That’s exactly what River Ridge boys basketball coach Pat Williams wants to see from his players this season every time they step out on the court.
“We play fast, but I want us to play faster,” said Williams, who is in his second season as head coach of the Hawks after serving the previous five as an assistant. “I want to play reckless. Almost on the edge of being out of control.”
This had been River Ridge’s calling card for quite some time. The Hawks made 10 consecutive trips to the state tournament between 2007 and 2016 on the back of their manic full-court press, which, more times than not, caused opposing teams fits.
“That basically became the mindset around here,” said Williams. “We are running up and down the floor constantly. It’s track season for us.”
The blueprint proved to be extremely successful as the Hawks won five consecutive district championships and finished third at the 2A state tournament three times.
Last year River Ridge’s postseason streak came to an end, finishing 4-16 and failing to secure a spot in the district tournament for the first time in 13 seasons.
Williams believes the path back to the top starts with his team returning to the program’s trademark press.
“That’s what we are trying to get back to. That high energy, playing the full court,” Williams said. “We are trying to disrupt people as much as we can offensively.”
Williams appears to have the perfect cast of characters to execute such an attack, beginning with 6-foot-2 junior Lamar Campbell, a versatile player who Williams plans to rely on a lot this season.
“Lamar can play anywhere on the court,” Williams said. “I can play him at any position. I can even play him at the 5. He’s a little small, but he understands how to play and he’s athletic. He’s very athletic.”
Campbell, a 2A South Puget Sound League Sound Division second-team selection last year, has already fully embraced Williams’ passionate emphasis on defense.
“Defense is a big thing here,” Campbell said. “It means hard work, but defense is the best offense. If you can get steals on defense you can get easy buckets on offense.”
And that’s exactly what Williams expects Campbell to do every time River Ridge plays this season.
“Not one person out there can stick with Lamar one-on-one right now,” Williams said. “Lamar is going to be our go-to guy this year. He’s basically going to be our Batman. We’re looking for Robin right now. Someone that is going to complement him.”
Williams actually anticipates several players filling that responsibility from game to game.
“I really think every game someone else is going to step up and play that role for us,” Williams said. “We’re going to need that to be successful.”
The Hawks, however, aren’t lacking in options as they return four starters from last year.
In addition to Campbell, River Ridge also welcomes back senior Marquan Cannon, junior Derek Carroll, and sophomore Dontae Owns into the starting lineup.
Marquan Cannon, one of five seniors on the roster this year, is a 5-8 guard who was an honorable mention all-league recipient last year as a point guard. He will make the transition over to shooting guard while the 5-9 Owens takes over as the point.
Both possess speed and quickness, which suits nicely into Williams’ game plan.
“I remember coming out and watching (former River Ridge players) Kobe Key and LaBrandon Price when I was a freshman. They were always working hard on the press to get steals,” Cannon said. “That’s how we want to play this year. I think we have the players to do that. We just need to make sure everyone is doing their job out there.”
According to Williams, right up there with the importance of the Hawks returning to their defensive pressing ways this season is the emergence of team leaders.
“We’ve been pushing for that the last two years,” said Williams, who only graduated one senior from last year’s team. “And if a player isn’t vocal they can lead with their play. When someone comes out and is hustling, it’s contagious.”
Campbell and Cannon both plan on taking on that responsibility.
“We have to take on more of a leadership role. It’s a lot different for me than last year. I have to speak up and talk more,” Campbell said. “We’re still a pretty young team, but we did get a little older and are more mature than last year. It should be fun to watch how we play. I’m just looking forward to getting on the court and win games this year.”
River Ridge jumps right into league play after completing in the Bothell Tip Off Classic. The Hawks will be a member this season of the newly realigned 2A South Puget Sound West Division, which also includes Clover Park, Fife, Foss, and Steilacoom.