New-look Wave ready to make a splash
During her visit to Las Vegas last February during the state tournament, Chelle Dalager rooted for the Lady Wave during its championship run.
But at the same time, it was an unofficial business trip as she witnessed four state-caliber boys basketball programs competing for the title.
“It was my reality last year at state tournament and I watched boys compete,” Dalager recalled. “Fernley was six points away from playing for state championship. In my mind, I think we can compete at that level.”
Over the summer, Dalager was named the boys basketball coach and since that visit to Las Vegas, she’s been pushing the program to want to achieve the same success as its counterpart, which won the school’s first NIAA-sanctioned girls state title against Lowry.
“I’ve said it from Day 1 that we will compete for every championship: every regional and every state title because we have the capability,” she said.
Now, in her first season as the boys’ coach after guiding the girls’ program last decade, it’s about making believers out of her team.
“When I say that I believe, I say that from my heart,” Dalager said. “I think we should be right there competing for league, regional and state. They’re doing it. They come into practice every day really focused. They know what the goals are.”
Fallon returns six from last year’s team, including senior Christian Nemeth (power forward, guard) and juniors Hayden Strasdin (forward, guard), Brenden Larsen (power forward) and John Cooley (guard). Sophomores Thomas Steele (post) and Elijah Jackson (guard) also return although Jackson will not be cleared until mid-December after sustaining a knee injury during football season.
New to the team are juniors Jace Harmon (guard), Bryce Larsen (forward, guard) and Trey Rooks (point guard), and sophomores Brock Richardson (guard) and Anthony Geer (post).
“Once we develop more of our chemistry, we’ll be a real weapon and a real threat to this league,” said Rooks, who returns after taking last year off. “I feel really good and really confident. I have faith in all these guys; every single one of my teammates, I just have that bond with and I trust them a lot. I know that we have each other’s back.”
Dalager is assisted by Lalo Otuafi and Andrew Brown will be coaching the junior varsity while Riley Horn will lead the freshmen.
“With the guys who played last year, they just know we’re a little deeper than last year. I think they know if we work together we’ll be much better than working individually,” Dalager said.
After scrimmages last week, Dalager expects the team to be strong in several areas, including Rooks running the point, the team sharing the basketball and the defense engaging the full-court press consistently.
“It’s the nicest group of boys to work with as far as team cohesion,” Dalager said. “The energy is really high. They’re real excited about the season by the way they practice and way they’re playing.”
Dalager likes the offense’s dynamic and ability to create problems in the paint and along the perimeter. Fallon is tall, too, with all but two players hovering about 6 feet. Strasdin checks in at 6-5 while the rest averages 6-2.
“We’ll have the ability to go inside out,” she said. “We’re still working on some of our offenses. They’re just getting used to movement and how each other plays. We’re early. We have some great shooters on the perimeter who spent time in the offseason.”
One of Fallon’s greatest strengths comes from the bench.
“Everyone on the bench can come in and play minutes. I think our bench is stronger and we’re in a better spot than last year,” Dalager said.
Defensively, it’s enforcing the full-court pressure and then adjusting with half-court zone.
“We’ll try to mix it up. We’re a full-court pressing team,” she said. “We’re more athletic than we have been. Kids are working really hard.”
Nothing concerning stands out to Dalager as the season begins on Monday against North Valleys but she cautioned it will take some time for the team to gel. But after the first couple weeks, she’s hoping fans will want to pack the stands at every game.
“It’s just learning the lines of communication. As the season goes on, we will get better,” she added.
The goals are simple for this year’s team, even with a new system in place. It’s about getting to the state tournament, which will be held in the North, and winning the academic state team championship.
“That says a lot about the kids who are on the team. We’re going to be respectful and positive and encourage everybody,” Dalager said.