Young Lakewood boys expect to compete early

LAKEWOOD — There are a lot of new faces on the Lakewood bench this year.

Lakewood graduate and former Mount Vernon Christian coach Matt Hart takes over the boys basketball program, which returns three familiar names from last year’s team.

Don’t call it a rebuilding season, though. Hart isn’t.

“We want to be competitive right away,” he said. “We’re focusing on us this year, not scouting a lot of stats (from other teams).”

One thing jumps off the roster right away — the height of this team. Of the 11 guys who compose the varsity roster, only two are listed as shorter than six feet, which gives Lakewood the kind of height usually seen at bigger schools.

Hart plans to work the guys hard, to give them the athleticism to exploit their height advantage. Two of the team’s tallest guys, juniors Blair Diamond and Nathan Hesselman, happen to be two of the team’s most veteran players. Listed at 6-4, Diamond can be a presence under the basket. But, Hart said, he has the skills to contribute from anywhere on the court.

“Blair’s a shooter,” Hart said. “He led us in three-pointers last year.”

Hesselman is more likely to play the post for Lakewood this year. Another 6-4 junior, Hesselman is also a state high jumper, which should give him an edge against the league’s bigger defenders.

Junior guard Cameron Fry, the team’s shortest player at 5-8, is probably it’s most experienced player, according to his coach. Fry will most likely start at point guard, although that position could be shared as the season goes on.

“He’ll start at point guard, but we want him to be able to do other things,” Hart said. “We’re going to lean on him a lot.”

The 2000 graduate of Lakewood High said that Cougar fans won’t see them playing the same kind of game Hart played here as a student, though the new coach said he remembered those years fondly. His years at Lakewood led Hart to play basketball at Puget Sound Christian College and opened the door to coaching — something he’d long been interested in — at Mount Vernon Christian.

In high school, Hart played some for then-junior varsity coach Hector Perez. Now Lakewood’s athletic director, Perez has come back to the bench to help coach Hart’s varsity squad this year.

“That really makes me grin,” Hart said. “I really enjoyed playing here.”

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