TWIN BRIDGES – Twin Bridges senior Kailee Oliverson has accomplished just about everything she can on a high school basketball court.
She is one of the best scorers in the state as well as one of the best shot-blockers and rebounders.
She even has scholarship at NCAA Division I University of Nevada tucked away in her back pocket.
Monday night’s season opener at West Yellowstone could be looked upon by many as the start of her farewell tour, one in which she can look back on her accomplishments and before heading west.
That’s not going to happen. At the tail end of practice one day last week, she turned to head coach Josh Keller and asked if he could help her as she worked on short-range jump shots.
It seems that Oliverson is going to spend her final season as a high school basketball player trying to get better and better, working on those little things that lead up to the numbers that show up in the box score.
Anyone who is surprised by that revelation doesn’t know Oliverson.
Oliverson had a rather long list of colleges that she could have chosen to attend but the deciding factor had very little to do with basketball.
Sure, she’ll get her share of minutes and points for the Wolfpack just like she would have for Utah State, another school near the top of her list, or any other program.
But Utah State doesn’t have a medical school, and the University of Nevada does.
That sealed it.
With that tough decision now officially out of the way, Oliverson will spend the next couple of months trying to steer the Falcons to a plateau that hasn’t been reached in a while: a state championship.
“I think absolutely we’ve got a chance,” Keller said of the team’s high aspirations. “There are four or five teams out there that could definitely beat anybody and I think we’re one of those teams. With Kaliee and RaeAnne (Bendon) and some of the surrounding players that we have, I think we can make a really big push at that tournament.”
While Oliverson and Bendon are certainly the shining stars on this team, they’re not the only ones who possess the talent and mindset needed to finish their season with a victory as the last tournament of the season.
“Kailee and RaeAnne got a ton of minutes last year and they were All-State,” Keller said. “They’re just great basketball players. But I also got good time out of Clancy Phillips, and Blue (Keim) came last year. They’re going to be juniors this year.
“In the summer, I got a lot of out of Ashleigh Guinnane and Avery George. They played great for me this summer and we played against some really good teams this summer. We played against some Double-AA’s and we knocked off two Double-AA’s this summer.”
While things are looking solid for the girls’ program, the boys’ team will have a little bit of catching up to do.
It’s not that the Falcon boys are hurting but they did take a bit of a hit during the school’s latest graduation ceremony when Wesley Harshbarger, Cooper Christensen and Chace Guinnane accepted their diplomas and moved on to the next chapter in their lives.
Keller, who coaches the girls’ and boys’ varsity squads, admitted that there was a lot of talent in those three players but is impressed with what he’s seen of his boys’ team so far.
“I lost three guys that were basically starters for me since they were sophomores,” he said. “They were strong, physical kids and they had taken up a ton of the playing minutes. They were bigger than most kids and it shows. Two of them are playing Frontier Conference football.”
Keller said that the three former athletes, despite being studs at multiple sports, were probably football players who played basketball.
He sees some of the players on his current squad in a different light, as basketball players who play other sports as well.
“It’ll be more challenging in the sense that we’re real young and we’re going to have our ups and downs,” Keller said. “We’ve got to fight through that.
“I’ve got a bunch of young kids that want to be basketball players and are basketball players. They’re going to improve through the entire season.
“Early on we’re going to have our bumps and bruises. I know that and accept that but in the long run we’re going to see some really good things out of my boys.”
Clay Wolfe, a 6-foot-5 junior and one of the team’s early stars, understand the situation and knows that the focus will have to be on himself and his teammates.
“We worry about what we’ve got now and we’re focused on getting to that state tournament,” he said. “So we’re just constantly working in the gym. This year and next year, we’re going to be pretty good.”
Sophomores Nate Konan and Bryce Nye, and junior Daniel Kruer are other players expected to help lead the team through its current youth movement.
Keller likes what he has seen through the team’s first 10 days of practice.
“Bryce Nye (who was quarterback on the football team) is going to be one of my leaders,” Keller said. “He was a freshman that started for me last year and probably played more minutes than anybody. He a great point guard. He’s going to have a great year.
“Nate Konan is another sophomore. He’s turned into a man in the weight room. He’s worked his tail off on the weight room and he’s a big kid for a sophomore. I think he’s going to be a big part of our program along with Daniel Kruer. He’s another junior. He’s 6-4 and he spends a ton of time in here (the gym). He’s starting to knock a lot of shots down. He’s going to be a big threat.”
The Falcons will have a better idea of where they stand after Monday night’s trip to West Yellowstone. Twin’s coaches and players realize that it’s going to be a long season and hope to bring home some hardware by the time the dust settles.