Ray Funk considered the question, having been asked whether his current Yakima Valley men’s team was similar to any of his previous five squads.
“You know,” the YVCC coach said after a thoughtful pause, “not really.”
And even though his five prior teams had finished sixth or higher in the NWAACC tournament, with a championship in 2008, for this group that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
Though the 2012-13 Yaks (20-8) differ in personnel and style from their predecessors, they nonetheless should be considered a threat for a deep tournament run — one they hope starts with today’s 4 p.m. first-round game against Clackamas.
“Our ‘08 team had Anthony Johnson, and he was far and away our best player,” Funk said. “Montero Rice is this team’s best player, but we have a different kind of supporting cast. If you look at our scoring, we have Montero at 14-whatever a game (14.6), then we have three other guys in double figures and three more averaging 6 to 7.
“Any of those guys can have a 25-point game. That part is unique.”
Implying strongly, of course, that Yakima Valley has depth — an invaluable commodity for a four-day, double-elimination tournament.
YVCC lists 13 players on its roster, and all 13 will dress for the event, which runs through Tuesday at the Toyota Center in Kennewick.
This season, Funk said all 13 players have seen at least 100 minutes of court time. Also, each player has had at least one game of 10 or more points.
The Yaks, No. 4 in the newest NWAACC coaches poll, have won six of their last seven games with a 10-point loss to top-ranked Big Bend the lone setback. They have solidified a starting lineup of Rice, Jacoby Howe, Joel Yellow Owl, Kaipo Pale and Tomas Ogbaslassie, the latter having been named the East Region’s defensive player of the year.
Yellow Owl (13.1), Ogbaslassie (11.3) and Howe (10.1) join Rice as double-figure scorers with no fewer than six others — Pale, Lawrence Fiander, Shannon Isadore, Rico Bolivar, Jeremy Gaudette and Erik Martinez — averaging at least 4.
“We’re at our best,” Funk said, “when we’re out in transition and the ball starts moving all over the place. When that happens, we’re pretty hard to defend.”
But against Clackamas (16-12), which is led by 6-foot-3 sophomore Kirby Hawkins (15 ppg), 6-5 sophomore Brock Lutes (14.6) and 6-3 freshman Michone Hopkins (14.3), the game might well evolve into a halfcourt, grind-it-out pace. Especially if it’s close at the end.
“In tournaments, teams put much more emphasis on taking away easy baskets,” Funk said, “so you have to be able to score against a set defense. The key to that is ball movement and finding the open man, but this is a team that does a very good job of interior passing and is very unselfish.”