basketball program itself came the following year, so weve only been here six years. Of those six, I have coached five of them. I coached my first year with the girls and the last five years with the boys. The last four years, we have taken home three division titles. Weve been to districts three out of four years, and this year we took second at state. So were building. Were trying to get our own kids to stay home, to go to our school, to be in our program, rather than to go across the freeway to Marysville. So hopefully this will open some eyes and we can do just that.
MG: How many kids do you lose to the Marysville School District?
LE: Im thinking 50 percent. We have, I think, 46 (students), 1 through 12, so its pretty small. If we get all the other people to stay home and come and be a part of the school, and be a part of that program, theres no reason we shouldnt stay at the highest level in the sports program and academically.
MG: How do you capitalize on talent from such a small student body?
LE: Well, you know, the thing we have on the other schools is that these kids grow up at 5, 6, 7, 15, 16, 17; they play together, from 5. Because we are all Tribal members, and we are told, This is your reservation, stay here. We dont go anywhere else. We dont pick up and move somewhere else. We stay. This is home. Tulalip is our little slice of heaven right here. I played with my kids out here since I was 5. Im still here. Im 42 now. Its just the way it is. Once you learn where someones going to be, how they play, how they react, you just know where theyre going to be. Hes always there. Boom. The pass is up. There it is. They know, they have that innate puzzle piece, hes there, thats how it should be. We dont always have a lot of size, but we work it in different ways. We have speed, we have good athletes and we can shoot.
MG: How do you think things will change with the attention you got this year?
LE: Well it was best said in the Yakima Herald-Republic who, (outside) of a five-mile radius of Tulalip thought that we would be playing on Saturday, let alone for the state championship? Now people know who we are. And the west side of the state knew who we were. Everybody on this side knew we had the talent to do that, its just the east side that didnt know that.
MG: What happens next season?
LE: The bar has been set pretty high. And with Sunnyside Christian losing eight of their players, were losing two, I see no reason why we shouldnt get back to the state tournament. And once you get there, anything can happen.
MG: Some of your highest-scoring players are juniors. Do they have any plans after next season?
LE: I think next year its going to be tough, because well (then) be losing over half our squad. I know Lesjar (McKinney) has been looking really hard at college, and were trying to find out whats best for him. Is it community college, is a small Division I school that would best fit him? Him and his mom and his grandma are talking about it and were looking in the direction of, Is Everett Community College interested? Just giving him those options. Right now we dont have any Division I schools calling, but maybe after this appearance, maybe theyll start calling. We might have to make some calls ourselves. Hes quite the kid.
Lesjar and Antonio (Johnson) were placed on the first team in the Northwest Division. Jordan Wasko was named second team. Also, for the state tournament, Lesjar made first team, Antonio made second team. Lesjar was the leading scorer for the whole state tournament at 20 points per game. Antonio was one of the leaders in assists. As coach, I was named Northwest League Coach of the Year. I also got Dribbles (from the Yakima Herald-Republic) for the Best Costume Design. I just like to say best dressed. Simply because his hat is just so cool. This is my trademark, that I wear this. It was given to me by my Uncle Abner a long time ago, who passed away. It is out of respect for him that I wear it, because he just did so much for me in my life, he was one of my favorite uncles.
I loved to wake up in the morning, and the kids come running to me, Hey Coach! Youre the Best Director! And youve got a pretty good hat, too! theyd say. Wed come down from our motel room, and normally Id get up early so I could go down and take all the papers. I got like 15 each day and Id bring them to my room every day, except (Feb. 25), when I went down there, it was about 8 oclock, I was a little late getting up. I said, Where did all the papers go? And then they come here, people that dont even stay here, come here saying, Wheres the paper? Wheres the paper? Some guy, he cant even speak, he wrote down, I need a paper for Tulalip. And he said, I saved some for you, Coach.
MG: How did the tournament affect the student body? Did they miss school?
LE: Unfortunately I would have to say yes, because Id seen a lot of them over there. In something like this, though, youre missing history because Im one of the ones that are here every day saying, Get to school, get to class. Why are you late? What are you doing? I just looked at them and said, This is a week to remember. Im not going to bother you. They probably got an excuse from their parents. Who am I to tell them, Your parents are wrong, you better go back. We had fun with it. There were two to three hundred of our Tribal members there. A lot of people took time off.
I cant wait until next year. Im glad this year is over. But I cant wait until next year.